Bicentennial celebrations start now
It’s been 18 months in the making, but a local organizing committee including staffers from Hamilton County Tourism, county historian David Heighway, historical societies, performing arts venues and others, are rolling out events beginning this month to celebrate Indiana’s bicentennial.

There will be plenty to do, eat, see and drink to commemorate 200 years of the Hoosier state. The Museum of Miniature Houses opened a new exhibit this month featuring homes that depict Hoosier history in different time periods. Conner Prairie will have several events throughout the year, including the reinterpretation of the historic Conner House, which opens this spring. There will be a bicentennial musical by the Nickel Plate Players and Fishers Music Works, and the Palladium at the Center for the Performing Arts will present a special series of songbook favorites featuring Indiana music ties.

Tourism provided more than $50,000 in grants to help local organizations develop programs, exhibits and events for the bicentennial celebration in 2015 and 2016.

Included is a Bicentennial Brew Tour, where you can sample beers at five Hamilton County breweries while hearing quirky stories of Indiana’s past, from squirrel stampedes to haunted legends. The tours are every Sunday through May 22.

Torch bearers will make their way across Hamilton County Oct. 13, where there will be 10 official celebration sites ending with an after-party on the Historic Noblesville Square.

“Hamilton County communities and attractions have worked for a year to determine how to tell the story of Indiana’s history and celebrate our bicentennial. There truly is something for everyone.” said Brenda Myers, president and CEO of Hamilton County Tourism. “It’s going to be fun to learn the history – including haunted and quirky stories – of Hamilton County and Indiana in a variety of ways.” Learn more at VisitHamiltonCounty.com/2016.

Welcoming new staff members
Scott Spillman has joined Hamilton County Sports Authority as the sports development manager, and Sarah Buckner was named executive assistant and Tourism Gives coordinator.

Spillman, who had been the central region director for Little League Baseball in Indianapolis, will work to promote Hamilton County as a premier sports and events destination and collaborate with local sports events and clubs. He’ll also serve on the local organizing committee for HCSA. Spillman has a bachelor’s degree in sports science and management from Indiana University.

Buckner returns to Hamilton County Tourism as executive assistant to Brenda Myers and the HCT administrative team. Buckner worked for Tourism from 2005 until 2011, in marketing. Most recently had been marketing and communications manager for Hamilton County Economic Development. In her new role, Buckner is charged with making sure HCT administration runs smoothly, by coordinating activities and managing community development projects. Buckner also will assist with HCSA and HCT sponsored events and manage the Hamilton County Tourism Gives program. Introduced in 2015, this new umbrella initiative bundles the philanthropic efforts of community support into one program. Buckner has a bachelor’s degree in tourism from Indiana University.

Enhancing visitor experiences
Hamilton County Tourism is known for marketing its communities, attractions, events, sports, restaurants and shops to attract visitors. Beginning this year, HCT takes it up a notch to focus not only on getting visitors to want to travel to Hamilton County, but making the most of their experiences while here. Sarah Billman has been named the manager of the new Visitor Experience Department, where she’ll lead efforts to provide more services and information to visitors.

This new department is an extension of sales and the HCSA. While they will continue to develop new events, Billman will work to enhance the visitor experiences. That could include everything from creating a microsite on the Hamilton County Tourism website specific to the event. It could include special VIP gifts when they check in at the hotel. It may include creating specialized maps or restaurant and retail discounts.

“Our end goal is to wow our visitors, give them individual attention, and highlight all of Hamilton County so they’ll want to bring their event back year after year, and so attendees will want to come back on their own to explore more attractions,” Billman said.

HCT will also offer a seminar for local facilities and venues to help share best practices for enhancing visitor experiences, something that fits wells with the Super Service portal that venues have access to on the website.

In addition, the new department will add more technology to encourage user-engagement at visitor centers in Carmel and Noblesville and expand visitor services with mobile centers throughout the county.

#loveHC Photography Exhibit
Deliberate Media, with Nickel Plate Arts and Hamilton County Tourism, is curating a collaborative photography showcase featuring images captured by residents and visitors of Hamilton County, Indiana. Photos featuring any topic are welcome, specifically those that show the community, beauty and diversity of the county. Submissions will be accepted through Monday, Feb. 15 via Instagram with the hashtag #submitloveHC, email (hannah@deliberatemediallc.com), or through the Deliberate Media (https://www.facebook.com/DeliberateMedia/?fref=ts) and Hamilton County Tourism (https://www.facebook.com/VisitHamiltonCo/) Facebook pages. The showcase will be in the Stephenson House on the Nickel Plate Arts campus in Noblesville from March 4-31. Attend the showcase reception during First Friday March 4 from 6-9 p.m. and participate in Hamilton County-themed coloring, vote for your favorite photos and enter to win prizes from Hamilton County Tourism!

Online Advertising Opportunity
Two and a half years ago Hamilton County Tourism partnered with Destination Travel Network to manage the unique online advertising program offered on VisitHamiltonCounty.com. You may not know this, but DTN manages online ad programs for over 100 tourism websites like ours across North America. And they work with thousands of advertisers just like Hamilton County businesses: hospitality properties, dining establishments, attractions, entertainment, activities and more.

Over the years, one of the most common results reported to DTN by those organizations which establish robust ad programs on tourism websites like VisitHamiltonCounty.com is this:  the tourism website frequently becomes the single site that directs more traffic, and business, to the advertiser’s site than any other, including Google and TripAdvisor. That’s powerful.

Is now the time for your organization to enjoy the benefits of being showcased on VisitHamiltonCounty.com?  Please contact Ashley Ledford, director of marketing and promotions for more information on the online program.