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Best spot for a road trip? Monroe, of course
MONROE - Out of 12 alluring vacation spots, from the Great Barrier Reef in Australia to Argentina's national glacier park, National Geographic Travel named Monroe one of the places to be this spring.

Specifically, the publication named the Monroe Balloon and Blues Festival scheduled for June 16-17 as the main draw, but noted the Swiss cheese heritage and mentioned tours of Emmi Roth cheese factory with the chance to purchase locally made curds at the Alp and Dell store.

Green County Tourism Director Noreen Rueckert noted the importance of national-level attention.

"It's amazing exposure," Rueckert said, noting people had already contacted her on ideas for where to stay during the festival.

"This was an unexpected PR bonus," she added. "To be able to share that to a broader audience is great."

Rueckert credited the unique event as a draw for those looking for something out of the ordinary. Those people would ideally still be looking for live music and good food with thoughtful hospitality, she said.

"This is pretty unique," Rueckert said. "It is definitely one of the more well-known things in the area.

The description by Maryellen Kennedy Duckett describes Green County as a pleasant countryside. With roughly 15 giant balloons flying around, Duckett advises interested attendees to be sure to beat the crowds at dawn to watch each balloon launch, and later meander throughout the county fairgrounds while listening to live blues music and taking in the glow of the balloons' power sources. Referencing Monroe as "Swiss Cheese Capital of the USA," she urges people to visit Emmi Roth and buy cheese curds, a specialty of the region for those less familiar with Wisconsin snacks.

Though the balloon and blues festival would likely not pull in a national crowd, she said a regional and even Midwestern audience could be drawn to the show in June, especially if the balloon show is as entertaining as it was in 2016.

"It was very much a magical environment," Rueckert agreed. "People are extremely enthused and excited about this event."

Rueckert noted the excitement on social media. Once a long-standing tradition in Monroe, the balloon rally was not held in 2015 but returned the following year. The announcement of the festival's return was shared more than 700 times on social media, helping bolster turnout.

The key is an "over delivery of hospitality" to ensure a good first impression can be made and that Monroe keeps bringing people back, she said.