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Saturday, April 20, 2024

Good Impression?

State tourism conference guests share observations of Evansville.

This week’s Indiana Tourism Conference, hosted at Bally’s Evansville by Explore Evansville, brought more than 250 tourism professionals and advocates to the River City.

Representatives of Visit Indiana, hospitality groups, marketing firms, and regional magazines — including Evansville Living — spoke March 11-13 at panels connecting Midwest agencies and spotlighting the unique attractions Indiana has to offer.

Attendees had opportunities to network, learn, and see the community. Evansville Living asked a few conference guests — some of whom had seldom, if ever, been to Evansville — for their early impressions. Conferees’ arrival in town Monday involved dinner at Comfort by the Cross-Eyed Cricket and strolls on Main Street and the riverfront.

Evansville is not entirely foreign to Monique Franklin, a graphic designer with the Conner Prairie Museum in Fishers, Indiana. She attended the University of Southern Indiana for a year more than a decade ago but did not stray from the campus too often.

“I didn’t actually go Downtown,” Franklin says. “I didn’t have a car, and I was hitching a ride most of the time. But I loved walking to the restaurant (Monday). The riverfront is beautiful.”

Franklin’s coworker Keith Harshbarger, social media and communications specialist with the Conner Prairie Museum, saw Southwest Indiana for the first time.

“I had gone to Kentucky and Tennessee all my life for vacation,” Harshbarger says. “I had never come this direction. It’s neat to see there’s more down here than I thought. It’s pretty, is what I think.”

Teal Strabbing, visitor services manager with Visit Bloomington, had only been to town a couple of times, and she enjoyed the Evansville Museum of Arts, History and Science on a previous work trip.

A Main Street business grabbed her attention this week.

“Downtown is really great,” Strabbing says. “Very clean, nice, and cute. I loved it, like everything. And I’m a huge cat person, and I saw there was a cat café (River Kitty Cat Café) right next door. I was too late to a session to go in and visit the cats, but I did take a peek at them and do a little shopping when I was in there.”

Two members of the Downtown Lafayette Business Owners Association — Nolan Willhite, co-founder of Flora Candle Company, and Laura Kendall, owner and manager of Second Flight Books — also enjoyed checking out Downtown Evansville.

“I like the streetscapes Downtown,” Kendall says. “They are very cute, and they have some good shops. I went to the bookstore (Your Brother’s Bookstore) and talked to them for a while. I actually also checked out the other bookstore, Bluestocking Social, over by the (University of Evansville campus). That’s what I do when I go places.”

River Kitty Cat Café also caught Willhite’s eye, as did Memo, a stationery shop on Main Street. “It’s super cute, and we have a similar shop to that in Lafayette,” he says.

Corey Murphy knew more about the River City than most other attendees — he is a University of Evansville graduate.

“I’m a Purple Ace, so it was good for me to come back and visit campus. It had been a while,” says Murphy, president of Henry County Destination Development as well as the New Castle-Henry County Economic Development Corporation. “I walked the riverfront and the Historic District, something I didn’t do when I was in college. It’s good to be back.”

Biz Bishop, a content manager with Visit Wabash County, says Downtown Evansville is “very beautiful” and shows some imagination. Crescent City Tattoo & Museum, for example, “is a cool use of an old building,” she says.

Jon Hunsberger traveled from Elkhart County, where he is executive director of the Elkhart County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

His walk from Bally’s to the Downtown area was “very inviting,” he says. “I saw Bru Burger and the old Greyhound sign. I love the architecture in there, and it’s just interesting.”

Hunsberger found more to like on Main Street. “Everything goes one way, and it’s pedestrian-friendly,” he says. “That whole space was kind of unique and exciting to see.”

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