This blog reports events and interesting tidbits from Rensselaer, Indiana and the surrounding area.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Groundbreaking ceremony at the Pig Adventure

This afternoon I drove up to the Fair Oaks Dairy Adventure to see what was happening at the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Pig Adventure. I parked in the Dairy Adventure parking lot and was walking to the shuttle bus when I got invited to ride to the site by one of the contractors.

The Pig Adventure will be north of the visitor's center, and a little north and east of the dairy farm that the tours visit. The first thing I noticed was the marvelous sand on the site. The second thing I noticed was the framework of a large building.
East of the framework was a large tent for the reception and program of the groundbreaking. It was on a concrete pad that will be the floor of the main barn.
Below is the tent from a different viewpoint. When the framework for the big barn is completed, it will extent all the way to where I was standing to take the picture.
I signed in and wandered around, taking pictures and talking to people. The plan for the complete facility is shown below. It took a while for me to understand how the plan fit the existing construction. The left of the plan is north and the bottom is west. The parts shown in yellow will be walkways above the animals for human visitors. They will be completely enclosed and with a separate air supply--the big concern of the farmers is not that human visitors will catch a disease from the the pigs, but that the pigs might catch something from a human visitor. (The same is true for the Dairy Adventure.)
Below is the architect's rendition of the facility looking toward the east-south-east. The parts with the green roof would be the parts devoted to visitors.

(Speaking of architects, I met one of the architects who helped design the facility. I asked him what background he relied on to come up with the design. He said that this project was unique--he had never done anything like it. The point that there is no large, modern pig farm that invites visitors to come and see how it is done was made by several of the speakers during the program.)
There was food--cheese from the dairy farms.
I mingled to see who was there, eavesdropped on conversations, and asked questions. The planned opening for the visitor's center is Memorial Day 2013. I asked what Belstra Milling did, and was told to look at the back of the tee shirts that the Belstra employees were wearing.
There were at least a half dozen state legislators there and various other politicians. There was a lot of press there, especially from farm news groups. (I told a lady from Indiana Pork that I had a blog and would write about the event and she gave me a media kit--being considered as news media rather than a pest is a new experience for me.) I even met the head of Belstra Milling, but I did not have any hard-hitting questions for him.

After half an hour the people began to get ready for the program. A companion estimated that there were at least 500 there.
People representing the Fair Oaks Dairy Adventure, the Pig Adventure, and Indiana Pork spoke. The Dairy Adventure has about 500,000 visitors a year and other groups involved in agricultural education consider it the gold standard of agricultural education--that is, telling average people the story of modern agriculture. The people in agriculture think it is important to tell that story because the vast majority of Americans no longer have any connection to farming. Most people of my generation knew ancestors or had relatives who farmed, but recent generations no longer have those linkages to the farm.

Listening to the speeches, it was my impression that the Dairy Adventure sees itself as a popular roadside attraction but they want to be more: they want to be a destination. To become that, they must offer more, and it was for this reason that they reached out to the pork industry. The pork producers, who have struggled to get their story out, jumped at the opportunity. The estimated cost of the facility is $9.6 million, which includes the costs of the visitors' center and all the educational elements. The pig adventure will not be the last addition to this complex if the people at the Dairy Adventure have their way. They are looking for other partners to open still more farms. I can only wonder what they have in mind. Chickens? Turkeys? Sheep? Beef cattle? What else?

The keynote speech was given by the Lieutenant Governor of Indiana, Becky Skillman. Then, after various groups of people were recognized, the crowd was invited to move to the front of the building to witness the traditional groundbreaking. You can see some of the crowd below.
Below is the pose for photographers. Besides the lieutenant governor, the people included Mr Belstra, people representing Fair Oaks Diary, Indiana Pork, Legacy Farms (which will be the name of this facility), and a couple of the contractors, including Titan Construction of Rensselaer. The hill on which the equipment is located is where the front of the visitors center will be located.
I took a picture to the north, where the farrowing building will be located. You can see traffic on I-65 in the background. Also, notice the wonderful sand.
By the way, the pigs will not go from this farm to the slaughter house, at least not directly. This farm will house 2400 sows. They will give birth to about 75,000 piglets a year. When those piggies get a big enough, they will be shipped off to other farms where they will complete their growth, and then they will go to market.

