Lynelle Mellady - Public Relations Manager
Gourmet food, wine, craft beer and a unique adults-only Prairietown adventure – we had you at craft beer, didn’t we? You can experience all this and more at the brand-new Holiday Cheers
event on December 12.
Presented by the Horizon Council
, the event will feature hors d’oeuvres from Bistro 226, craft beer from Sun King and wines from Douglass Hill. The most unique aspect of the event is the Prairietown experience. Once you’re done savoring your food and beverages, you and your friends can head outside to live it up 19th-century style and discover the different cultures and traditions of holiday cheer in 1836. And all you adults will get to have the place to yourselves!
You will be able to step back in time, stumble across rowdy settlers carousing around a campfire, be invited into homes to celebrate – and maybe shooed away from others. But don’t worry, just head to the Golden Eagle Inn to sample beer from Union Brewing Company, or go to the Gregory House to participate in sausage-making demonstrations from the 1800s. Then sample sausage from Smoking Goose Meatery.
Back inside, throw on some wacky costumes and funny props and step inside a photo booth – maybe even with some newly made friends. To wind down, take a stroll through Gingerbread Village and vote for your favorite confectionary creation.
In the mood to play? Check out Create.Connect
, Conner Prairie’s exhibit that features hands-on, interactive fun centered on electricity, motion and energy. Can you build a Rube Goldberg machine? Will your windmill work? Challenge yourself – or your friends – in Create.Connect. This is your chance to experiment without any kids taking over the space!
While the event is a fundraiser for Conner Prairie, we believe it’s important to give back to the community – and we need your help. During Holiday Cheers, the Horizon Council is hosting a canned food drive. If you bring in a canned good or non-perishable food item, you will be entered into a raffle to win two tickets to Conner Prairie’s Hearthside Suppers
, where you help make and then enjoy a 19th-century meal. You’ll be asked to roll up your sleeves and churn butter, whip cream, roll out dough and more! For a chance to win free tickets to this exciting and unique event, bring in a canned good or non-perishable food item the night of the event. All proceeds will go to the Hamilton County Harvest Food Bank. Items needed include peanut butter, canned goods and boxed dinners (such as macaroni and cheese).
Grab your canned good, friends and family and join us for Holiday Cheers on December 12 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Prairietown will be open from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tickets are $35 and can be purchased online here
. Must be 21 and older to attend. For more information, click here
Posted: 12/2/2013 3:50:36 PM
| with 0 comments
Mark Wehlage - Senior 1863 Civil War Journey Interpreter
I have always been inspired by and enthused about working on the stage in live performance. As a kid there were countless bed sheets used for stage curtains, cardboard backdrops and neighborhood friends recruited as actors to be in the shows my sister and I would produce on our patio. One of my favorites was our two-person show of “The Wizard of Oz.” We were so proud. (As proud as a 9- and 11-year-old could be, anyway.)
As I grew older my focus and passion shifted somewhat. I became more excited about being behind the scenes – making sure the costumes were ready, the music was just right, the lights were focused and especially that the cast felt prepared and supported by me. There is nothing like the feeling of watching a cast get a resounding round of applause as I stand in the wings and see the smiles on their faces and on the faces of the audience. It’s truly exhilarating.
My other love for the theatre has to do with the technology behind it. Lifts, fly tracks, turntables, trapdoors, lighting, special effects, and so many other great uses of technology can make a theatrical experience very real for the audience. In the past few years there have been shows brought to the stage that astounded me. I often found myself watching the sets change, or the lights transition, or trying to figure out how something was accomplished instead of actually watching the show!
I will never forget the first time I heard that technology was coming to Conner Prairie to be used in one of the outdoor areas. How would technology and theatre (interacting together) fit in at a living history museum? Will it be like the Conner Prairie I have known all my life? How will that ever work? What about all the dust? I was so full of questions. So, of course, the day the doors opened I was here (as a guest) waiting to see what it would be like. I must admit, the first time I saw what happens here every day, I was impressed. Our “Civil War Journey: Raid on Indiana
” program is one amazing experience. Technically, it is a bit of a beast at times, and certainly presents its challenges. There are lights, projectors, turntables, high-speed projector screens, scrims, computers, and all sorts of other technical components to maintain and keep up with.
My background has certainly allowed me to rise to the challenge, but it is the personal connections we make every day, supported by the technology, and the amazing story you will hear, that will leave you walking away saying, “Wow, I’ve got to tell someone about this.”
My background in acting and the talents of our other interpreters is what really comes into play when we slip into Civil War era clothing and become soldiers and civilians of Dupont. At first I thought that playing the same character, telling the same story every 10 minutes, would very quickly become routine and tiring. However, it has not. I do not think it will. You, our guest, make it exciting and new every time. Watching your face as the rebels raid and loot the store, and you (thanks to the technology) being right there in the middle of the raid, is exciting every time. I have had so many amazing moments as guests talk to me afterward about patriotism, and the feeling of pride they have in our country and state, and how inspired they are after having been through the experience.
