From holiday affairs like Luminance and LibertyFest to street festivals like Heard on Hurd and VIBES, Edmond puts on a variety of events for citizens to explore each year. Jennifer Seaton, the director of Visit Edmond, heads the effort to bring attractive events to the city for Edmond residents and leisure travelers alike.
Seaton recently answered questions surrounding her life and career path, which started in Nebraska and Ohio before she moved to Oklahoma.
In this Q&A, Seaton discusses how she ended up in Edmond, her favorite things about the city and some of the anticipated events and developments expected to arrive in 2023. The following conversation has been edited lightly for clarity.
Tell us about yourself. Where did you grow up and how did you get to Edmond?
I am the oldest of four children, and was born in Omaha, Nebraska. We moved to Medina, Ohio, when I was in kindergarten. I got to grow up there and stayed in Ohio through college — graduating with bachelors and masters degrees from Ohio University. While in college, my father was transferred to Oklahoma with Bridgestone Firestone to work at the Dayton Tire Plant in OKC. My parents chose to live in Edmond because of the great schools. I visited Edmond during college breaks and networked with a professional group called Women in Communications. These women mentored me and helped me find internships, so I moved to Edmond after graduation in 1994.
What did you do prior to becoming the city’s tourism director?
I worked as a writer for the Oklahoma Blood Institute right out of college. I was there during the 1995 Murrah Federal Building bombing. I remember writing press releases asking people to stop donating blood. They stood in lines for hours. OBI couldn’t process all the donations. We all felt so helpless. I experienced the “Oklahoma Standard” first-hand. This devastating tragedy touched my soul, and I knew Oklahomans were special.
My mother was an English teacher, but she worked part-time for nonprofits after having children. She taught me the importance of a career where I could work with my heart as well as my head. A friend from Women in Communications recruited me to work for United Way of Central Oklahoma. I stayed there for 10 years and was promoted to vice president of marketing. After United Way, I had the privilege of working for the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce. I served as marketing director for 10 years and promoted a city that took risks to pass MAPS, recruit the OKC Thunder and move a highway to make room for a downtown park and convention center. I learned that dreams come true when local leaders come together and think outside the box with creative collaborations. After the OKC Chamber, I worked for an advertising agency called Staplegun as vice president of client services. I saw branding and storytelling bring organizations to life. Since July 29, 2019, I am happy to live and work in my hometown. I also get to apply my OKC experience to help grow Edmond and attract new visitors.
What attractions or events do you believe make Edmond unique? Which one is your personal favorite, and why?
I think LibertyFest and Luminance are two events that showcase Edmond. LibertyFest has 50 years of parades, car shows, rodeos, fireworks and more, and it keeps evolving to find new ways to celebrate America’s birthday. Edmond Electric’s Luminance is a newer event. It is the only community holiday display with 3D lights along park trails. My favorite street festivals are Heard on Hurd and VIBES. Our downtown streets come alive with music and art that benefit small businesses.
Is there any event or attraction that the city does not currently have that you hope will be developed in the future?
I’m looking forward to an entertainment district on I-35 and Covell Road. My vision is an indoor sports complex alongside restaurants, retail and fun activities. These will complement Showbiz and the Edmond Conference Center. Sport tournament participants, Route 66 travelers and visitors want something called the “second experience.” Whether they are here for a game, family event or professional conference, they want to be entertained before and after.
Heading into 2023, what new events or developments most excite you?
It’s very hard to choose because there are so many new things happening, but I think the Stevenson Park renovations and downtown development will be game changers. Stephenson Park will be a destination district with planned green space, including an amphitheater, nestled among new shopping and dining. It will also encompass our hidden gems — the Edmond History Museum and the Rodkey House. As far as downtown development, it will look very different with downtown living, including our first cottages at The Lark, a City Hall and two parking garages.
Do you have any tourism-related goal in mind for Edmond to reach by 2030?
Our goal at Visit Edmond is to attract more visitors to stay at hotels and Airbnbs by marketing Edmond as a destination. Edmond’s location along Route 66 is the perfect opportunity to entice travelers to stay overnight instead of pass-through. By 2030, more biking/hiking trails will be connected, and we will enjoy new developments from the Arcadia Lake master plan, as well as a 62-acre Uncommon Ground Sculpture Park.
What’s one of your favorite things about Edmond? What is something that people can get here that they cannot get anywhere else?
I think our two food halls — Edmond Railyard and the Ice House Project — help create an experience where people can eat a variety of food, hear live music and walk to more nearby activities. Edmond also has more than 300 pieces of public art, which is more than any city in our region.