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Proud tradition will continue at Indiana State Fair's Pioneer Village

Proud tradition will continue at Indiana State Fair's Pioneer Village
Volunteers gear up for another banner year at the Indiana State Fair.

Fast-forward to opening day of the 2016 Indiana State Fair, Aug. 5. The traditional ham breakfast sponsored by Indiana Pork will take place. Indiana State Fair leadership will host the opening ceremonies. But what you really don’t want to miss is the flag raising that officially opens Pioneer Village.

A volunteer dressed like a farmer will attach the flag to a flagpole surrounded by a patch of growing corn. As the flag goes up, several ladies in costume will break out in song, singing "The Star-Spangled Banner." What could be more American, more Hoosier, more agricultural than that?

OPENING DAY: One of the great traditions of opening day at the Indiana State Fair is the flag raising and singing of the national anthem by volunteers in costume at Pioneer Village.

“Our Pioneer Village complex will be in great form, with a few new touches when fairgoers arrive,” says Tim Nannet, Pioneer Village manager. “We will have our traditional demonstrations at 10 a.m., 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. each day. The show includes both threshing and sawmill demonstrations.”

What to see

All around the village, artisans will be at work making wooden bowls, grinding corn and much more. There will also be plenty of music, with shows in various places.

What’s new this year is the milk house display, notes Gary Emsweller, assistant manager and former Purdue Extension educator. “We will fill it with all kinds of artifacts related to milking cows and processing milk in Indiana,” he says.

Ellsworth Christmas and Vance York are the other two assistant managers who help ensure Pioneer Village operates smoothly. Everyone, including the manager and assistant managers, greets visitors in coveralls.

“We will have two steam engines working this year during demonstrations,” Emsweller says. David Pence of Bluffton is bringing a 65-horsepower Case steam engine to power the sawmill. The other steam engine, which has been at the fair for several years, will operate the threshing machine.

“We’ve been running one with an older tractor, but this year we will have steam power for both demonstrations,” Emsweller says.

A tent in the antique tractor area behind Pioneer Village will feature tractors with Indiana roots, including Co-op models and the Lehr Big Boy, among others. 

Another tent will feature various implements and pieces of ag equipment made by Indiana companies.

Volunteer power

What makes Pioneer Village tick are the volunteers, Nannet says. Dozens are there daily, dressed in costume, performing various tasks. All have one goal: bringing history to life in an enjoyable way.

“We had a picnic for Pioneer Village volunteers recently, and I asked people to raise their hands if they had been involved for a certain number of years,” Emsweller says. “The majority of hands didn’t go up until I got to 20 to 30 years of service.

“These people do it because they are passionate about Pioneer Village. They schedule vacations around it and make sacrifices to be here. Their passion is spending three weeks giving back to others by bringing history to life.”

Some spend far more time. Organization day for the core group of volunteers was June 27. They’re the ones who help bring Pioneer Village to life in time for the state fair.

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