Watching guests head over to our Soldier Camp and learn to properly stand at attention, present arms, shoulder arms, and “fire” a wooden rifle is just incredible. Dads, moms, grandparents, and their kids lined up together, marching through town, heads held high. I enjoy seeing them line up in front of the trees, readying their “guns” and charging the tree line with a mighty shout of “Huzzah!” as they chase the rebels away. Watching our soldiers work so hard, and then hearing the wonderful things guests say as they walk away, gives me that same feeling I have gotten so many times standing in the wings of a theatre watching a curtain call. The guest may not be giving a standing ovation, but they are just as thrilled with the experience as if they had seen an award winning stage performance. Then, following the guest into the Raid Theatre and seeing their reaction to the technology, and the content of the story we tell, is often the moment that gets me the most. We use technology that records images as you walk into the theatre and then inserts you into the finale of the show. Many times guests laugh, clap, and some of them even have a tear in their eye as the fireworks shoot into the sky and President Lincoln gives his closing remarks.
The 2013 season was great. My hat is off to the many talented interpreters that worked so hard to make it that way, and the people who developed such an immersive and creative technical experience. As we near the Thanksgiving holiday, I must say I’m thankful for a job that allows me to use my technical theatre training, and the chance to watch a “cast” of incredible people make it happen every day. If you’ve never experienced our “Civil War Journey: Raid on Indiana,” you need to, once it reopens in March. If you have been here before, you will want to be sure and come back in 2014. There will be some new experiences for all of our guests, and you won’t want to miss them. Don’t forget that we have so many things for you to do here over the winter and we hope to see you soon. Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving!
Posted: 11/27/2013 3:47:15 PM
| with 0 comments
Elaine Molin - Conner Prairie Store Manager
When deciding where to shop this season consider the Conner Prairie Store
! All proceeds benefit the museum. It is full of unusual gifts for those hard-to-please family members and friends – from infants to grandparents.
We have wonderful salt glaze and spongeware pottery created by our own craftsmen in our historical Prairietown village. Mugs, bowls, crocks, plates and more are microwaveable, oven proof and dishwasher safe. Warm, hand-spun, dyed and knitted muffatees (like fingerless texting gloves) are useful and pretty and come from our textile loom house team. Other items like quilted hot pads and woven rag placemats make lovely gifts. Don’t forget the iron! Our most popular blacksmith item is the flint and steel set. Boys and girls of all ages like to use this method to start outdoor fires.
For the reader on your list choose a hard-to-find book from our unique selection. Our popular “The American Frugal Housewife” (1800s housekeeping book), “McGuffey Readers” (almost a century of school children used these textbooks) and the quirky “Don’ts for Husbands, Don’ts for Wives, and Don’ts for Mothers” make great gifts. The selection also includes history books, cookbooks, Civil War titles and many children’s books.
Look like you come from the past with our sophisticated bowler and coachman hats. Dress the kids in pioneer dresses, bonnets and 1800s-style boy outfits. Due to our partnership with Rockville Correctional Facility, incarcerated women make these pieces for us as part of a program to give back to the community. Kids love to dress like Civil War soldiers. We can outfit them with uniform tops, caps, canteens, compasses, spy glasses and toy rifles and pistols.
Need something for bedtime? Our selection of children’s pajamas from Lazy One features an animal and catchy phrase such as “pasture bedtime,” with a horse on display, or “moody in the morning,” featuring a cow. There are many more to choose from. But don’t leave out Uncle Henry at naptime! He may sleep like a log so give him a super soft and feather light log pillow! It looks so real. It is a great conversation starter when used on an airplane!
Conner Prairie store staff will be happy to make up a custom gift basket filled with Indiana goodies like soup mixes, chocolates, tea, cookies, jams, and popcorn. Add a piece of pottery for an impressive Indiana gift.
Don’t forget the stockings! Rock candy, jewelry, wooden toys, mustache suckers and jeweled ballpoint pens sporting team colors fit the bill.
The Conner Prairie Store is open Thursday-Sunday, 10 a.m. -3:30 p.m. It offers extended hours for the holidays. It will remain open until 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays during the Conner Prairie by Candlelight program (Dec. 6-7, 13-14, 20-21).
Help those in need! Bring a canned or non-perishable food item to the store and receive a gift from Nov. 29-Dec. 31. Items like peanut butter, mac and cheese, baby food and boxed meals are most helpful. The food drive benefits the Hamilton County Harvest Food Bank Inc. Thank you and Happy Holidays!
