The fun has been found

Who knows where Mahtowa is? How about Rutledge?

For those who know where those two unincorporated towns are: Do you know what there is to do there?

A committee composed of business and community leaders from municipalities along Old Highway 61 is answering that question in those two tiny towns and in other communities that border the historic thoroughfare.

Communities in Chisago, Pine and Carlton counties have been working together this summer to identify resources — both commercial and natural — available in the cities through the Discover the Fun on Old Highway 61 initiative.

Over the course of three meetings this summer, the group has drafted community maps that show what is along Old Highway 61 — from restaurants and businesses to parks and historic landmarks.

“We’re working to build a relationship so we can work together to have a united brand for Old Highway 61,” said Kathy Lindo, executive director of the North Branch Area Chamber of Commerce. “We want to let each one of these communities have their own identity but still brand it together.”

The next step

Now that the Old Highway 61 resources have been identified, the next step is figuring out how to get the word out about the activities, sites, shopping and recreation opportunities available in the area.

Those topics will likely be addressed during the committee’s last meeting of the summer, on Wednesday in Pine City.

Lindo said — depending on how much it costs — the group is thinking about drafting a publication that highlights the tourism opportunities along Highway 61 and possibly creating a website and Facebook account.

Stronger together

Individually, Lindo said some of the cities in Chisago, Pine and Carlton counties have the ability to advertise some of what they have going on, but some of the smaller communities — like Mahtowa, which is between Barnum and Carlton — are hidden gems that just don’t have the financial resources to get the word out.

There’s TJ’s Country Corner (in Mahtowa), Lindo said. “Their slogan is, ‘Our wurst is the best.’”

She added, laughing, “It’s a sausage place.”

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