Bill Von Bank, vice president of marketing and communications for Experience Rochester Minnesota Convention & Visitors Bureau and Mayo Civic Center, knows how to make a luscious pie. On summer and fall weekends, he travels to Minnesota farmers markets as Bill the Pie Guy, selling his homemade apple, blueberry, mixed berry, strawberry, rhubarb, peach, and pecan pies to hungry marketgoers—and donating the profits to hunger-relief organizations.
But when you reach him by phone, he seems much more comfortable talking about why Rochester is such a great city for meetings and events rather than talking about his personal details. It is easy to see why he is so enthusiastic about the city.
“Rochester offers a healthy dose of Midwest charm,” Von Bank says. “We’re conveniently located within the Upper Midwest, so it really does allow us to be a great site for regional meetings, events, and conventions.”
In 2017, the Mayo Civic Center completed an $84 million expansion in Rochester, which gave the city considerably more space for events. The civic center now has more than 200,000 square feet of convention space and one of the largest ballrooms in Minnesota at 40,000 square feet.
The native Minnesotan, who grew up on a hobby farm near New Prague, has much more to say about what makes Rochester special. “There’s so much history to explore throughout the city, due in large part to the Mayo brothers,” he says. “There’s a great history tour by the Rochester Trolley and Tour Co. that I would recommend to anybody coming to town. Also, I’m really impressed with the craft beer scene in Rochester. In 2012, there was just one brewery. Now, there are five proving their worth as destination breweries.”
But what about the winters? Not a problem, Von Bank says. “The skyway that connects to Mayo Civic Center also connects to more than 2,000 hotel rooms downtown. And the skyways are climate-controlled. We also have a pedestrian subway system underneath Mayo Clinic and some of the hotels. So, there are ways to get around without having to go outside in the dead of winter.”
To learn more about Rochester, check out Von Bank’s Growing Destinations podcast (growingdestinations.com). And if you run into him at a farmers market this summer or fall, get yourself a pie.