For countless annual visitors to the greater Janesville area, Christine Rebout is a smiling face in a familiar place.
Now the executive director for the Janesville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, Rebout has spent the past 20-plus years helping to promote all things Bower City. For her efforts, she has received such honors as the Upper Midwest Convention & Visitors Bureau’s Bruce Riley McDaniel Individual Professionalism & Lifetime Achievement Award, a nomination for a Legacy Award at the Wisconsin Governor’s Conference and recognition as one of YWCA of Rock County’s “Women of Distinction” in 2013. She currently chairs the state’s top tourism association, Destination Wisconsin.
A Fulton native and 1986 Edgerton High School graduate, Rebout also holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in mass communications from UW-Whitewater with an emphasis on radio, TV and film. She and her husband, Doug, are parents to a 16-year-old daughter, Natalia, and the family also has two cats, Kitty and Kitten.
1. You’ve been with JACVB for more than 20 years. How has your job changed? The biggest change has probably been the speed and immediacy of marketing. When I started, we placed ads in magazines that were designed months before they ran and had a long shelf life. Our messages had to be broader because the opportunities to see them were less frequent and less targeted. Today, social media and electronic marketing are constant and ever-changing. We can also specifically target who sees our ads and see an immediate response.
2. We’ve all been trapped indoors due to COVID-19. How have you been spending your free time? I haven’t had as much free time as I would like. Between working to support our tourism industry and caring for a child with cognitive disabilities, my days get hectic. I have taken time these last few months to sew some custom masks for friends and family. I love to sew, and it has always been a way for me to be creative and relieve stress. Making masks for the people I care about from fabrics that fit their personalities has really helped me through the chaos.
3. What is the single greatest draw for people interested in visiting Janesville? It would be impossible to land on a single greatest draw. A couple of years ago, we went through a branding process and landed on “Wisconsin’s Great Outdoors.” With thousands of acres of parkland, more than 50 developed parks, so much riverfront, the Rock Aqua Jays, our historic districts and concerts in the park, there is so much you can learn, experience and enjoy when you are outside.
4. Do you think people understand what you do as executive director for JACVB? I’m quite sure most people have no idea what I do. They might think we just wait for people to show up and visit Janesville. Bringing people into a community to spend money on travel is a competitive, strategic process. I focus my work and the work of the organization on our mission to lead, support and promote travel to our community and the resulting economic impact. Every day is vastly different, but that is what I love about what I do.
5. What person in history would you most like to meet and why? This might date me, but I would love to meet Laura Ingalls Wilder. Her writing created such a vivid picture of that time in our history. She wrote with such detail. I’ve been thinking I should have reread “The Long Winter” to prep for quarantine.
6. When you go to the grocery store, what is the one item that always goes into your cart whether you need it or not? Right now, it would be one of everything as I haven’t been inside a grocery store for more than two months. In general, though, it would be yogurt. There are so many styles and flavors, and you can usually convince yourself it’s healthy even when it has M&Ms or other fun stuff thrown in. Definitely yogurt, or ice cream ... basically any squishy dairy product.
7. Name a skill you wish you had. Art. I really wish I could draw, paint or do anything artistic. Unfortunately, I have always had to deal with stick figures and lollipop trees. I think it would be so nice to create something beautiful for other people to see, but I have just never been able to do that. Sadly, I’m more of a paint-by-numbers girl.
8. Is there a particular event or type of event missing from Janesville’s annual calendar that you would like to see become part of it? We have had so much growth in the number and types of events we have in Janesville that I really can’t think of anything that is missing. I always invite people who say there is nothing to do in Janesville to visit our events calendar at janesvillecvb.com/events. It looks a little different now as we work through ways to safely hold events, but typically we have more than 3,000 listed on the annual calendar.
9. As a lead marketer for the city, do you find it hard to “turn it off” when you’re not working? I don’t even try anymore. I learned the hard way many years ago not to go to the grocery store in pajama pants. I always see someone I know or someone who knows me, and they always need to talk about something happening in the community. I am very much OK with that. I genuinely love the Janesville community and all there is to see and do, so working it into my family life and personal time is just a given.
