2014-09-30 / Front Page

Organizers Planning Variety Of Ways To Celebrate Bicentennial

Special Events Will Be Held Throughout 2016
by Michael Stanley
Staff Writer

Communities throughout the state have started planning a variety of ways to commemorate Indiana’s 200th birthday in 2016. While local organizers are still in the early planning stages, some unique ideas include McCormick’s Creek State Park, which will celebrate 100 years as Indiana’s first state park in 2016.

Planning group members Mark Rogers, Tony Neff, Gwen Tucker, Vic Kinney, Marilyn Jackson, Ginger Rogers, Sam Arthur, Tammy Bingham and Brock Beeman have divided the 2016 festivities into four pillars, centering on nature conservation, youth and education, community involvement and historical celebration.

The most recent meeting of the group provided discussion on an array of ideas and tentative plans, with no final determination made.

“We would like at the end of this bicentennial, to have a permanent educational piece that can be used to help in the classroom for our Owen County students, whether it’s the fourth graders who are focused on Indiana history or others focused on local history,” Rogers said. “The idea would be to have some sort of educational piece, perhaps interactive or web-based, something permanent that we could use some of these activities to highlight our history and incorporate that into an educational component. The other piece we thought was worth tackling is a retrospective of schools in Owen County through the years.”

Neff, the county’s current Historian, noted that onceupon a-time in 1882, Owen County had as many as 106 one-room school houses, many situation within two miles of one another.

“The first settlers set- tled here in 1816,” Neff, the county’s current Historian, explained. “We have a lot of history and history books written about Owen County, but one thing that doesn’t exist is a compilation of historical events by milestones or by time line. So we’ve thought about creating a time line of Owen County history and putting it on the Internet so the kids can look at it and access history very quickly and easily.”

Neff also mentioned a historical pageant put on by local residents 100 years ago.

“What we’re planning is having another historical pageant, including some of the events of the first 100 years and now including some from the last 100 years,” he noted. “We’ve talked a little about doing a history of the churches, because it’s a big part of our community here. Owen County, for a small community, actually had a successful early African American population and even had an African American school, doctors and important people.”

Neff said in 1820, the first flat bottom boats left Gosport and traveled to New Orleans loaded with a variety of merchandise. Once making the trek down the White, Wabash, Ohio and Mississippi rivers, they would sell everything, even the boat’s lumber, and walk back to Owen County.

“There were no trains, very few roads, no cars, so boats were the way transportation went. The era was from 1820 to 1860, but they were doing flatboats into the 1880s,” he said. “So wouldn’t it be great to have a flatboat made and float it from Gosport to Freedom with reenactors. It’s a complicated project, but we haven’t had anybody yet say this is a project they’d really want to do. But I think it’s an exciting project that would really put us on the map.”

MCSP Interpretive Naturalist Sam Arthur said he and MCSP Property Manager Dwight Brooks have discussed shelter house construction to help commemorate the park’s 100 years.

“The state parks were designed as a gift from the people to the people to celebrate the 100th anniversary, so with this being the bicentennial, what are some of these legacy projects we can do,” Arthur explained. “The fire tower is probably going to be our biggest initiative as far as preservation and rehabilitation. What we’re looking at now is having the Division of State Parks & Reservoirs engineer team to look at what needs to be done to be able to open the fire tower back up.”

Owen County Chamber of Commerce & Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Gwen Tucker will be in charge of community involvement for the festivities and has plenty of ideas.

“We want all of Owen County involved in the celebration. There are lots of things we can do, starting with the torch run,” she said. “It’s like the Olympic torch, but it’s an Indiana torch that will go through all 92 counties. Once we find out the path it’s going to take through Owen County, as a community group we’ll have to decide who and how that is going to come through. Is it going to be on horse back, down the river, on a combine... what represents Owen County best? Then also, who is going to take the torch where it’s going? We’re also working with the war memorial wall on the square. We want to see if there is a possibility of establishing an eternal flame there and have that same torch flame going through all of Indiana light that eternal flame. That’s a far fetched idea, but maybe we can make it happen.”

The group would also like to create a float to be entered into all parades in the county in 2016 to celebrate Owen County’s 200 years of history, possibly featuring historic re-enactors. The group will seek cooperation from the Owen County Fair Board to help make the 2016 county fair a part of the festivities and try to plan a historic home tour in connection with Owen County Preservations.

The group will meet again on Tuesday, December 2, beginning at 4:30 p.m. at the Cataract School House, located just off of North Cataract Road on Cunot Cataract Road. These meetings are open to the public and public comment and involvement is encouraged.

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