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Reduced tourist expectations in Wisconsin Dells as holiday approaches

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WISCONSIN DELLS (WKOW) - Tourist attraction operators in the Wisconsin Dells area say their expectations are reduced as the historical beginning of the visitor season commences this Memorial Day weekend.

Owner Tom Diehl of Tommy Bartlett's Exploratory says this holiday weekend has been a bonanza in the past. "If the weather's nice of course the area is packed," he says.

Tommy Bartlett's Exploratory opened Thursday, with just three customers through early afternoon.

Diehl says he's keeping all his staff working and maintaining best health practices at the attraction, including entrance-exit separations, plastic shields at points of contact between staff and customers and locations where hand sanitizer can be accessed.

Diehl says he's realistic about what lies ahead this spring and summer due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"I'd be happy come September if we did forty percent of the business that we normally would do," Diehl says. "Certainly, we're operating in a very safe manner. We've always had safety here because it's hands on interactive."

Diehl says other tourist businesses opening are also prioritizing safety.

"Go karts and the miniature golf and the boats and the Ducks, they're all doing it safely, they're all doing it with capacity limits," he says.

In a statement, Wisconsin Dells Visitor and Convention Bureau Spokesperson Leah Hauck echoes Diehl.

Normally Memorial Day weekend signals the start of the summer season for Wisconsin Dells and, although we can’t speculate on what holiday travel to the area will look like this year, we know the usually busy holiday weekend will not look or feel the same.  

Many businesses throughout the community are in the process of reopening slowly and at different times. Extra steps and precautions are being made to provide a safe environment for both visitors and employees. If people are traveling to the area, we encourage them to reach out to businesses ahead of time to check operating hours.

Wisconsin Dells takes to heart the important role it plays as a vacation destination for millions seeking relaxation and precious time with family and friends. Especially now, we pledge to deliver the same warm hospitality that has defined this community for decades, even if doing so may look a little different for a while.

Wayne and Linda Sefton of Zurich, Illinois Thursday rented a pontoon boat from Dells Watersports and fished at Lake Delton. They say this area and their neighboring state remains a getaway for them during these times of restriction.

"We've been golfing in Wisconsin every week for the last four weeks, it's been very nice," Wayne Sefton says. "Real weird rules in Illinois. They make you walk, no carts. And two people, you can't have four."

Linda Sefton says she feels safe from the virus spread in Wisconsin, but notices at least one protective step does not appear to be the norm. "It was kind of weird, I noticed people not wearing a mask at all," she says. "Illinois, it's required (many places)...just totally different," Sefton says.

Wayne Sefton says the fishing has produced limited bites so far, but he appreciates the latitude he's given here as a sportsman. "I have an annual fishing trip in Ohio that's not going to work probably," Sefton says, noting marinas there may not open.

"We'll be back again, definitely," Linda Sefton says of the Wisconsin Dells area.

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