Conner Prairie Talks Growth Plans, Increased Attendance

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Conner Prairie Interactive History Park covers 800 acres. Conner Prairie Interactive History Park covers 800 acres.

Conner Prairie Interactive History Park officials used their annual meeting this week to discuss rising attendance figures, a new indoor exhibit and a big donation from longtime supporters. The $500,000 support from Anderson-based Ricker Oil Co. founders Jay and Nancy Ricker will help cover restoration of the 800-acre museum's Chinese House.

The project, which will cost $1.4 million in all, is set to start next year. The house was purchased in 1949 by museum founder Eli Lilly and currently serves as a private event venue.

Officials details plans for a new maker space focusing on historic trades that is slated for construction next year. Fundraising and a feasibility study are already underway. Conner Prairie is in the midst of developing a 10-year master plan and Chief Executive Officer Norman Burns says "our dream is to explore the potential of our untapped resources, including the White River and the acres we own on both sides of its beautiful banks."

Attendance in 2016 hit 391,261, a 4 percent increase from 2015. The total numbers were drive by a record turnout for the annual Headless Horseman events and a week-long summer day camp for children. Also up were daily general admission and membership. Conner Prairie took in $11,118,691 in revenue last year and operated with a balanced budget for the 11th consecutive year.

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