10. The single coolest thing that has ever happened to me is: Traveling to Ukraine to adopt our daughter in 2005. At the time, I was terrified to go to a country that was not too fond of Americans, carrying a lot of cash for the adoption agency and working through a legal process with an unstable government. Looking back, I realize how cool it was. We stayed with a host couple in a tiny apartment in Kiev before traveling to Donetsk to the orphanage where she was living. Seeing the amazing sights, meeting the people who helped us through the process and learning firsthand about her birth country was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
11. You are involved with many different community groups. Why do you find that important? Community involvement is what inspires me to get out of bed on rainy days. I’ve met so many amazing people I now call friends. When an event is done or a meeting is over, the relationships and good results remain. Even when an organization is tasked with a huge project or what can seem like an insurmountable event, people come together, they work hard, and they support each other. There is no better way to make a true friend than to work beside them on something that benefits the community.
12. People would be surprised to know that I: Started college with a vocal music scholarship. My dad pulled me aside early on, and we had a chat about what job I thought might really find. I changed my major to mass communications with an emphasis in radio, TV and film. As always, he was right.
13. Can you name a popular TV show you either have never seen or that you don’t understand why it is popular? “The Bachelor” or “The Bachelorette.” I just don’t get it. The few times I have accidentally watched a minute or two, it has been downright painful. If you want to punish me, make me watch it … and take away my yogurt.
14. What is the wallpaper currently on your cellphone? A photo of me and six of my high school friends. We are still incredibly close and get together in person at least twice a year. The photo is from a weekend getaway at a cabin in northern Wisconsin. It was a perfect weekend, and I like to look at it when things get a little stressful. They are my support system, and we take care of each other unconditionally.
15. Living in Janesville, it is easy to take things here for granted. Share some of the feedback you hear from visitors about what they enjoyed about visiting Janesville. Those who reach out to us almost always mention how nice the people are and the variety of things there are to see and do. I think so many of our visitors from northern Illinois have driven by without stopping that when they finally do, they are pleasantly surprised. Because we live here, we forget how cool it is to have a national championship-winning water-ski show team and a home where Abraham Lincoln hung out.
16. Despite being a city of 60,000 people, Janesville maintains a “small town” feel. To what do you attribute that? I think the people are the key to our small town “wonderfulness.” When I walk into a local business, event or attraction, they take the time to learn and remember my name. I don’t have to give the dry-cleaner my ticket; she knows me by sight. When people take your ticket at an event or sell you a meal/beverage, they take time to chat with you. Many times, people comment on the number of national chain restaurants as a negative, but you have to remember those places are often owned and manged by local families, and they hire local people, use local vendors and become a part of our community.
17. Share a lesson gained in childhood that still serves you as a professional. “You have to do the work.” I grew up the youngest of three girls on a tobacco farm. There was plenty of physical labor raising tobacco and then some more with baling hay and feeding calves. The work did not disappear—no one else came along and did it for us. You simply must dig in and do the hard work before you can move on to the reward. That same lesson applies to professional work, marriage, raising your children and building a healthy community.
18. What word do you always struggle to spell correctly? Most of them. Much to the dismay of my high school typing teacher, Gertrude Pett, I am a terrible typist. My brain works much faster than my fingers. Thank goodness for auto correct and my amazing staff, which is constantly proofreading everything I do.
19. Do you collect anything? I have a set of dishes from both of my grandmothers. I don’t necessarily collect antique dishes in mass quantities, but they are something I like to display. Owning them makes me feel good, so I guess that could be defined as collecting.
20. You have a farming background, but your professional career involves marketing a city. Would you say you’re more of a country person or a city person? I’m definitely a country person. I need to hear birds chirping when I wake up in the morning. I need to only hear the sounds of nature to fall asleep. I need to able to get the mail in my PJs. Living on a farm, I would rather smell manure than car exhaust. My workdays get rather hectic, so I love to come home to plenty of space and nature.
Editor’s Note: Kicks presents 20Q, a feature that introduces readers to people involved in the area’s arts and entertainment community. Compiled by kicks Editor Greg Little, each piece will include a short bio, photo and answers to questions that provide insight into not only that person’s artistic interests but also his or her unique personality.