by BRIAN KELSEY
In March 2018, the Wisconsin Department of Tourism (WISDOT) released its summer campaign to nearly 1,000 attendees at the annual Wisconsin Governor’s Conference on Tourism.
The summer portion of the campaign focuses on the concept of gemütlichkeit, portrayed though imagery of a German beer hall. At the conference, more than 100 individuals dressed in traditional German lederhosen and dirndls are celebrating in the commercial with a voice-over describing the sense of gemütlichkeit and how in Wisconsin “when you’re having fun…we’re having fun.”
The location of the advertising film shoot was Turner Hall in Monroe, Wis., best known as a Swiss Heritage and Community Activity Center. Although its focus is on Swiss culture, the hall designed by German architect Max Hanisch is listed on both the National and State Registers of Historic Places.
As a member of the marketing committee on the Governor’s Council on Tourism, I had the privilege of seeing the campaign prior to its public launch. I had known the word “gemütlichkeit,” but if you had asked me to define it, I’m not certain I could have. I was much more familiar with the Danish word “hygge,” which is most closely defined as “a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being,” as there have been recent articles about embracing the concept of hygge into your daily life.
I find it interesting that two countries which share a common border have such special words for what we all strive to attain in our lifetime—ultimate relaxation, belonging and peace. I also found it interesting that the DOT chose to approach their advertising with such a heavy focus on one cultural representation. But after sitting back and thinking about it, I’ve come to the realization that the celebratory nature of the advertisement and the community gathering portrayed truly represents Wisconsin and our openness to others in the tourism industry.
Our job as tourism employees and ambassadors is to ensure that visitors feel as though they are part of our community, so they feel a sense of belonging. Achieving “belonging” is the sweet spot that Wisconsin can claim over other tourism destinations. We boast that we are a friendly and welcoming state, and I feel that most appropriately is represented in Door County and how we welcome visitors.
Many destinations that rely on tourism have year-round residents as well as visitors who vacation at various times of the year. Here we are used to full-time residents, part-time residents, summer employees and visitors all descending upon the peninsula during the height of the summer/autumn season.
Year-round and part-time residents look forward to seeing and greeting individuals with whom we only gather during the summer months. I look forward to gathering with the Peninsula Players’ seasonal company members beginning in May and the gemütlichkeit we create on the campus at the theater. I know this occurs in many places throughout the county and adds to the overall feeling of community, but I’ve never felt it more so than at Peninsula Players.
“Brigadoon,” defined as idyllic, unaffected by time or remote from reality, is often used to describe the timeless theater grounds and ambiance at Peninsula Players and other theater companies on the peninsula, and I think that most of it has to do with the wonderful feeling of belonging, social acceptance and comfort. Gemütlichkeit!
You may know that I am a lover of winter. So I have to look for things that help me celebrate the arrival of summer. For me, the fire pit is one key to my feeling of gemütlichkeit in my home. That, coupled with the land, the gardens and a good cocktail, ultimately make me wish summer could last forever. But when that first snap of crisp air strikes, I am stolen into the next season and rediscover all the reasons I’m happy during autumn and then winter.
On Valentine’s Day 2018, Gibraltar High School English teacher Lauren Bremmer hosted a poetry reading for high school students during the Dickinson Poetry Series at the Unitarian Universal Fellowship Center of Door County. One Gibraltar senior read a poem about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and how she couldn’t wait for winter to be gone as it brought on sadness and depression. She went on to write about how summer cures that which ails her and she described all of the activities that made her happy and celebratory.
That is what brings her the feeling of gemütlichkeit.
I couldn’t help feeling a bit of the reverse, and I contemplated how each season has the ability to affect others differently. For me, summer time would be the closest I would come to claiming SAD. I feel the overwhelming overstimulation of a Door County summer, as opposed to the under-stimulation of the winter season.
I couldn’t be more happy to be a part of a small percentage of the 2,000,000 annual visitors’ vacation experience in Door County, but the weight of celebrating everyone else’s vacation for five months can be taxing and lead one to yearn for the season to end so that you, yourself, may go on vacation and find the gemütlichkeit or hygge that brings you joy.
So, as we approach the summer season, make a list of those things that brings you joy, a sense of comfort and belonging and share them with your friends and family.
Please post them to the Door County Magazine Facebook page. And encourage others to find similar joy. Whatever it is or whenever it is, just make sure you make time in your life to experience the sensation this funny sounding German word can bring to you. The more time we take to focus on positive experiences the better our lives will ultimately be…no matter what the season is.