Conner Prairie’s award-winning Follow the North Star experience for general public starts Thursday
Director of Public Relations
Media Note: View a preview video of Follow the North Star on YouTube.
FISHERS, Ind. (Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2016/Conner Prairie) – Thursday, a Conner Prairie program begins its 18th year of allowing guests to travel back to 1836 and assume the role of fugitive slaves in search of freedom on the Underground Railroad in Indiana.
Follow the North Star, a participatory museum theater experience, re-creates some of the conditions, struggles and dangers that fugitive slaves experienced as they navigated Indiana’s terrain and sought northern freedom. The program for the general public runs from 6:30-9:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, Nov. 10-12 and 17-19.
Participants must be age 12 or older. Anyone under age 16 must be accompanied by an adult. Tickets are $20 for non-members and $17 for members and are available online at connerprairie.org or by calling (317) 776-6000.
The scenario: Guests assume the role of slaves brought north by their owner, who decides to sell them at an illegal nighttime auction in the woods. Throughout their 90-minute experience through the historic grounds of Conner Prairie in Fishers, Ind., they capitalize on multiple opportunities to escape but must avoid slave traders and choose whether to trust sympathizers.
None of the horrors or atrocities of slavery are depicted and no vulgar language is used. Participants are, however, intentionally forced out of their comfort zones for a realistic, historical re-creation.
“This program is a drama and guests are the characters,” said Cathy Ferree, vice president and chief operating officer at Conner Prairie. “It aligns with our mission to immerse guests through hands-on experiences that lead to a much higher level of learning than takes place from studying a textbook or watching a documentary. It is our goal to create an experience that will help participants empathize with people striving for freedom. We in no way contend that this program compares to the actual hardships enslaved people endured.”
Follow the North Star depicts the lives of Indiana residents of the time and their encounters and interactions with runaway slaves. It explores Indiana residents’ choices depending on their personal beliefs – whether to help escaped slaves progress toward freedom, turn them in to their pursuers and send them back south or do nothing.
After the program, a debriefing session allows participants to share their feelings, ask questions and learn more about Indiana’s role in the Underground Railroad. Discussions also help raise awareness about the history of race relations and race-based slavery.
Follow the North Star debuted at Conner Prairie in 1998 and is offered to students and the general public in November and April. More than 35,000 guests, including more than 22,000 students ages 12 and older, have participated in the last six years. The program has earned national awards from the American Association of Museums and American Association for State and Local History.
Spanning 800 wooded acres in central Indiana, Conner Prairie welcomes nearly 390,000 visitors of all ages annually. As Indiana’s first Smithsonian Institute affiliate, Conner Prairie offers various outdoor, historically themed destinations and indoor experiential learning spaces that combine history and art with science, technology, engineering and math to offer an authentic look into history that shapes society today.
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Conner Prairie's mission is to inspire curiosity and foster learning about Indiana by providing engaging, individualized and unique experiences. Created by Eli Lilly in 1934, Conner Prairie combines history with science, technology, engineering and math and encourages visitors to explore Indiana’s natural and cultural heritage through hands-on, immersive and interactive experiences. Inspiring visitors of all ages to discover more about the events, discoveries and forces that shaped the American Midwest, Conner Prairie offers various historically themed, indoor and outdoor experience areas throughout its 800 acres of wooded property in Fishers, Ind. Indiana’s first Smithsonian Institute Affiliate and accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, Conner Prairie is a 501(c)3, non-profit organization that relies on grants and philanthropic donations from corporations and individuals for sustainability and growth. Visit connerprairie.org or call (800) 966-1836 for admission dates, hours, ticket prices and opportunities to donate and volunteer. Conner Prairie is on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Flickr and YouTube.