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Julie Jensen, the new Rapid City Convention and Visitors Bureau director, stands on Tuesday inside of the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center. A big year with big events awaits her in 2015.

With two large anniversary events scheduled, and a yes-or-no vote coming on expansion of the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center, the year 2015 already is shaping up as a momentous time for Julie Schmitz Jensen, executive director of the Rapid City Convention & Visitors Bureau.

"I am more than excited since we have so many conventions and events that are already booked," she said. "Now we need to make sure that all of our visitors are taken care of." 

Jensen was rehired as executive director of the CVB in August, nearly 20 years after she first held the position. She was the executive director of the CVB until 1996 when she left to raise her three children. She decided to seek the job again after her kids were grown.

With such a jam-packed 2015 on the horizon, Jensen said, it should not be difficult to attract visitors to the Black Hills.

"Obviously the fact that we are having two huge anniversaries — the 50th anniversary of the Buffalo Roundup and the 75th anniversary of the Sturgis motorcycle rally — is huge," she said. "Part of our challenge will be to treat them well, make sure everyone who visits feels like it was a great time" and will want to return.

Part of that means making sure visitors to the area spend at least one day in Rapid City so they can view the city's attractions. Jensen said she hopes visitors head to Mount Rushmore, but added, "Let's make sure they don't dart on through Rapid City."

"We want them to see Main Street Square, the Journey Museum, Dinosaur Park, take a walk through downtown and spend the day exploring the great stuff in our backyard."

Her main challenge this year will be to show the voters all the benefits that the new Rushmore Plaza Civic Center will bring to the community and help them get past their initial "sticker shock."

She said the projected $180 million civic center expansion is essential to Rapid City's continued development as a destination, and the future economic benefits the city will reap from the new center absolutely justify the expense.

"What we haven't been talking about enough is all of the trade shows, conventions and other events the new center will enable," she said. "It's about way more than just getting concerts."

— Scott Feldman

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