KOKOMO, Ind. — Looking for something to do this summer in Kokomo?
Ask Alissa Russell for a suggestion.
As an intern with the Greater Kokomo Visitors Bureau, the Indiana University Kokomo senior knows what’s going on in the community — and how it’s planned and organized.
“I really like seeing how the community works together to make Kokomo a positive and growing city,” she said. “There are people behind the scenes making all these things happen, from the Strawberry Festival to Jackrabbits games, the summer concert series, and the games at Championship Park. It’s somebody’s job to make these things happen, it’s not by magic. It’s cool to see that aspect.”
Russell, who is a hospitality and tourism management major, encourages others in the program to consider an internship with a visitor’s bureau or destination management organization, for an inside look at the industry.
“It really is the root of tourism for destinations,” she said. “These organizations help all the museums and tourist attractions in their community. Seeing how all of this goes together provided a nice conclusion for everything I’ve learned in my classes.”
Most recently, she worked at the Kokomo Strawberry Festival, handing out maps for Kokomo’s trail system and Indiana festival guides, and talking to people about upcoming events.
“It was a perfect day,” Russell said. “There were so many people downtown, everyone was in such a great mood, and the weather was perfect. It was fun to share about everything there is to do here.”
During her internship, she’s job shadowed Sherry Matlock, manager of the convention and visitor’s bureau, attending meetings with her and seeing what her job is like day to day. She’s also editing the Visit Kokomo app, adding new items of interest to visitors, and updating the restaurant guide. She also writes a blog about tourist destinations in town and is coordinating the Kokomo Summer Concerts in Foster Park.
“Originally, I wanted to do an internship at a concert venue, and this worked out better,” she said. “I mentioned that I wanted to do something with concerts, and we were able to add it to my internship. I’ll work with the performers as they come in, facilitating so they get where they need to go, and the schedule stays on track.”
Russell said she’s also had a chance to discover attractions like the Seiberling Mansion and the Elwood Haynes Museum, which, even though she is a lifelong Kokomo resident, she’s never visited.
“The more I learn about tourism, the more I learn it’s not just leaving the country and seeing people who speak another language, or who have grown up with a different culture,” she said. “It can be as simple as going to a museum in your own hometown.”
Her internship is the result of an IU Kokomo Experience and You, or KEY trip with her economics of tourism class with Mark Meng, assistant professor of hospitality and tourism. The class visited the visitor’s bureau, and Russell followed up the encounter with an email to Matlock, which led to an interview and then the opportunity.
While she’s not sure exactly what she wants to do after she graduates in May 2023, Russell said working at a visitor’s bureau like Kokomo’s is a good option.
“You really get to know a community, and see the ins and outs, and see local businesses and people who make it run,” she said. “I really want to work in a place that is destination focused, learn about what makes it unique, and work to promote it.”