She had attended the conference last year but said the experience was different this time, attending it as the tourism coordinator.
“I helped Blair a lot over the last two and one-half years,” Bonner said. “I have always enjoyed what she had done. There’s a lot of value in bringing people to our area, our community.”
“It will help to make this more of a seamless transition, but I still will be learning a lot. While I did help, it wasn’t my job for all the aspects of each event,” she explained.
The big event for the tourism position and the CDC is the annual Tri City BBQ Fest in Denison in September. The two-day event has a $250,000 to $350,000 net direct impact on the community.
“I did have a lot of involvement in certain areas of the BBQ fest but there were also aspects that I haven’t dealt with on a larger basis. There will definitely be responsibilities I have to learn more about,” Bonner said.
In the past she helped with planning for the bands, helped with dinners and helped with competitors. Two years ago she managed the volunteers, and last year she co-managed the volunteers with Rachel Desy, the CDC office manager.
“The BBQ fest is a team effort,” pointed out CDC Executive Director Evan Blakley. “Shani will have the full support and guidance of the rest of the office.”
He added that Weigum has offered to serve as a volunteer and as an assistant or potentially even remain as the coordinator for the Kansas City Barbecue Society-sanctioned contest that is a main part of the Tri City BBQ Fest.
Bonner said that Weigum will be available to help her as needed.
The next events for the tourism coordinator to focus on are the Manilla Madness bike ride in May and the Red, White & Boom! Independence Day celebration in July.
Bonner said she is interested in finding new ways to bring people to the county and to help people from the area find local attractions and amenities that they may not be aware of.
Blakley explained a strategy for tourism going forward is to focus more on destination development – building on attractions and assisting with features, such as recreation trails, that can drive more people to the county. Another part of the strategy is to use marketing tools to attract to the county events that are already taking place somewhere else.
“There are all sorts of clubs that gather at least once a year. We want to work on making our area into a wonderful host, but not have the CDC manage every single event that comes through,” he said. “Our events are important but we can only manage so many. We have only so many resources and hours here.”
The administrative assistant position that Bonner is leaving will be filled. Blakley said he will be posting the position soon.
“We’re looking for another great person to join our team,” he said.
Bonner and her family have lived in Denison for 14 years. Her husband, Brad, is the executive director of human resources and general counsel at Crawford County Memorial Hospital. They have three daughters - Brigid, 11, Camilla, 9, and Genevieve, 6.
Blakley said Bonner is a very logical fit for the role of tourism coordinator.
“She is very energetic. She’s organized to a ‘T’. She’s very passionate about this community and in helping it to grow,” he said. “She is already a great fit with our team and culture here at the CDC. She’s a forward thinker and very positive, and that’s what we look for because we want to positively influence our community.”