Visitor Center to market Culver, locally and beyond

The much-discussed Culver and Lake Maxinkuckee Visitor Center is about to become a reality, and will open its doors to the community officially at a grand opening Saturday, June 14, starting at 1 p.m. during the annual Taste of Culver festival at Jefferson and Main Streets in downtown Culver.

The center -- which formally incorporated with a five-member board earlier this month -- has evolved over months of planning and effort. Board members include president Kathy Clark; vice president Mary Kunkle; Chad Van Herk, secretary-treasurer; Rich West; Sue Beggs; Dana Keller; and Jeff Kenney.

Talk of the need to focus and coordinate efforts to market Culver and consolidate information as to its amenities to visitors and locals alike has increased in recent years. However, the Visitor Center itself originated from brainstorming sessions with the committee behind the Culver-area museum, which will re-open as the Museum of Culver and Lake Maxinkuckee History (formerly the Center for Culver History) during the same ribbon-cutting ceremony as the Visitor Center on the 14th.

The Visitor Center also owes its existence to funding support from the Marshall County Community Foundation, Marshall County Tourism, Union Township, and the town of Culver, adds Saft.

Those entering the building at its south entrance have likely already noticed changes there: a new glass wall separates the Visitor Center from the rest of the bank, while an entryway to the west beckons visitors to the museum, which occupies the space which was once home to longtime local legend, the late president of the State Exchange Bank, W.O. Osborn.

The addition of the wall allows the Center to be open regardless of bank hours, which facilitates focusing open hours on the flow of traffic to the Culver area.

Carol Saft, newly hired executive director of the Visitor Center, notes the Antiquarian Society voted to allow the Center's committee to take the next logical step in its evolution, that of incorporation, though the center presently still operates under the 501C3, non-profit status of the AHS. The Center will be soliciting information from visitors on the type of information needed during the beginning months to help make the Visitor Center a success.

The Visitor Center will offer two tiers of tourism-oriented benefit to the Culver and Lake Maxinkuckee area. The most visible, locally, of course is the brick and mortar side of things. The Center will offer information to visitors about local dining, shopping, activities, and virtually every aspect of interest to those not already familiar with what Culver has to offer. This will include several attractive print publications intended to give guests all the information they could use for a current visit or future trip here.

Secondly, the Center will focus on outreach to those around the state of Indiana and beyond, which will utilize the Internet as its core marketing tool, and will also partner with regional entities such Marshall County Tourism in Plymouth.

The online facet of the Center's efforts will benefit from a partnership effort with the Culver Redevelopment Commission, whose "Come to Culver" commercials airing on TV station WSBT last year (and in repeat and new viewings later this year) garnered much positive feedback and were even up for state-level media awards. Those commercials led viewers to the CRC-generated website, which the CRC sold to the Visitor Center recently for one dollar. The Center plans to revamp the existing site to expand its content and upgrade its aesthetics.

And even though the center will be officially open as of June 14, there will be more additions to the space, including enhanced outdoor signage, following that date.

"A lot of good people in our community have worked hard to get this center together," says Clark. "The donors (to it) have our best interest at heart and it's our belief that it will improve our business community and encourage more people to share our beautiful community."