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Meet Hilliard’s Queen of Summer Fun

Kristan Turner wearing a straw hat and a lei

Before Hilliard’s Station Park opened as a community event space in December 2015, and before events like Celebration at the Station took over Old Hilliard on Thursday nights, there was a vision for something great in the city.

“When Hilliard’s Station Park was being built, the goal was to find ways for the community to gather there,” recalls Kristan Turner, Recreation Supervisor for Hilliard Recreation and Parks Department. “We knew we had this great new venue in Old Hilliard with so much potential.”

Part of a much larger revitalization effort, Hilliard’s Station Park brought activity back to downtown by offering a venue for community events, programming, and respite for people using the Heritage Trail.
Turner began planning events from the ground up, and as a career-long Hilliard employee who started working for the City as a lifeguard at the age of 15, she had a strong grasp of what the community wanted.

“Hilliard is such a family-friendly community, and I really wanted our signature events to reflect that,” she said. “But it was also important to incorporate fun for the adults.”

That’s when the idea to host concerts that included a Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area (DORA) and children’s activities arose. Eventually, the Celebration at the Station concert series was born.

Turner and her team didn’t stop there. They continued to plan other events such as Motivation at the Station, Sprouts Night Out, food truck lunches, and movies in the park to reach as many different members of the Hilliard community as possible. “Once the ideas were in place, we ran with them,” Turner said.

Sure enough, the first summer of events at the park exceeded even what was envisioned. Hilliard residents responded positively to the new events, with hundreds – sometimes thousands – in attendance at each one.

“You could see the events grow throughout the summer. Everyone was talking about Thursdays at Hilliard’s Station Park,” Turner said. “We knew we had something special.”

In 2021, it was estimated that there were 3,000 to 5,000 people in attendance at each of the 11 Celebration at the Station concerts. Those were numbers that would have been
hard to believe just five years ago. “I remember times when you could go to Old Hilliard on
a nice day and see hardly anyone out and about,” she said. “It’s the park and events held there that draw people and businesses downtown.”

Today, Old Hilliard, especially the area surrounding Hilliard’s Station Park, is booming. Many new businesses, including Center Street Market and Crooked Can Brewing, have chosen to call Hilliard home since the park opened in late 2015.

Programming has changed and grown throughout the years. Turner says the City has kept some of the original events like Motivation at the Station and Celebration at the Station and added new ones like Adult Recess. (Mark your calendar for July 16!)

Now that the events have been established and the original vision of a community gathering spot has come alive, Turner says, “It’s just a matter of fine-tuning them and keeping people interested.”

Turner and her team are always taking suggestions. Look for them at each event wearing the “staff” shirts or connect with the City on social media to provide event feedback.

“Hilliard’s Station Park and the DORA have transformed the way Hilliard does events,” Turner said. “I can’t wait to see what they look like in the future.”

Kristan and her husband, Ryan, are lifelong residents of Hilliard. Both graduated from Hilliard Darby High School and work for the City of Hilliard. They have a son, Dalton, who is 7 years old. Kristan and her family are huge Columbus Blue Jackets fans and love to go on cruises.

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