Interns expect to work in a cramped cubicle stocked with a tangle of paper clips, dull scissors and a couple of refrigerator magnets.

So Amanda Elston felt pretty good when she pulled up to a $22.5 million home and climbed the circular staircase to the office on her first day at Ewing Cultural Center. “I feel pretty lucky,” she said, sitting in Hazle Buck Ewing’s former bedroom. The mansion was built in 1929 by Ewing and her husband, Davis, and sits among 3,000 blooming bulbs at the corner of Towanda and Empire in Bloomington.

“I’d only driven by this on the way to the mall but I’d already fallen in love with it,” Elston said. “When I first came here, it was like a museum to me. I can’t believe I get to experience it, not just look at it.”

The junior recreation and park administration major now finds herself walking out to the portico to greet couples interested in the popular wedding venue—17 weddings are already booked this year. Among them, the first same-sex wedding. Changing the wedding information packet to be more inclusive was her first project.

Director Toni Tucker noticed couples were crossing out bride/groom on the forms. She asked Elston to research other wedding venues. Now the forms are gender-neutral, referring to spouse and couple rather than bride and groom.

But the intern’s job is about more than weddings. She worked on Ewing’s first architectural tour, which gave an inside look into 44 rooms. And she’s planning Derby Days on May 2, a celebration of the Kentucky Derby. Elston’s sat in on board meetings and promoted Ewing on campus. Registered Student Organizations can meet at Ewing for free and recitals, graduation parties and other events can be booked for a fee.

The Ewing grounds, which include The Genevieve Green Gardens, are open from 8 a.m. to dusk, seven days a week. Public tours of the manor are available from 4 to 6 p.m. on Mondays, May through October, with the exception of Memorial Day and Labor Day.

More than 10,000 attended the Illinois Shakespeare Festival in the outdoor Ewing Theater last year. The festival returns June 30 through August 8.

“With some internships, you do secretarial work,” Elston said. “Being an intern here gives you a full view of everything that goes on with an event.”

And she knows something for sure now.

“I want to do special events.”

Kate Arthur can be reached at