The Big Six: Grand Excursion to PGA events

State tourism staffers are predicting an exceptional year for revenue and visitors in Wisconsin, so big that a half-dozen events/attractions will be hyped at the beginning of this year’s annual Governor’s Conference on Tourism.

The conference, which will be in Green Bay next week, attracts about 1,000 people who are affiliated with tourism. It is a place for mom-and-pop enterprises as well as corporate notables. They will network, learn, compete, politick and vent – after partying it up at Oneida Bingo and Casino.

Get out your calendars. Here are The Big Six, items that will be pegged for their unique, overwhelming, favorable and statewide impact:

“The Quest for Immortality: Treasures of Ancient Egypt,” March 28 to Aug. 8, Milwaukee Public Museum. More than 30,000 tickets have been sold so far; admission is $18.50 for adults (ages over 62 get a $1 discount) and $11.50 for ages 3-15.

This is the only Midwest stop for this show of artifacts from the tombs of nobility and kings, spanning 2,000 years of history. It is described as the largest such collection ever loaned by Egypt; “not a show about mummies but, rather, why mummies existed,” says curator Betsy Bryan.

For more about the exhibit and events that are a part of it, go to www.mpm.edu or call (888) 700-9069.

Grand Excursion 2004, June 25 to July 5, various locations along the Mississippi River, from Rock Island, Ill., to the Twin Cities in Minnesota. More than 50 riverfront communities, large and small, will celebrate.

A steamboat flotilla, retracing a route taken by President Millard Fillmore and 1,200 others in 1854, will make its way northward. It will include the 1925 Delta Queen paddlewheeler, a National Historic Landmark.

Mark Twain impersonators, Civil War re-enactments, many types of boat rides, festivals, music concerts and history exhibits will be a part of this monstrous undertaking. To prepare for visitors, more than $3 billion in riverfront improvements have been completed.

For more, go to www.grandexcursion.com or call (866) 439-2004.

ESPN’s Great Outdoor Games, July 8-11, various locations in Madison. Spectator admission is free. There will be about 250 competitors in these categories: sporting dogs, target shooting, timber sports, fishing.

It should be a great match for this state’s residents, many of whom appreciate the skill and precision that are a part of hunting and fishing. Dogs will retrieve decoys and show off their agility. Lumber will become a prop for athleticism, be it a boom run or tree topping.

In the first, floating logs are lined up lengthwise and connected by chains; athletes run from one end to the other and back. Tree topping is what it sounds like, but the cutter has to climb a 65-foot pole, with a crosscut saw tethered to his body, then cut off a log that is affixed at the top.

To learn more, go to www.espn.go.com/outdoors. Volunteers are needed, and you can sign up through this Internet site.

PGA Championship, Aug. 9-15, Whistling Straits golf course, Sheboygan. Daily passes no longer are available; weekly passes ($275 or $375), and maybe practice round tickets, remain. More than 80 percent of the ticket orders, so far, have come from Wisconsin – which seems to surprise event organizers.

So enthusiasm is way high, and my home county is psyched about the challenge of hosting the world’s best golfers, plus gaining worldwide media attention. Hotel rates have been hiked; some places are requiring at least a five-night stay.

Just want a one-night stand? Consider the Ramada Inn in downtown Fond du Lac, a charming property and usually reasonable in price. When I checked online this week, the nightly rate was $175 for the PGA weekend – much higher than usual, but not out of line for this event. And there was no requirement to stay more than one night.

For more, go to www.pga2004.com or call (800) PGA-GOLF.

Year of the Forest, events are sporadic and statewide at Wisconsin’s national, state, county and industrial forests. We have 16 million acres of forests; this is the year to note the centennial of the Department of Natural Resources forestry program.

A statewide Open Woods Day will be May 15; it is a time for the Wisconsin Woodland Owners Association to teach about woodland management. Events at forests and nurseries also will be during other times of the year.

For details about locations and activities, go to www.wisconsinforestry.org or call (608) 264-6036.

Lambeau Field and Atrium project, newly completed, Green Bay. Packer fans know all about this magnificent structure, dubbed by Sports Illustrated as the eighth best venue to watch sports. The atrium includes a spacious home for the Packers Hall of Fame, a restaurant and a two-story Packer Pro Shop.

A $295 million project, it hiked stadium capacity to 72,515, but more than 60,000 people remain on the waiting list for season tickets.

One-hour stadium tours are held daily, usually 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is based upon age; for more, call (920) 965-3709 or go to www.packers.com.