Posted: 11/26/2013 10:30:28 AM
| with 0 comments
Rosie Arnold - Education Programs Manager
Much of the country is currently talking about the film, “12 Years a Slave,” and rightly so. It tells the true story of a man named Solomon Northup, who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in 1841. It took Northup 12 years before he could find anyone who was willing to help him prove that he was, indeed, a free man.
I saw “12 Years a Slave” during its opening weekend in Indy, and, to be honest, I’m still processing the experience. It was one of the most powerful reactions I’ve had to a movie in a very, very long time. Certainly, it is a difficult film to watch because it illustrates the absolute reaches of human brutality, but the takeaway is so utterly and vividly important. Somehow, despite the horrors of his situation, Northup refused to fall into despair.
I think that perhaps Northup’s story is resonating so strongly with audiences regardless of race because most of us in this country today are free people, and we can’t help but imagine ourselves in his story. At the beginning he is living a fairly comfortable life with his wife and two children. Then, in almost no time at all, he is pushed into the lowest depths of human experience. To his captors, he is no longer a person, but property. He is stripped of his very identity, and he is beaten violently just for saying that it’s all a mistake. We put ourselves in his place just for a moment and wonder, how could this be? How could it happen that in an instant this man’s personhood was stolen from him? What if this happened to me? Could I survive this?
These are essential questions that we need to ask ourselves. We need to know who we have been and who we want to be. We need to understand how disgustingly cruel people can be, but also how we can have nearly limitless capacity for survival and hope. We need to know which side we’re on.
We are currently in the midst of the fall run of our “Follow the North Star” program
, in which our guests play the part of fugitive slaves seeking freedom on the Underground Railroad in 1836. We are starting our 16th year of the program, and at this point more than 65,000 people have participated, in large part because they are searching for answers to those very questions.
There are many parts of our past and our present that are difficult to face. I am sorry to say that slavery, racism and oppression still exist here in the United States, and in some cases more so now than ever before. But we must take a lesson from Solomon Northup and the countless others who survived in the face of cruelty. We have to keep seeking the answers to those difficult questions. Films like “12 Years a Slave” and programs like “Follow the North Star” force us to figure out who we want to be. They leave us with a lot to think about.
Posted: 11/19/2013 9:50:06 AM
| with 0 comments
Mike Schoening, a 31-year veteran of Conner Prairie, has been a part of Follow the North Star
since it began in 1998. By playing various roles and watching people react, he understands the power behind the program. “This program serves as a great example to show where we have been, where we’ve come and where we need to go,” Mike said.
Almost always playing the role of a slave owner, Schoening said that, although these are the toughest roles to play, they are key in telling the story of slavery and the Underground Railroad. When you cautiously step into the woods on a dark night in 1836, you may encounter him as he’s playing Joshua Taylor, a slave owner, or Jacob Williams, a resentful white man – roles that take him some time to transition into.
Q. How would you describe Joshua Taylor?
A. The slave owner, Joshua Taylor, is a Southerner who owns human beings and treats them like cattle. That was the point of view of those individuals in 1836. My job in that role is, when guests come with a 2013 mindset, to put them in an 1836 mindset. This is a time when many people never had freedom over their lives, since the day they were born. We want participants to feel the chaos and understand that situation, so they can absorb the rest of the program and have it make sense. We really have to condition them in a short time. We break them down and try to redirect how they look at things and respond to things, such as following orders and not making eye contact with others.
Q. How would you describe Jacob Williams?
Jacob Williams is a white man in the lower socio-economical level. He had a lot of things go wrong in his life and he blames all of his failures on someone else. He blames African-Americans for taking away his work, livelihood and costing him his family as a consequence. He’s not educated enough to understand what’s going on. He tells participants that they are spoiled and selfish and have gotten everything they needed – clothes, food and a life, while poor him, he has to work. It’s ironic. Those going through the program don’t have the one thing that he does have and doesn’t appreciate – his freedom. Unfortunately, there are still people like Jacob Williams today.
Q. How does it feel to play these parts?
A. It’s tough. It takes a long time to get good at it. Good in the sense that you can close off your feelings and do what you have to do. This is not how we relate to people today, so it’s not something that comes naturally. Every night it takes me time to get in the mood, to get to where you have to be.
I don’t look people in the face. It’s great – for me – that we have people look down. If I had to look at them in the face, it would be much harder. Once you see a face you realize the participants are human beings.
Q. Why should people participate in FNS?
A. It’s a good program. It contributes to our ability to not ever let this happen again.
I think we’re not familiar enough with our own history. We sit in our own cocoons and are satisfied. We shouldn’t necessarily be satisfied. Everybody has a different perspective. Some don’t acknowledge there was a problem, others think it was overblown and not as bad, some don’t think things have changed and others think it was far worse. We could all benefit from being better informed.
Posted: 11/14/2013 3:40:10 PM
| with 0 comments
Holiday Cheers and Beers
A Job to Be Thankful For
12 Years a Slave
Playing the Role of a Slave Owner