By Quinn Fitzgerald
INDIANAPOLIS – More than 60,000 visitors from 50 states and 95 countries were guided through the Indiana Statehouse by the tour office last year.
And it’s not just the kids who are visiting on school field trips, even though they make up about two-thirds of the visitors each year.
“This has become very much a place that businesses who have international groups coming to visit. This is a show-off space,” Tour Office Coordinator Jeanette Goben said. “We’re kind of like the front-line ambassadors for the state.”
Visitors can schedule tours Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-5 p.m. for free. Schedule tours are also available Saturday 10 a.m.-2p.m. During the tours, guides showcase a variety Statehouse features including its stain-glass dome.
“That’s the first ‘wow’ other than just walking into the building and the fact that it’s huge and beautiful,” Goben said. “That’s what we hear the most as people look up.”
In addition to the dome, Goben said they try to get the children in to see the House and Senate chambers where Indiana’s legislators create the state’s laws. When the General Assembly isn’t in session, Goben said they often allow children to sit in the chairs.
“That’s kind of a big thrill for them,” Goben said.
If lawmakers are in session, Goben said they at least take them to the public galleries where visitors can get an overhead view of the chambers.
“As much as possible, we try to get them into the legislative spaces,” Goben said.
Goben said the tour guides try to show visitors a part of the Statehouse that involves all the three branches of government such as an executive office in the building.
Lawmakers are also invited to introduce themselves to the children whenever they can. If they have the time, they are encouraged to share with students what committees they’re on, their interests and their careers outside of the legislature.
“I think it’s important to let the kids know that you don’t have to be a lawyer to serve in the House or Senate. You can be a farmer or a truck driver or an Elvis impersonator,” Goben said.
Group tours are anywhere from 45-90 minutes long. Goben said spring and fall school field trips make up the busiest seasons of the year for the tour office.
On average, Goben said the office is giving tours six to nine times a day.
Walk-in visitors are able to tour the Statehouse depending on the scheduled tours, but visitors are able to self-tour the building on their own time if they choose to.
Regardless of how many tours or what kind, Goben said none of it would be possible without the help of every person in the tour office.
“This office isn’t about me. It wouldn’t happen without this staff. You don’t get 60,000 people throughout the year without the help of every person,” Goben said.
Quinn Fitzgerald is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.