The Impact of the Conner Prairie Alliance

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I joined the Conner Prairie Alliance in 2009. At the time, my daughter Katy was a new youth interpreter, and I wanted to support the museum’s mission, particularly its outreach to young people from ages 10 to 18 through its youth interpreter program. Over a dozen years later, I can say it was one of the best decisions I ever made. Many Alliance members are parents of current and former youth interpreters. I believe we benefit from this shared experience.

My Start With The Alliance

When I joined the Alliance, I was a working full-time as an attorney in downtown Indianapolis. I did not have the opportunity to participate in all of the activities the Alliance offered. By 2012, however, I took on the task of assembling and editing their monthly electronic newsletter, Prairie Tales. (This was something I could do working at home in my pajamas.) In addition to Prairie Tales, I was responsible for producing email messages for distribution to Alliance members as requested by members of the Board of Directors of the Alliance. Since then, I have served as Communications Vice-President, Arrangements Chair, Apple Store Co-Chair, and Apple Store Vice-President.

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Women of the Conner Prairie Alliance

Every Apple Makes A Difference

The Apple Store at Conner Prairie is the primary way the Alliance raises funds to support the Museum’s many programs and projects. We operate the Apple Store from mid-September through October 31 each year, offering the absolutely best caramel apples (which we dip by hand), apple pies, apple cider slushes, bagged apples, jugs of apple cider, and fall décor and gift items.

During the nearly four decades of Apple Store seasons, the Alliance has raised over $1.6 million for the Museum.  We have contributed funds to most of the Museum’s exhibits and programs, from the William Conner House and Treetop Outpost to the 1859 Balloon Voyage, Animal Encounters, Civil War Journey and the River Crossing Play Area. The Alliance has also provided funding for A Merry Prairie Holiday, the Headless Horseman hayride wagons, the Heritage Breeds program, Youth Spinners, the Textiles Department, and the YAK (youth agricultural leaders) program.

Apple Store welcomes Mrs. Holcomb to dip the 250,000th caramel apple

The Apple Store is the Conner Prairie Alliance’s primary fundraiser with proceeds supporting the mission and programs of Conner Prairie. For updates throughout the year, follow the Alliance on Facebook.

Working at the Apple Store is a wonderful way to get to know other Alliance members, to cultivate friendships, support other women, and to enrich your own life. It is very easy to bond with someone when you are bagging fresh apples for sale, stocking the apple cider and beverage cooler, or any of the dozens of tasks required to operate the Apple Store.  We remind each other that, if we start a batch of popcorn, we are NOT to do anything else until the popcorn is popped. “Don’t forget the popcorn” is frequently heard just before the Apple Store opens each day. Just as employers announce the number of days since the last workplace accident, we announce the number of days since a batch of popcorn was burnt.

A Deeper understanding of who WE are

The Alliance is much more than the Apple Store. Over the years, members and former members have developed “special interest groups” to share mutual hobbies and passions. Some examples include:

  • Sharing recipes and tasting the results
  • Book club/ book discussions
  • Tuesday evening dinners for working women or women that have responsibilities during the day
  • Lunchtime visits to local restaurants
  • Quilting, knitting, crocheting, cross-stitching, sewing, or fabric and fiber working
  • Visiting local sites of interests like Crown Hill Cemetery and two chicks and a hammer
  • Nature walks and hikes

Many Alliance members participate in at least one of these groups, many even more. These groups provide a great opportunity to socialize without the pressure of waiting for the next monthly meeting.

Image of an Alliance member interacting with a family

As a member of the Alliance, I have learned the value of servant leadership. Dozens of women have devoted their time, talents, and energy to supporting the Alliance, leading it through difficult years (most recently in 2020, when we were unable to operate the Apple Store, or even to gather together as an organization due to COVID-19 health and safety issues).  It was a joyous day when we opened the Apple Store last year. Friendships were renewed, new friendships were made, and lots of laughter ensued over the next six weeks. My involvement in the Alliance has enriched my life and encouraged me to seek out other opportunities to support important community programs.

About the Author

Karen Arland lives in Carmel, Indiana with her husband Dave and their two cats. They have one adult daughter. Karen and Dave are volunteer musicians for Holy Spirit Parish at Geist and are huge fans of Broadway musicals, all things Disney, and Colonial Williamsburg. Karen currently serves as Alliance President-Elect.