Just a few more people getting off the highway to check out our small towns can make a big difference for rural west central Missouri.

Osceola’s city-owned RV Park is now promoted statewide over VisitMO.com.

Tourism Tool. Here we would like to share news of a project New Growth initiated this year to get more people off the highway and into our towns. With support from USDA Rural Development, the Making Rural Visible project will help area communities and businesses tap into a powerful, free marketing resource.

That is the Missouri Division of Tourism’s searchable online guide VisitMO.com. The more listings a community has there, the more it will show up when people use this resource to find things to see and do in Missouri.

VisitMO 2019 annual report

Nearly 1.7 million people used VisitMO.com in 2019 to plan their trips, according to the tourism division’s recent annual report. The site also logged more than 2 million search sessions. This means many of those visitors used it more than once to check out areas of the state, pursue their interests (history, quilting …), or look up a particular place.

“It’s a great way to reach a broad audience,” said Ron Hogan at the Osceola Community Chamber of Commerce.

The Osceola Chamber lists events at VisitMO.com. New Growth’s Making Rural Visible project has also been working with Osceola businesses and attractions to set up listings.

The combined effort has Osceola pushing 20 listings where recently there were only a few. See <www.VisitMO.com/Osceola>.

2020 Goal. The Making Rural Visible project aims to support area businesses and towns in getting new listings up by the end of May. This is when the tourism division decides which VisitMO.com listings it will include in the annual print directory, which it distributes statewide (you have to have an online listing to be considered for the print guide).

Promoting the 100-Mile Garage Sale on Highway 54 through west central Missouri.

Making Rural Visible community liaison Vicki Hillsman, a marketing educator from El Dorado Springs, is reaching out town by town in west central Missouri to learn what listings are needed. She and the New Growth team will assist businesses and communities in completing listings by the end of May and promoting them over the summer.

A good example of what such teamwork can do is the new VisitMO.com listing for the 100-mile Highway 54 Yard Sale. Communities along that scenic route have collaborated in recent years to build the “Discover more on 54” tourism draw.

VisitMO, however, initially rejected the Highway 54 100-mile garage sale listing.

“They don’t do garage sales,” said Making Rural Visible coordinator Danielle Park.

Park then went to work advocating for this rural tourism asset. “I explained it was a big event with many towns involved, and we received a waiver.”

Teamwork. Working together helps with challenges, such as finding and reformatting needed photos. Another challenge is the common suspicion that the statewide tourism listing could really be free.

Chef Jon De Clerque at The Chapel restaurant in downtown El Dorado Springs.

“I was confused at first,” said Chef Jon De Clerque, owner-operator of The Chapel, a new downtown eatery in El Dorado Springs. “I was looking for what I had to pay for this,” said the Stockton native, who recently returned to the area.

With his permission, Making Rural Visible took his information and made it show up for tourism statewide on VisitMO.com.

“It’s a wonderful service. I’m very appreciative,” he said.

TIMELINE: Making Rural Visible is available through spring and summer 2020 to help west central Missouri businesses and communities complete and promote VisitMO listings.

CONTACT: Project coordinator Danielle Park at New Growth can help you out! Contact her for more information and for help with listings: 417-646-6900,