Keith Rahe, president and CEO of the Dubuque Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, was honored on Sept. 19 with the Bruce Riley McDaniel Individual Professionalism and Lifetime Achievement Award. This award was presented to Rahe at the 19th annual Upper Midwest Convention & Visitors Bureau Fall Conference in Rapid City, South Dakota and is awarded each year to a tourism industry professional that achieves and exemplifies greatness throughout their career.
Rahe’s involvement in the tourism industry started in 1990 in Dyersville at the Field of Dreams Movie Site. Amazed at the flood of tourist coming to see the field, Rahe organized a group of his friends to “magically appear” from the corn just like Ray Liotta and his team did in the movie. Rahe saw the potential of what could be, purchased authentic Chicago White Sox uniforms out of his own pocket, put together a team, and created the Ghost Players of the Field of Dreams. Throughout the past 27 years, the Ghost Players have made appearances all over the world. They have worked with the USO, assisted in baseball clinics, appeared at major events, and worked with the less fortunate, all while spreading the magic of the Field of Dreams. Rahe managed Left and Center Field of Dreams for 17 years, welcomed millions of visitors and orchestrated major events at the site. To this day, Rahe continues to manage and travel with the Ghost Players, most recently to Puerto Rico.
In 2002, Rahe served as the chair for the board of the Dubuque Area Convention & Visitors Bureau (DACVB). His dedication to moving the Tri-States tourism industry forward caught the eye of Dubuque leaders and he was asked to organize the 2004 Grand Excursion in Dubuque. The event brought over 6,000 people to Dubuque to celebrate the boats and the Mississippi River. Due to the event’s success, Rahe and a group of local dignitaries were challenged to create an annual event that celebrated the Port of Dubuque and to bring people from around the country and world to experience Dubuque.
America’s River Festival was born with Rahe at the helm. In its inaugural year, America’s River Festival brought over 2,500 people from the Tri-States to enjoy live music, food and fun. In 2016, 12,000 people came from 548 communities in 24 states and one foreign country. Through Rahe’s leadership and vision over the last 12 years, this event has grown to become one of the premier events in the region.
In 2005, Rahe became the executive director of the Dyersville Economic Development Corporation where his responsibilities were to advance the quality of life for the community in business and tourism. Rahe was tasked with attracting new companies as well as growing interest in the popular farm toy industry which the community is known for. Rahe put together the largest economic development package in the history of the community of 4,000, by successfully recruiting US Bio Energy, a 110-million-gallon ethanol plant. He was instrumental in negotiating/implementing the land transactions, financial incentive packages, annexation/zoning and contractor recommendations of the $135 million project. He also coordinated and oversaw two of the largest farm toy shows in the world, the Summer Farm Toy Show and the National Farm Toy Show. Each of these shows brings travelers domestically and internationally annually.
In 2007, Rahe became one of three full-time employees as the director of sales at the DACVB and in November 2008, his experience and leadership earned him the title of president and CEO. Under his leadership in the last eight years, Dubuque County has increased its economic impact of tourism to the State of Iowa by $75.35 million. Staffing has grown from three full-time members to seven full-time members and five part-time employees.
Currently Rahe serves on the board of Medical Associates Clinic in Dubuque along with the steering committee for Schmidt Island’s future development in the City of Dubuque. He is the current president of the Eastern Iowa Tourism Association and President of the Travel Federation of Iowa. Along with these boards, he is also active in the Iowa Destination Marketing Association and the Tri-State Tourism Council.
Rahe is also an instrumental board member for the Grant Wood Loop, a project that Governor Branstad has earmarked $1 million toward a pilot program creating and enhancing the Iowa parks system as well as a quality of life project for citizens and visitors to the State of Iowa in Iowa’s parks.