After the program ended, the people were invited to a meal featuring a chicken sandwich and a cookie. OK--that was my attempt at humor and I apologize if it offended you. Of course they did not serve chicken--they served pork burgers, and they were very good pork burgers. They did, however, serve cookies--cute pig cookies. The line moved very smoothly and the wait was short, which was remarkable given the number of guests.
The opening of this addition to the Fair Oaks Farms is a big deal for our area. Fair Oaks Farms says that in a few years they want to have four times as many visitors as they do now.

I was impressed by the size of this event, by the number of politicians and media people who were there, by the visions expressed in the speeches, and by how efficiently the whole event was conducted.

(A couple of years ago I had an April Fool's post. Maybe that post was not as absurd as I thought it was. It seems that Fair Oaks Farms wants to be the Disney of farm edutainment.)

Update: More pictures here. (I am in one of them. Can you find me?)

Monday, July 30, 2012

Now at the Fendig Gallery

Until August 17 there are three artists exhibiting at the Carnegie Center, Amy Kingman, Joseph Cross, and Ashley Lee. They have some interesting things on exhibit, such as "Summer Muse" by Ms Kingman, done with colored pencil on birch.
"Raccoon Karaoke" is a digital illustration printed on watercolor paper. Since a lot of art is now done on the computer, this may become a popular way of displaying it in exhibitions. I had not seen it before.
I really like the pen and ink drawings by Joseph Cross. This one is titled "Gabe's First Day on the Creek."

It has a name!

The new school on North Melville has a name--the Rensselaer Central Primary School. I guess that makes it RCPS.
I was hoping for something a bit more imaginative, but cannot think of anything better. Monnett would not work--that name is attached to the site of the current primary school and its use on another school would be confusing.

There is an open house scheduled for the new school on August 23. School starts later in Rensselaer this fall than in the surrounding school districts because school officials wanted to be sure the new school would be ready. The first day of classes is August 27. (That means that the pool at Brookside Park will be open later than normal. It will even be open Labor Day weekend.)

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Final pictures from the county fair

The county fair closed a week ago, but I still have unused pictures. On Thursday night I caught a bit of the showmanship for pigs competitions. When the little kids were in charge, the pigs sometimes did not respect their authority.
Also on Thursday, there was a large chess set in the community building that was completely made of Legos, including the board. The set was motorized and remote controlled. I do not know if people actually played games using it, but if they did, I missed that.
What would the fair be without all the fans. Just about every animal in the hog and cattle barns had its own fan.
These cattle had fans that were top of the line.
One of the improvements this year was the installation of overhead fans in the show arena.

The horse area is always busy. On Thursday night they were playing a game in which the riders were trying to keep a dollar bill between their leg and the horse.
Thursday night's free stage was Levi Riggs. His band, of course, was country.
On Saturday night the free stage was the Jhonny and Sallie Show, more country.
On Sunday the free stage was the New Vision Band, which was Christian country. They are a local group, with a mailing address in North Judson.
The last event I attended was the health fair on Friday morning.

Court house tower

The court house tower is now encased in scaffolding.
Here it is from another angle.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Sunset and congratulations

Did you see the beautiful sunset we had last night?
Speaking of the beauties of nature, former Rensselaer resident (RCHS class of 1992) Gretchen Baker recently had her book, Great Basin National Park: A Guide to the Park and Surrounding Area, published. She writes about all the things to see and do in and around Great Basin National Park. Here is an article about the book from the Ely, Nevada newspaper. (Gretchen blogs at blog is listed in the sidebar.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Kids nite at the farmers' market

