By Kendra Hartsell
On Tuesday, Nov. 26, 40 people from around the community of Monticello left on a coach bus headed for New York City, prepared to explore everything they could in four short days.
And they didn’t have to plan anything, thanks to Monticello Community Education.
For the first time ever, Monticello and surrounding community members were offered a fully planned and guided fall bus trip to New York, and it was a hit.
“This was a great opportunity for community members,” says Community Education Director Jeremiah Mack.
“It offered an easy way to get to the destination with a tour guide and expertise.”After spending 11 years in the Big Lake School District, nine years as the Community Ed Coordinator and two years in activities, Mack became the Monticello Community Education Director in July 2013. This trip is his largest project thus far. “When I came on in July, all of the summer events were done planning,” he explained. So he set to work on the fall events.
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When Leisure Time Travel, based in St. Cloud, approached Mack in late July, he was very interested right off the bat.
“They came with a few ideas that have worked for other communities’ first big trips that have gone over very well. So from there we settled on New York. It is a great city to visit and a good time of year to see the holiday festivities that you always see on TV and it’s something we felt that people would be excited to go to,” he said.
So, after getting all of the details arranged, the trip was published in the Community Education Journal in September and posted on the Community Education site. It was also emailed to past trip participants.
“We had 50 interested callers within the first week,” Mack said. “Everyone wanted a detailed itinerary. It was very exciting.”
The goal was 40 people, and by the deadline date, 36 people had signed up.
“We kept it open for one more week and got to our goal of 40,” Mack said.
The coach bus picked everyone up on Tuesday the 26th and returned to Monticello on Sunday, Dec.1.
According to one trip participant, this was an experience of a lifetime.
“We got to see things that I would have never even thought of if I were to go on my own,” said Andrea Hanson, a 2008 graduate of Monticello High School.
“I think that other people would definitely enjoy it. It was pretty fast-paced,” she said.
Some of the things they did in New York City included watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, visiting Times Square and watching a taping of NBC’s Today show, taking a boat cruise on the Hudson River to see the Statue of Liberty, touring Radio City Music Hall, walking around Central Park and seeing two shows.
“It was such a great opportunity at a great price. I would recommend it and I would go on the same exact trip again myself!” Hanson said.
Another trip participant, Debbie Kolb, was also very pleased with the experience.
“Our tour guides were awesome. They took very good care of us and were able to get tickets to shows and tours,” she said. “Thank you to Monticello Community Education for getting this trip together.”
Although this same exact trip will probably not be offered again, according to Mack, the Community Education department is already looking into future trips after the success of this one.
“We are looking at doing a trip to Washington D.C. in the spring and some road trips to several Twins games in the summer,” Mack said.
If this first big project of Mack’s is any indication, there will be many more successful excursions through Community Education in the future.
Kendra Hartsell is a freelance business and feature writer for the Monticello Times.