Fall colors in the metro starting to pop, helping the tourism industry

Fall colors in the metro starting to pop, helping the tourism industry

Fall colors in the metro starting to pop, helping the tourism industry

In Stillwater’s Pioneer Park, spectacular vista views are a big draw for visitors.  

But now, there’s something else: fall foliage, with bright reds and yellows finally popping.

“We love the fall,” exclaims Sarah Kendall from Blaine. “So, I always make him take me somewhere where the leaves are beautiful. So today, we chose Stillwater.”

Kendall and her friend Shehab Embabi chose this weekend specifically to check out the fall colors along the St. Croix River.

“It is a big attraction you know,” he says. “I think that’s one of the big things that comes with Minnesota.”

But in recent weeks, this colorful canvas appeared a bit muted — some reds and yellows — but still, a lot of green.

Earlier this week, Chopper 5 flew over the St. Croix, where colors on the riverfront appeared to be popping — but elsewhere, not as much.  

“If we are warmer than average, fall colors are going to be slightly delayed,” explains Brian Schwingle, a forest health program consultant with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

He says warmer weather and drought conditions in the state put the foliage color change on hold.  

The timing of all this makes a big difference to Chuck Dougherty, owner of the Water Street Inn.

“We have a lot of people that made plans ahead of time, so they try to hit the right time,” he says. “So, they call our front desk and say, ‘When are the leaves going to be perfect?’”

Dougherty says those fall colors can mean a 20 to 30 percent increase in business.

“I mean, it brings people out,” he notes. “There’s always kind of a lull right after Labor Day until the leaves start coming in.”

The Greater Stillwater Chamber of Commerce says it expects up to 15,000 visitors this weekend — and that October is their second busiest month after July.

Businesses like Candyland say that on Saturday, they were packed with customers.

“It’s a little less busy inside, but it’s been pretty crazy today,” says Alex Gerald, who cooks for the candy store. “The number of sales is definitely in the thousands today, which is a lot busier than our average Saturday. But you know, it’s all in fun, I like helping people, it’s awesome.”

It turns out that despite the delay for the fall foliage to make an appearance, some luck and a little bit of patience are paying off.

Those brilliant colors put a little green into merchants’ pockets — allowing Minnesotans to see nature’s fall reveal.

Kendall and Embabi say they just got lucky.

“We were debating which weekend do we go looking for beautiful leaves,” she smiled. “But we chose this weekend.”