John & Alice Ridge of the Yellowstone Trail Association work to educate
the area of how the Trail can be used to market small towns.
Yellowstone Trail Featured at
Owen-Withee Business Persons Dinner
How Trail can be used to market area is the focus
In February, the Owen-Withee Area Chamber of Commerce (OWACC) and the
Owen-Withee Area Development Corporation (OWADC) held their Annual
Businesspersons Dinner, which this year featured guest speakers John and
Alice Ridge of the Yellowstone Trail Association.
The Ridges are retired University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire professors who
became advocates of this nearly-forgotten “trail” and its comeback
nearly 80 years after it faded into the background. The
Yellowstone Trail was arguably the first transcontinental automobile
highway through the upper United States, and one of the earliest
transcontinental automobile routes in the world providing safer and more
comfortable travel. This Trail snakes through Wisconsin, and in
this region passes through Abbotsford to Cadott and beyond.
In short, the Yellowstone Trail Association acted similar to how AAA
acts today. The Association was largely made up of
businessmen/Chamber of Commerce members in little towns who wanted to
boost their town’s economy by being on well-used roads. And, this
was the theme of the Ridge’s presentation: how the Trail can be used to
help promote small towns once again. Some ideas the Ridges had
regarding the Trail’s uses to promote area tourism, businesses, and
general interest include the items below.
Add to school curriculum:
- Take kids on bus tours to buildings, businesses, and museums along the
Trail. There are also books and even a video on the Trail.
- Urge kids to paint rocks marking the Trail yellow just as they did in
- History classes could research buildings and businesses along the Trail
through the years and publish their findings.
- Search out local tales and news from the days of the Trail as a school
Undertake promotion of sings, markers, and displays:
- Piggyback Trail Days (locally in April when “cleanup of the Yellowstone
Trail” occurs) to coincide with a major local event (i.e. annual fair,
- Setup informative boots at events, decorate a float in the parade, or
put pennants on an antique car.
- Erect signs on Highway 29, add Yellowstone Trail logo to
already-existing Highway 29 signs, or hang street banners.
- Put up a display at the local library.
- Put up historic interpretative signs in front of historic buildings or
- Brand area, publicize, and satisfy tourists:
- Place “On the Yellowstone Trail” on business stationary, sales receipts,
- Name a bowling league, curling club, antique car club etc. “Yellowstone
- Include “On the Yellowstone Trail” in publicizing or events on or close
to the Trail.
- Offer unusual tours of local farms, plants, etc.
- Print a walking tour map of the community with interpretative
- Keep supporting efforts of Highway 29 Community Partnership and of other
groups along Yellowstone Trail locally and beyond to help bring tourists
from near and afar to the community.
The Highway 29 Community partnership, which has become an advocate for
the Yellowstone Trail in this area, has planned Trail Days for April 18
(cleanup of the Trail markers), a seven-community thrift sale along the
Yellowstone Trail (“Sale-ing along the Yellowstone Trail from C to C”)
on May 16 & 17, and a classic/antique car run (“Sociability run”) for
June 14 & 15.
Help support the efforts of the Highway 29 Community Partnership and
Yellowstone Trail Association to promote the area using the Yellowstone
To learn more about the Yellowstone Trail or the Highway 29 Community