Staff Blog

Holiday CheersKatie Arnold - Social Media and Interpreter
The Holiday spirit is in the air and we want you to celebrate with us. Join Conner Prairie’s young professionals group, the Horizon Council, for an adults-only Christmas celebration in 1836 Prairietown.
Holiday Cheers is from 6:30-10 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014. All guests must be 21 years or older.

You’ll take a candlelit stroll through the streets of town as you encounter town citizens preparing for the holidays. Along the way, you’ll meet the Ullmans, a young German immigrant couple celebrating the festival of lights. The Zimmerman boys will share the story of Belznichol and how important it is to their family — especially this year. You’ll be welcomed into the Christmas soiree of the Campbell home and party with the town rowdies.

“For me, the best part of the night is going outside and hanging out with the rowdies at the fire,” said events manager Kelly Backus. “That is something you don’t normally get to do in Indiana.”

During the evening, you’ll also partake in delicious food from Matt the Miller and Smoking Goose Meatery and local spirits from Sun King, Union Brewing Co., Scarlett Lane Brewing Co., Bear Wallow, Indiana Whiskey and Brown County Winery.

If you enjoy local brewing, spending time with fun people, or you are looking for a fun holiday celebration outside of the city, this is for you. Tickets are $35 per person so come eat, drink and be merry with Horizon Council this holiday season.
Posted: 12/16/2014 10:17:20 AM by Michele Stratton | with 0 comments

Holiday AdventuresKim McCann - Senior Interpreter
If you visit Prairietown during Holiday Adventures, make sure that you stop by the Cabin for Sale and say hello to the Ullmans, who have stopped in town for a much-needed wagon wheel repair. Though the couple’s final destination – Rising Sun, which sits on the Ohio River – is still quite a ways away, their journey to America has been a much longer one.

Hannah and Shemu’el, who are Jewish, have come from Jebenhauzen, near Stuttgart in Bavaria, which is now Germany. In their homeland, the government made rules that restrict the rights and privileges of those who practice Judaism. They have been told that things are much different in America.
Still, the choice to immigrate was not an easy one. Not only have the Ullmans left behind the only home they’ve ever known, they’ve left behind family, friends and most of their belongings. They are in a strange land, with their usual comforts gone, and hoping to celebrate Hanukkah, which started on Dec. 3 in 1836, in Rising Sun with their family there. Like so many before – and after – them, the Ullmans have come to America seeking liberty and a new life.

The first Jewish residents in the Midwest were mostly English born – children of the first wave of Jewish immigrants that came to America in the mid-1600s. These were most often young men who worked as peddlers and traders who served the residents of an expanding West. They traveled the winding waterways that reached through the East Coast states, across Pennsylvania and hugged Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois. Many who came to this country for their religious freedom found a cruel irony awaiting them – assimilation was the product of necessity, dietary restrictions were difficult to maintain, the sheer scarcity of Jewish culture by population made many religious observances impossible and men often married outside their religion because very few Jewish women had made the trip to America.

Beginning in the mid-1830s and lasting until the Civil War, a new wave of Jewish immigration swept across America and brought whole families as far west as Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. This change from single male migration to family migration led to a change in settlement patterns. By the mid-1840s, Jewish people had established Indiana communities in Richmond, Terre Haute, Lafayette and Fort Wayne, where the state’s first formal Jewish congregation was formed in 1848.

The Ullman story is a unique and rare one in this part of the U.S., especially at this time. So why has Conner Prairie chosen to tell it? “It’s showing another side of the holiday season, in Indiana and for this time in history,” said Conner Prairie interpretation manager Ellen Paulin. “It’s the story of immigration, which is a really important part of American history that many people don’t know in detail.”

Visit the Ullmans and learn about some of the customs they brought with them from Jebenhauzen. You may play a game called dreidel, or perhaps even help with chores on Shabbos. Whatever your experience may be, please make the Ullmans feel welcome.
Posted: 12/4/2014 12:50:41 PM by Michele Stratton | with 0 comments

Dinner with SantaKatie Arnold - Interpreter and Social Media
Are you looking for a fun holiday event to enjoy with your whole family? Then come to Conner Prairie for Breakfast with Santa or Dinner with Santa anytime from Nov. 29-Dec. 21.

You’ll enjoy a delicious holiday buffet and after, families can participate in fun holiday activities, including cookie decorating. Then children can share their holiday wishes with Santa himself. Our festive atmosphere is sure to get your whole family in the holiday spirit.

While you’re here, visit the amazing creations in Gingerbread Village in the Welcome Center. Or, on Saturdays, go outside after breakfast to see the people of 1836 Prairietown prepare for the holidays in Holiday Adventures. Members get free admission and breakfast guests receive a $3 discount off admission to the outdoor program. There is something for everyone in the family to enjoy.

Breakfast with Santa takes place on the following dates:
•    Saturdays: 9-11 a.m. Nov. 29, Dec. 6, 13, 20
•    Sundays: 10-11 a.m. Nov. 30, Dec. 7, 14, 21

The cost to attend Breakfast with Santa is $19.95 for adults ($16.95/members) and $10.95 for children ages 2-12 ($8.95/youth member).

Dinner with Santa takes place on the following dates:
•    Dec. 5-6, 12-13, 19-20
•    Seating starts at 6 p.m.

The cost to attend Dinner with Santa is $21.95 for adults ($18.95/member) and $11.95 for children ($9.95/youth member).

