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Former volunteer tasked with promoting attraction

Former volunteer tasked with promoting attraction
Former volunteer tasked with promoting attraction | Discovery Park of America, Mary Nita Bondurant

Mary Nita Bondurant
Special Features Editor
“This place is awesome.”
And, indeed, Discovery Park of America is just that, so Mary Nita Bondurant’s job of “selling” adventures there should be a snap. But few people expect to discover awesomeness in an agricultural community tucked away in the corner of a Southern state. Mrs. Bondurant is determined that geography will not limit the appeal of a project she has been in love with for years now, however.
“I want to make sure we have visitors at Discovery Park from all over the world. Mr. (Robert) Kirkland has built an architectural wonder and the building itself should garner national and international interest. It is my goal to promote DPA and this area as a tourist attraction and make sure we sell enough tickets every year to meet our budget and have revenue left over to continue to develop the park,” says the project’s new marketing director.
Mrs. Bondurant joined the DPA team as an employee in mid-March, but she has been directly involved with showcasing the 50-acre, multi-million dollar education and entertainment complex since 2008. It was at that time, soon after Kirkland and his wife, Jenny, broke the news about their plans to build an eye-catching structure filled with items that would expand the minds and hearts of visitors from both this area and far beyond that the Union City resident came on board as a volunteer. Working with the Marketing Committee, which was established very soon after the Kirklands asked for ideas for every phase of the project from the community, Mrs. Bondurant succeeded in developing the DPA logo and lead the team that came up with brochures and rack cards that have been used for some time now to call attention to Discovery Center and the surrounding structures and botanical and water features that are taking shape on Union City’s northwest border. Her committee worked with Delevante Creative in Nashville to begin to develop wide interest in the project whose very history is exciting.
The lively volunteer-turned employee with the engaging grin knows her stuff when it comes to attracting attention. Using her degree in communications, she has worked in advertising for both newspaper and radio and in marketing for the Baptist Healthcare Corp., where she coordinated projects and developed advertising campaigns.
That background will stand her in good stead as she develops the overall marketing plan and strategy for DPA, including all media. That means she must keep in mind the most positive approach for print, broadcast, outdoor and social forms of communication.
In addition, she will be working with advertising agencies to develop and manage the DPA brand and will design site maps and forge relationships with a number of state tourism associations. The latter will be essential to the effort to attract visitors from all over the country and beyond.
She will be the go-to person for coordinating all public relations activities, will work with bus companies to solicit tour groups and will present programs to civic organizations.
“I actually enjoy developing and creating, and since I am the first marketing director, I will get to develop the plan and help ensure the success of Discovery Park,” she says. “I also love the educational value that DPA has for visitors. We have a goal to help people ‘see beyond’ their current level of knowledge and I believe that will absolutely happen. I learn something new about history every day, just working here.
“Additionally, I love people. I have already had the opportunity to plug into Tennessee Tourism and have met wonderful people who will help us promote Discovery Park to tourists throughout the world. My media data base is growing, and I find that the people who work in media and in tourism are interesting and helpful. I’m excited about developing all these new relationships and friendships as I work to promote Discovery Park. I truly believe in its mission, which is to enhance the educational experience of children and adults and to inspire them. I am absolutely delighted to be part of this project,” she says.
Mrs. Bondurant has deep roots in the community and a commitment to making Obion County and the surrounding area the optimal place to live and to visit. A Kentucky native, she has been married to Jim Bondurant, a First State Bank development officer, for 37 years and is the mother of two and grandmother of four.
“Our son, Dr. Dylan Bondurant, and his wife, Courtney, have two children and live here in Union City. Our daughter, Katie, lives in Franklin with her husband, Jeremy, and is a mom who spends her time taking care of their family, which includes two children.”
Mrs. Bondurant is an active member of Union City First Baptist Church and serves on the congregation’s personnel committee. She is a member of the United Way of Obion County board of directors and is a member of Philian Review Club. A past Rotarian, she enjoys spending time with family, playing with her grandchildren, exploring the wonders of photography and reading.
She points with appreciation to Jim Rippy, the new CEO for Discovery Park of America, and says he is the man responsible for developing the team that will be in place when DPA opens this fall, making sure things function as well as they possibly can so that the Kirkland family’s dream will be fully realized.
“I am blessed to be working with wonderful, creative and talented professionals,” she says.
There are challenges associated with her new job, however, the most obvious being the fact that the eye-catching Discovery Center — the focal point of the complex — and the surrounding features have all arisen on what has been farm land for as long as there has been a community called Union City.
“It is extremely unusual to have a tourist attraction of this magnitude in such a rural location. We actually don’t have a lot of people to benchmark with regarding promoting a venue like Discovery Park because of its setting. Just the fact that we don’t have hundreds of thousands of people in proximity — as is the case when projects take place in metropolitan areas — will present some challenges,” she says.
But she issues that warning with a twinkle in her eye and it’s easy to see she is not the least bit disconcerted by the prospect.

Published in The Messenger 5.31.13

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