Conner Prairie is taking new pathways for continued success with many exciting things to look ahead at in 2017 and beyond. To start, Conner Prairie being a Smithsonian Affiliate, the interactive history park is excited to announce that their donor level memberships beginning with the explorer level are now offering joint membership at the price of one to the Smithsonian, which includes all membership benefits, including discounts and a subscription to the Smithsonian’s prestigious magazine. In the future, Conner Prairie will continue to host Smithsonian affiliated speakers and subject matter experts as well as bring in traveling exhibits that build on the lessons that are shared at Conner Prairie.
Conner Prairie’s team is always looking at new ways to integrate programming and experiences that guests will value. With that said, Conner Prairie has launched a new 1o year master plan to bring more experiences to shine light on Indiana’s history and its valuable lessons it provides for the public to learn from Indiana’s innovative past. The master plan includes the prospects of building a bridge over the White River for guests to explore a whole new side of Conner Prairie. The White River is an integral part of Conner Prairie’s history. One hundred eighty years ago, the White River was the primary means of transportation for William Connor’s guests. Over the next decade, Conner Prairie hopes to share this story in new ways by showcasing the valuable natural resources that made this site the perfect place to settle down and build a home with a legacy that has stretched over centuries.
Conner Prairie’s 2017 advertising and communications campaign, ‘Welcome to Wanderland,’ will focus on the park’s expansive grounds and all the things that make Conner Prairie truly unique. Conner Prairie’s big vision over the next few years is to offer guests the opportunities to “Go, Do and Be.” They want guests to GO further with space to explore, DO more and BE themselves and allow their free spirited ‘wild child’ come out with all that there is to explore at Conner Prairie!
Conner Prairie will always look for new and innovative ways to touch as many lives as possible with their mission “to inspire curiosity and foster learning about Indiana’s past by providing engaging, individualized and unique experiences.” Conner Prairie strives at this, because, after all, it is a ‘Wanderland.’
In 2017, Conner Prairie will continue to provide outstanding programs for families such as the Hearthside Suppers and Follow the North Star.
The Headless Horseman Experience will expand to meet demands that will include additional experiences including a brand new corn maze that will carry you to new spaces at Conner Prairie and is sure to be a crowd pleaser!
Conner Prairie is entering its third season of Prairie Plates, a valuable and popular program. Every Prairie Plates event features meals from the region’s top chefs in iconic Conner Prairie locations where you may dine at the covered bridge or the streets of Prairie Town. It’s a unique celebration of the areas most innovative food and drink. This series kicks off this April in the Chinese House with chefs from Shoefly Public House and Longbranch.
Last year, Conner Prairie named their first resident playwright, Crystal V. Rhodes. Last spring, in partnership with the Asante Children’s Theatre, Rhodes authored two short plays as part of Conner Prairie’s new Giving Voice program made possible by a grant from Indiana Arts Commission. Over the summer of 2016, Conner Prairie enlisted feedback and input from audience members, so that Conner Prairie can offer the best experience possible to its guests.
Thanks to a new grant from the Christel DeHaan Family Foundation, Conner Prairie can grow the unique Giving Voice program and upgrade their Lilly Theatre with professional lighting and audio video equipment this year, so these performances and others can be performed on a more consistent basis.
As an organization, Conner Prairie knows it’s important to stay up to date on national topics such as the shortage of women in technology. Conner Prairie strives to engage young girls in science, math and engineering careers with their popular annual event, Passport to Hi-Tech, which is run in partnership with the organization, Women and Hi Tech. The event geared for toward 7 to 12 year olds, helps girls to recognize that they can be anything they want in life. The event offers opportunities for girls to talk with female professionals and experience hands on activities throughout various exhibits.
The Curiosity Fair and Festival of Machines are two other places Conner Prairie partners on a larger scope with the community to offer something the interactive history park can’t deliver on a daily basis. With these festivals constantly changing with the times, Conner Prairie always looks to find new partners and focuses on emerging topics in order to continue to have a successful growing presence in the community and remain relevant in today’s day and age.
Another area to note at Conner Prairie in 2017 is the TreeTop Outpost as it will have added opportunities for children.
Also new in 2017, a fifth station has been added to Create.Connect, an indoor exhibit that encourages hands-on play and plenty of exploration.
There are three new exciting projects taking place at Conner Prairie in 2017! Conner Prairie truly is a ‘wanderland’ where guests are encouraged to explore nature, science and history and its unique connections with one another. This year’s fundraising efforts are focused on three diverse projects that are part of Conner Prairie’s Bridge Campaign. This campaign will create a path forward for Conner Prairie taking the park where it is today and where it goes in the future. The Bridge Campaign’s generosity is inspired by the Lilly Endowment, which recognizes the importance of sustainability in our community by providing funding for the campaign’s three projects: a historic restoration on the Chinese House; an outdoor program expansion on the summer camps offered at Conner Prairie; and, the creation of a Maker’s Space, an entirely new experience area.
The Chinese House will be restored to its original glory and receive an upgraded kitchen to fit today’s modern standards in order to increase its appeal for upscale events and corporate rentals.
Last year, Conner Prairie’s summer camp program reached a record breaking attendance of 2,199 campers! Due to the growing numbers of campers each year, Conner Prairie is expanding the Prairie House, which serves as home base for thousands of campers each year. The expansion is necessary in order for Conner Prairie is more equipped to accommodate more children and provide adequate shelter during inclement weather. The expansion will be able to serve 631 more campers than last year. This expansion and renovation will enhance the summer camp experience and allow for new after school programming opportunities.
Also, this year, Conner Prairie is introducing a photography camp for children to develop fundamental skills to capture awe-inspiring images.
For the third project, a brand new Maker’s Space is in the works! This new area will highlight historic trades like blacksmithing, woodworking, pottery and textiles. Generations of families can come together to build and create at the new Maker’s Space. This new space will also increase year round programming opportunities at Conner Prairie.
From January through April this year, Conner Prairie will be transforming Craft Corner into a pop-up Maker’s Workshop. The public is invited here to participate in special prototype activities as Conner Prairie continues to develop the Maker’s Space experience based on input and feedback from guests.
There’s so much to explore and discover at Conner Prairie, so be sure to enjoy it in 2017 and ‘Go, Do and Be’ in the Wanderland that is Conner Prairie.
Katie is a freelance writer and photographer. She loves to be out in nature, hiking, photographing wildlife and exploring all the wonders of the great outdoors. Katie is also passionate about volunteerism by giving back to the community in various ways. She has a son who she adores and is happily married to her best friend since 2007. Follow Katie in her adventures on Instagram @funwithblake.