Check out the full menus here . Reservations are required for both Breakfast with Santa and Dinner with Santa and can be made by calling (317)-776-6000.
Posted: 11/26/2014 11:07:21 AM by Conner Prairie | with 0 comments

Katie Arnold - Social Media and Interpreter
If you know Gustanna Chaney, you recognize her for her energy, compassion and spunk. Her performance as Mrs. Ward in Follow the North Star leaves a lasting impact on participants as they experience what it was like to be fugitive slaves on the Underground Railroad. Her warm smile and encouragement, as she plays the role of a free African American woman living in 1836 Prairietown, is exactly what participants need to lift their spirits and give them hope after experiencing hostility from other characters. Chaney makes you feel safe, comforted and uplifted.

Each of the African American actors that participate in Follow the North Star brings something special to their performance and thereby the program as a whole. They add depth and spirit to the cast of characters. Chaney plays one of those characters that guests hold onto even after departing from the program. Her performance comes from a deeply emotional place; it is personal and powerful. 

Having grown up in Hopkinsville, Ky., Chaney’s family was touched by the racial consequences left by slavery. Her father lived in a segregated town where whites and blacks were not only not socially permitted to intermingle, but were forced to use different facilities – different restrooms, drinking fountains, etc. Chaney specifically remembers her father pointing these places out to her as a child. “I saw the fountains that my father had to use in town,” said Chaney. This is one of the reasons why she personally continues to participate in FNS. “I honor him and what he had to undergo through Follow the North Star. The validity of it is powerful.”

Chaney has been a part of Follow the North Star for four years. She joined after being encouraged by several people who were connected to Conner Prairie. She always plays Mrs. Ward. “I find the experience to be gratifying,” said Chaney. “The first time I went through, I learned things – at 60 years old! I learned about things that were purposely omitted from my education, like the $500 bond on runaways.” She explains that  her education of slavery was minimal when she was growing up. She never understood the true grit of the institution until she experienced this program and put the pieces together. “Slavery is so hard for people of all colors to talk about, but this is a great way to start that conversation,” said Chaney. “It’s a dark, ugly and dirty moment in our history, but it’s so important for Americans to remember. If more people went through this program or could feel the nastiness of slavery, maybe there would be less violence in the world.”

For Chaney, her father was her hero. She learned so much from his life and his guidance. If he were here now, she believes that he would say, “Sugar, that’s a good thing you’re doing.”

To participate in Follow the North Star on Nov. 14 & 15 and 20-22, call 317-776-6000. For more details, click here: Follow the North Star.
Posted: 11/14/2014 4:00:14 PM by Conner Prairie | with 0 comments

Sarah Withrow - Interpreter
All through school I found social studies to be flat. It was interesting if I could make connections, but there was no depth to most of it. I had to remember names and dates for tests and nothing more than facts. The movies teachers showed helped to put it into some form that was more entertaining, but it still lacked that reality I needed to keep me involved.

That’s where Conner Prairie comes in. As an adult I found an incredible place that brought history to life.

One of the programs at Conner Prairie with the greatest emotional and educational impact has to be “Follow the North Star.” This is an interactive program where people tour Conner Prairie’s grounds at night, acting as fugitive slaves on the Underground Railroad, encountering slave hunters, abolitionists and more. Participating in this program as a “plant” (a staff member included in a group to help keep people moving on the tour) and as a character, each had a different impact on me. As a plant I join our visitors as a runaway slave and endure the harshness of the characters, including their language and yelling, as well as invasion of my personal space and demeaning stories. It created that true involvement. I now have a better understanding of the fears, the stories and the attitudes of slaves, as well as the outcome of their lives.

As a character, each person has to find that “dark place” they can go to in order to create the experience for those participating. In this role you must find a part of yourself that can create the fears and attitudes that are so offensive in today’s world.

As a “debriefer” who meets with the groups at the end of the night I have had the broadest experiences. Following the outdoor encounter, I have the opportunity to lead a discussion of emotion, fact, personal stories, and to connect all this conversation to the past as well as the present. I have witnessed those who share stories of their grandparents’ attitudes and fears and how they now understand why their attitudes were so different. Others share personal stories about their lives and events including abuse that connect to what they just went through. Students often see the relationship of how others’ words can negatively affect a person’s self-concept with very negative results. Girls often better understand why their parents worry when they are not home when expected or why they are hesitant to allow them to go places alone or with other girls. Follow the North StarTeachers have returned to tell us that they now present social studies lessons in a different format allowing the students to do the research and then to present to the class in a life-like drama. There are those who see the connection to their religious beliefs and others who see themselves as those who have been the offender.

It seems that the impact of the program is based upon what each individual brings from their own past experiences to this opportunity. Some people shed tears, others quietly process while listening, and others want to talk and ask questions, and then talk more. People who repeat the program say they always find more connections. People who are in their first time visit walk away thinking about the past as well as the present. Everyone leaves thinking about their role and how they can make a difference.

This program has led one our youth interpreters to raise $18,000 for Rapha House over the past two years. This organization helps with the rehabilitation of children who have been rescued from human trafficking.

As I reflect back on the years and try to provide a simple statement to condense this, I would have to say: It is important to always keep somewhere close the knowledge that words are powerful weapons and can be used for good or bad… It is your choice.

Follow the North Star takes place on Nov. 13-15 and 20-22. Reserve your spot here:
Posted: 11/11/2014 8:47:46 AM by Conner Prairie | with 0 comments

Recent Posts
Holiday Cheers!
Ullman family’s choice to immigrate to U.S.
Join Santa for Breakfast or Dinner
A Moment for Mrs. Ward
Reflecting on Follow the North Star