The start of October brings with it a brand new atmosphere to Conner Prairie. Not only is there a breath of fall in the air, with the crisp, cool breeze and the crimsoning leaves beginning to drop from the maple tree by Dr. Campbell’s house, but there is a whole new level of excitement and energy that you can almost taste when you walk outside.
Sure, you might be able to attribute some of this new attitude to the delicious caramel apples and cider available at the Apple Store, or to the fact that setup for the always-thrilling Headless Horseman program has already begun. But those of us behind the scenes know that the palpable vitality in the brisk morning air is due mostly to the type of visitors we can expect throughout the day.
Fall is school tour season, and that means that within four short hours on any given day this month, we will see between 300 and 1100 eager and energetic young scholars pouring through the historic grounds. These students are usually moving in groups of 7-10, with one or two chaperones at their heels, trying hard to keep everyone together and guide learning opportunities as best as possible. These groups have a very short amount of time to see everything, and most school groups try their hardest to explore every house and try their hand at every activity before they return to school.
Now, you might think that this means you should avoid Conner Prairie on a school day in the fall, but I want to give you an inside tip: school days are some of the best days to be at Conner Prairie. While our staff might be a little more worn out by the boisterous crowds, they are also going to be at the top of their game and will have plenty of hands-on activities and great topics of discussion ready to go for you. Plus, in the afternoons, most, if not all of the school students have returned to their respective institutions, and an enchanting calm settles over the grounds. Our staff remains keyed-up for great experiences, but they have the luxury of more time and attention to devote just to you and your family.
Those intrepid guests who happened to have a day off from school, or are traveling across the country, or have preschoolers who want to come in and see some animals, get to have very unique one-on-one interactions with their favorite interpreters (and animals). Just yesterday, I happened to be in the school house in Prairietown when a grandma, grandpa, mom and two kids wandered in, after perfecting the art of walking on stilts! We had a wonderful time practicing our mathematical skills and teasing grandpa about his legendary schoolhouse mischief.
So, if you have a free weekday afternoon, take my advice and come out to Conner Prairie to enjoy the fruits of the fall in one of the most beautiful, family-friendly locations in the Midwest!