The German hausbarn was shipped from Germany to Manning and reassembled at the Heritage Park in the later 1990s.
The German hausbarn was shipped from Germany to Manning and reassembled at the Heritage Park in the later 1990s.
February 10, 2014

Inspired by his grandfather's past work with the historic German Hausbarn in the Heritage Park in Manning, Tyler Jensen sought to use his own skills in web development and marketing to contribute to the same cause.

Last week, he succeeded. At a Manning Hausbarn-Heritage Park operations committee meeting, director Freda Dammann announced that Jensen had nabbed a year-long $10,000-per-month Google grant for online advertising and promotion.

When a search is conducted through Google, ads can appear across the top, righthand side and bottom of the screen, explained Jensen, who specializes in search-engine optimization and website statistical analysis. The grant will enable the Heritage Park to target key words in searches in an effort to drive Internet traffic to the attraction's website and thereby increase the number of visitors to the park itself.

One of the goals cited by Jensen and Dammann is to promote the park as a wedding location. According to Dammann, the park hosted 22 weddings in 2013, and only 12 weddings are scheduled so far for 2014. Brides and grooms have traveled from as near as Carroll, Denison and Audubon to as far as Kansas City, Chicago and London, England.

"The fact they come from so many different places is interesting to me," Dammann said. "Each is so special to the people involved. When everyone gets together it's an exciting time, a fun time."

Target words could include Iowa, western Iowa, wedding and reception locations.

Jensen will also be working to update the website and social-media accounts to further market the park. He hopes to have most of the changes completed by May 1, the start of the peak wedding season. At the end of the year, the park can reapply for the Google grant.

The 31-year-old was inspired by his late grandfather, Kenny Jensen's, connection to Manning, but it was actually a chance remark to his father, Lonnie Jensen, that led Dammann to contact him.

Kenny was involved in the original site preparation when the authentic 350-year-old German hausbarn was moved from Germany to Manning in the latter half of the 1990s. About a year ago, Lonnie and his siblings decided to donate and install a black iron fence around the park in honor of their father. While the siblings were working, Dammann mentioned her struggles to get the word out about the park as an event center and efforts to work on the website. Lonnie explained that Jensen was in exactly that line of work.

A resident of Lake in the Hills, a suburb of Chicago, Jensen had participated in several of Google's training seminars. His girlfriend, Jen Carter, helped write the grant. Jensen submitted the application toward the end of January and received word that it had been accepted within 10 days.

"I think for me, it was really the connection with my grandfather and how much work he put into it," Jensen said, admitting that he has not been able to visit the Hausbarn and Heritage Park as much as he would like. "He was a very neat guy, and volunteering with the community was big to him. This is a way for me to do a bit in a different way."

Dammann also hopes to increase attendance for other events hosted at the park including a German Wedding Traditions Tea featuring a speaker and display of German wedding dresses slated for April 27; a War of 1848 exhibit featuring a University of Wisconsin professor as the key speaker; and Oktoberfest, scheduled this year for Oct. 11. She also hopes to increase the number of tour buses that stop by on their way through western Iowa.

Dammann said Heritage Park, featuring a late 19th century church and an early 20th century farmstead as well as the authentic German Hausbarn, is the place to visit for anybody interested in history.

"It was a really wonderful thing he did for us," Dammann said of Jensen. "I don't know if it was just a matter of luck, or circumstance, or what, but it is a wonderful opportunity for us. Tyler knows what he's doing, and we have all sorts of confidence in him."