The Hinesville Downtown Development Authority (HDDA) welcomed its new executive director, Karen Durham, on Aug. 12. Durham succeeds Michelle Ricketson, who led the HDDA for five years. Ricketson left the city in June for a position with a non-profit organization in South Carolina.
“The City of Hinesville is thrilled to have Karen Durham join the team with the HDDA,” Hinesville City Manager Kenneth Howard said. “Her expertise and enthusiasm will help us to continue moving our downtown area forward and bring a unique perspective to our existing events and programs. I look forward to future she will help build for Hinesville.”
“I am excited for the opportunity to work for the growing community Hinesville is and lead the team at the Hinesville Downtown Development Authority,” Durham said. “I hope to offer new ideas and programs to the community, while enhancing current events, encourage businesses to expand or make downtown Hinesville their home and increase awareness and activity of what’s happening in the downtown area.”
Durham was born and raised in southern Indiana and attended Ball State University in Muncie, Ind. Her early career was spent working in marketing, advertising and business with such employers as The Republic newspaper (Columbus, Ind.), Big Blue Stores (Seymour, Ind.) and Click Camera and Video (Dayton, Ohio).
For 23 years Durham was employed by the city of Kettering, Ohio, a suburb of Dayton, and since 2000 served as the general manager of Fraze Pavilion – a 4,300 seat outdoor amphitheater. The position was responsible for programming more than 50 concerts and events during a 16-week period during the summer. In her work as GM of Fraze Pavilion, Durham led a team of three full-time employees and 250-plus seasonal employees and about 50 volunteers.
The Fraze Pavilion is an annual $4.5 million dollar business for Kettering and, since there is no “true downtown” in the city, the park it sits on – Lincoln Park – has become a hub for concerts, events and signature festivals. Although programming varies from year to year, the event calendar caters to all ages and budgets and generates in excess of 150,000 visitors to the park each summer.
Under Durham’s leadership, the Fraze Pavilion saw shows from artists such as Sheryl Crow; Earth, Wind & Fire; Ringo Starr, Bob Dylan, The Avett Brothers, ZZ Top and Lynard Skynard. Additionally, under her leadership the Pavilion hosted such festivals as the Kickin’ Chicken Wing Fest, Bacon Fest and Festival of the Vine – a festival centering around fine wine and jazz music. Durham worked closely with the local Chamber of Commerce to host its largest fundraising event, The Taste.