Conner Prairie Interactive History Park is planning to invest in indoor exhibits in hopes of becoming more of a year-round destination for visitors. The Hamilton County attraction's plans include an expanded science-based interactive center, funded by a $2.3 million National Science Foundation grant. At its annual meeting, Conner Prairie also reported record-breaking daily attendance numbers for 2013.
January 22, 2014
Fishers, Ind. — Conner Prairie Interactive History Park's President and CEO Ellen M. Rosenthal unveiled plans to expand indoor experiences, add new adult programming and increase year-round offerings during the organization's annual meeting, held Wednesday. Rosenthal also announced record-breaking numbers in 2013 with more than 246,000 total visitors and a 12 percent increase in daily attendance.
Community leaders from Central Indiana, board members, staff and volunteers were in attendance to hear new plans for 2014 and key highlights from 2013, while enjoying gourmet hors d'oeuvres from The Local Eatery & Pub as well as craft beer samplings from Sun King Brewery, Conner Prairie's exclusive craft beer provider.
To better understand the impact Conner Prairie is making in the community, three guests, who are actively engaged with the organization, also shared their perspectives, including celebrated chef and restaurateur Neal Brown of The Libertine Liquor Bar and Pizzology, Regional Director of Summer Advantage USA Amber Deckard, and Taylor Zimmerman, Conner Prairie youth volunteer and the 2013 recipient of the Governor's Youth Service Award.
“This is a very exciting time for Conner Prairie, with record-breaking attendance in 2013 and brand-new programming and additions to indoor exhibits. In 2014, we are focusing on offering more adults-only events and renovating and expanding our indoor experiences to offer hands-on, engaging activities year-round for the whole family,” said Rosenthal.
New and Expanded Experiences in 2014
With a continued commitment to offering innovative experiences for visitors of all ages, Conner Prairie revealed brand-new programming designed to engage adult audiences in 2014. The programming includes two new series, one which offers gourmet food, wine and craft beer from some of the region's top chefs and food artisans, and the other which offers ongoing classes and special workshops to provide visitors an opportunity to learn new skills and discover new interests within Conner Prairie's unique, historic setting.
Conner Prairie will continue to focus on becoming a year-round destination for families and visitors of all ages by expanding Create.Connect, Discovery Station and Craft Corner in 2014.
Funded by a $2.3 million National Science Foundation grant awarded to Conner Prairie in 2012, Create.Connect is an indoor prototype exhibit featuring science-based, hands-on, interactive activities centered on wind, electricity and motion for visitors of all ages. Two new interactive exhibits will be offered within Create.Connect, including an area dedicated to early aviation that showcases the Johnson brothers, Terre Haute natives who built the first flying monoplane in the U.S., and a 1950s-era patent office where visitors of all ages can try their hand at inventing and even apply for a Conner Prairie patent.
Wind power and the Rural Electrification Act, current exhibits in Create.Connect, will be expanded to offer immersive, integrated, period-appropriate media, costumed interpreters in period attire, and new and exciting hands-on activities, such as exploring a 1930s farm kitchen and electrifying miniature appliances. This next phase of Create.Connect is set to open in the spring.
Discovery Station and Craft Corner
Discovery Station, an indoor, kid-sized world for ages 6 and under, will be expanded with new additions to offer even more imaginative fun such as a farmers' market and pioneer garden, a climbable tree, ride-on trains, hobby horses to be fed and groomed, all wooden toys, dress-up, new pretend opportunities and more. Embedded throughout will be tools to help young children learn color, word and letter recognition, impacting cognitive and socialization skills.
Craft Corner will receive a brand-new look to inspire and entice visitors of all ages to step inside and create. The open-studio concept allows Conner Prairie to continue to offer historical craft activities while also encouraging visitors to use their imagination and curiosity.
An array of various new materials will be available with which visitors can create, draw, color, glue and get messy to their hearts' content.
The newly designed Discovery Station and Craft Corner is set to open this summer and will be integrated, separated by a half-wall, allowing parents increased visibility of their children. Also, seating areas in the gallery make it adult-friendly so that everyone can comfortably join in the fun.
Along with unveiling new experiences in 2014, Rosenthal also provided record-breaking numbers and increases in attendance in 2013, including:
• 12 percent increase in year-round, daily attendance, with a record-breaking 246,000 visitors (adding in Symphony on the Prairie visitors, the number rises to nearly 340,000 people)
• 21 percent increase in memberships
• 11 percent increase in member retention; 47% member retention rate
• 28,000 visitors to Conner Prairie's Headless Horseman event, an all-time high in its 30-year run
• Fifth consecutive year for record attendance at Conner Prairie's summer day camps with more than 9,600 camper visits
• Eighth consecutive year with a balanced budget
• 20,000 riders enjoyed a flight on Conner Prairie's tethered, helium balloon in 1859 Balloon Voyage, the second-best year for ridership since the exhibit opened in 2009
• 3 percent increase in school group attendance
• More than 62,000 visitors served through educational programs
• More than 7 percent of visits, or 18,000 people, came through free or greatly reduced admission, including the Access Pass program, which offers $1 admission to Hoosiers on public assistance, free days and free or reduced admission for military families
New Conner Prairie Board Members
Conner Prairie leaders also introduced new museum board members for 2014, which include: Michael Berry, vice president of compensation at WellPoint, Inc.; Mary Ayers, North & Latin America commercial finance director of Dow AgroSciences, LLC; Alan Cohen, past CEO and chairman of the board of The Finish Line, Inc.; David Day, attorney at Church, Church, Hittle and Antrim; Rita McCluskey, first vice president of Merrill Lynch; Fred Medley, director of Indiana Department of Insurance; Philip Scarpino, professor of public history at IUPUI; Reg Stump, vice president of North American Support Network at Roche Diagnostics Corp.; Deborah Waldkoetter, new president of the Conner Prairie Alliance, the women's auxiliary; and John Knight, new president of the Conner Prairie Horizon Council and senior platform quality engineer at Interactions Corporation.
For more information, visit connerprairie.org, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @ConnerPrairie.
Conner Prairie Interactive History Park inspires curiosity and fosters learning by immersing visitors in Indiana's past. The state's only Smithsonian Affiliate, Conner Prairie allows visitors to explore Indiana's natural and cultural heritage by visiting communities and moments from the past and learning about events, discoveries and forces that shaped the American Midwest. Encouraging discovery about the environment, innovation and invention, bio-sciences, technology, the arts and culture, Conner Prairie inspires lifelong interests and prepares the next generation to be competitive in a global marketplace. Conner Prairie and its five outdoor experiences, indoor interactive exhibits and acres of natural exploration areas not only