By P.J. Tracy
Nashville resident Jonathon Lance was hired by the Murfreesboro Advertising and Tourism Commission to their newly created marketing director position.
Lance, a 2013 Nashville High School graduate, has been with the Crater of Diamonds State Park in several stints since 2015, said he is very familiar with the community.
“Since I have a lot of knowledge about the area, I thought that would be something that I could use in the position to help drive more people to this area,” Lance said. “My experience at the crater is a strength, because it allows me to explain to others of what a unique place it is. Many people don’t understand what it is, if they haven’t been there, but it is truly one of the last authentic mining experiences remaining, where a few fantastic things meet up with reality providing a true one-of-a-kind experience.”
Lance holds a bachelor’s degree in English education from Harding University and was a teacher in the Mineral Springs School system in the 2017-2018 school year.
“I loved working with kids, much like I did at the Crater, but I wanted a role where I still could do the education, but just not in a traditional school setting. I hope to eventually work with the schools and local youth organizations — scouts/4-H — to do things that will serve the good of the whole community.”
To that end, he said he sees the marketing director position for the local Tourism Commission as an extension of that mission.
“It’s an educational role … you are educating people about why they want to come to this area, what there is available to do, as well as the many great opportunities that are in this area, both in terms of attractions and local businesses.
“Looking at tourism and coming at it from an educational perspective, I want to create a picture of tourism here that is holistic.”
Lance said the position was an excellent opportunity for himself.
“I’m excited to get started, running as soon as my feet hit the ground.”
He said that locally it should prove to be a “very busy year” with the Crater of Diamonds holding their fiftieth anniversary of becoming a state park.
“There will be lots of special events and attractions throughout the year that I will be working to promote, in addition to the previously mentioned great things about the community. With the diamond mine here, which produces its own publicity, you have the ability to not wait for the news to break, you have the opportunity to proactively make the news.
“I want to harness that and use it to create good publicity for the town and broader area outside of traditional advertising.”
Ultimately, he hopes to incorporate the attractions around the area to what is already known.
When people think Murfreesboro it might be about the diamond mine, we just need to add an and. So, then it would be the diamond mine and Lake Greeson, the diamond mine and Glen Campbell or the diamond mine and the Ouachita Mountains. All of it builds together.”
Lance said that linking tourism of local diamond mine, to things like Billstown and Delight for Glen Campbell fans would “draw people interested in both the mine and people interested in music and, of course, Campbell specifically.”
In that vein of thought, Lance said other similar links could exist and provide opportunities for the area. He used the idea of creating a trail, or something like the NW Arkansas Wine Trail — that included locations people drive to — but not a traditional trail in the sense of everything on one single road.
“We could use one of those two models to promote the history of mining in the broader area — we could link Murfreesboro, which not only has the diamond mine, but also formerly cinnabar mines up around Lake Greeson in a cinnabar belt that runs through Howard, Pike and Clark Counties — to the quartz that is just to our north in the Mount Ida, Jessieville and Hot Springs area and the novaculite that is also found in the same area that is used for things like quality knife sharpeners. We could link those together and make something similar to the Heritage Civil War Trails, with lists of participating shops, businesses and mines. Developing something like that would be helpful for tourism in the area that would encompass Hot Springs, Jessieville, Mount Ida, Glenwood and Murfreesboro. Anything we can do to link Murfreesboro and Hot Springs — which is a tourism machine of its own — is going to beneficial to us.”
As far as how he will specifically travel to events to sell the area, Lance said he was still “learning how the actual mechanics of that aspect of the job will look,” noting that the Arkansas Governor’s Conference on Tourism will be one of his first events to attend in Fayetteville late this month.
He is sure, however, of the overview in which he will promote on.
“Great community, great people, great things to do — people need to just come and see what we have.”
In the back of his mind, Lance knows that preparations for the upcoming 2024 full solar eclipse are necessary.
“That will be a huge opportunity to both showcase the community, but also I think to do some projects that would serve both the community — in a long term effect — as well as the tourists coming in for the eclipse that would mark this really special occasion. It is both a tourism opportunity and a unique educational opportunity.”
Lance is the son of Nashville-based dentist Glenn Lance and mother Cynthia, a former special educator at schools in Southwest Arkansas. He also has two siblings — brother Garrett, a student at Southern Arkansas University working toward a veterinarian career, and sister Kathleen, a nurse at Little Rock’s Children’s Hospital, while studying to become a nurse practitioner.
He said that he was approachable, always willing to hear ideas and suggestions, and that he looked forward to getting to know the people of the community better.
To that end, Lance will spend the next week or two meeting local business people to ascertain what they do and gaining knowledge of how he can better serve them.
“I am working for them, so anything they would like to have known, I’d be open to hearing.”
Lance said he is still working out office hours — something that will delayed until he officially gets an office at city hall — once the water department completes their move back to the Murfreesboro municipal building.