The Tuesday Night Farmers' Market had extra excitement last night with Kid's Nite. The Jasper Foundation had free face painting.
St Luke's Lutheran Church let kids do some crafts.
Kids could help groom a dog, a treat sponsored by the SPAW.
The Carnegie Players provided some entertainment with selections from their upcoming play, The Sound of Music.
The Alliance Bank gave away popcorn, Farm Credit provided lemonade (as well as a fruit and veggie game), and Sew Many Stitches 2 gave away slices of watermelon.
Jasper County Hospital let kids play with CPR dummies.
The Jasper County Public Library had reading and crafts, but the sand art in a bottle was more photogenic.
The Jasper County Fair Queen and Second Runner Up were there to pose for pictures. (Question from one of the little girls, "Can I have your crown?")
First Credit Union (I think) had a bean bag toss, and Little Cousin Jasper Festival had a fishpond. There was enough there to keep Betty and Irma busy for the full two hours of the market. They had a wonderful time.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Morning storm

A morning storm passed through Rensselaer this morning with high winds but with little rain, at least where I live. The winds blew down most of what was left of a large oak tree neat Brookside Park, blocking the road. (Last year another storm took out the other half of this old oak.)
A city crew was quickly on the scene to reopen the street.

Even if it did not give us much rain, the storm did bring some cooler air.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Ribbon cutting SMS2

A new business has opened in the old Sears building, now the Town Mall. SMS2 (Sew Many Stitches 2) Embroidery does custom embroidering, sewing, and alterations. The business has a Facebook page here.
They had a ribbon cutting on Friday.
Below is the heart of the business, an embroidery machine. With it little patterns, designs, or logos can be put onto clothing or fabric.
The business is located next to the barber shop, with an outside entrance. Two other businesses that I had not noticed there before--Nail Bumpers and The Sune Salon--are also neighbors.

Meanwhile, two recently opened businesses, GameLand and The Journey, are closing.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Construction update, July 2012

The Austin Street Park and Bridge project has been making a lot of progress during the past couple of weeks. This morning I noticed seven I-beams on the south side of the river. I had thought the old bridge would provide its own support, but maybe it will be merely decorative and the I-beams will be what holds people up.
There was an impressive pond where Austin Avenue used to be. By the end of the day, this had been filled in. There is a lot of landscaping going on right now.
Rensselaer got about an inch of much needed rain overnight or rather early Thursday morning. As much as we needed it, other parts of the state are even drier. The Indianapolis airport had less than one tenth of an inch of rain between June 1 and July 17. 

The concrete has been poured and the forms removed from the structure on the north side of the water treatment plant. There is a lot of work going on, but most of it is inside, hidden from view.
The scaffolding keeps rising on the court house. The roof will be replaced.
The addition to the Rensselaer Family Dentistry office on Front Street now had the new roof installed so that you can no longer tell that it is under construction.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

More photos from the fair

There is always something happening at the fair. On Tuesday night the Retired Iron group had one of their tractor parades. Below you can see them lined up and ready to go.
 When you are fair royalty, not only do you get to eat fair food for free, but you get to ride in the parade.
 Another way to get a ride is to know someone who owns one of the tractors.
 The Historical Society Village was open on Tuesday night. I learned that the potbellied stove in the old Rosebud School house was from the railroad depot that once stood in Rensselaer.
 I have heard rumors that there are plans to put a new depot on the site of the old one, replacing the small AmShak that currently sits next to the platform.

The old Rosebud School closed in 1928 and then was used as a residence for a number if years. It never did get indoor plumbing, even as a residence.

The Historical Society was giving away pickles on a stick as a reminder that at one time Jasper County had a number of pickle factories along the rail lines. I do not think there is any remnant of them that still exists. (I also got some free ice cream from the Soil and Water Conservation building and free popcorn from the Trinity Methodist booth.)

Among the many fans at the fair, this one was special. It had a mister and the cool mist felt very refreshing on a hot evening. (Although the weather has not been ideal, it certainly is better this week than it was last week.)
 Every evening the grandstand has some event for those willing to pay the admission. Last night it was a motor-cross group that was flying high. You could see glimpses of them without being the in the stands.
 In addition, every evening sees some act or singer(s) on the free stage. Most of the singers are country western.
While the bikers were flying and the musicians were singing, the 4H kids were engaged in the battle of the barns.