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

Friday, July 21, 2017

Some more fair pictures

I did not get to the fair as much this year as I have some past years. The heat and humidity discouraged me and I had some other things I wanted to do. I did go out one afternoon and found that nothing much happens until the evening. All the rides were shut down.
This year the midway featured a freak show. The Rensselaer Republican had an article about what was inside.
Animals are a big part of our fair. On Wednesday night pigs were being judged.
The goal of all those who enter pigs, cows, or something else is to win a big ribbon. Below are some of the big winners in the 4-H building.
 On Wednesday night the tractor parade came through the fairgrounds.
The night before it had gone to the Courthouse Square in downtown Rensselaer.
The horse area continues to be its own little world.
Again this year there was a display of insects in the Community Building. The Rensselaer Republican had an article on that as well.
 High winds from the storms that have passed through this week (giving us about and inch and a half of needed rain) did some minor damage at the Fairgrounds.
 The log cabin got air-conditioning this week. This historical area is one area that is active during the day and shuts down in the evening when everything else comes to life.
 I noted a basswood tree next to the log cabin that has been almost defoliated by Japanese beetles. They have been a nuisance this year.
 One more big night and then tear down.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

First some pictures

The Park Board had a long and interesting meeting on Monday night. But before discussing that, here are a few pictures. The first is of Milroy Park where a walking path will soon be constructed. It is sponsored by Rensselaer Main Street. It will run along Washington (but behind the line of trees) with a short branch to the Milroy statue.
 The demolition of the three well houses along Bunkum is progressing. The structures are down but the piping still has to be removed.
 The same well from a different angle.
 This is what the building looked like two weeks ago.
 The new O'Reilly auto parts store will open on Saturday.
Now back to the Park Board meeting. It began with a presentation by the two fundraisers, Peter and Wayne, who spent some time telling their history. They explained what their role would be if the Board wanted to go forward with their services. They do not handle any money nor do they solicit donors. Rather they do the background work of training, organizing, and preparing materials for the project. They acknowledged that there was division among the stake holders and that that division needed to be overcome for a successful campaign. Essentially they told the Park Board it was time to fish or cut bait.

Ed Dumas of the Blacker Trust then distributed a letter to the Park Board members. It said that the original plan to build ball fields had died because the cost was too high and that realization led to the idea of doing a fundraising project. The Blacker Trust is no longer focused on ballfields but open to all possible projects. His letter proposed a governing committee of five persons (Mayor Wood, Ed Dumas, Jack Drone, Michael Manis, and David Schrum) that would be responsible for the disbursement of funds and selection of projects. He also indicated that not only would the funds raised be under the control of this board but also the existing Blacker Trust funds.

Doctor John Ahler, who came with a group of Boy Scouts, said that there was a need for a plan and that a plan would greatly help with fundraising. He also said that compared to other area communities, Rensselaer has done a poor job of upgrading and improving what our parks have to offer. The Mayor told the Board that they really needed to sign on because they did not have any viable alternatives.

With that most of the people left. Some members of the Board were still unhappy that they would have to give up some control to the five-member board, though at least one saw no problem with that. As the discussion was proceeding, it was interrupted by pickle ball.

A member of the public who came late wanted approval for placing pickle ball lines on the tennis court at Brookside Park so that the sport could be played there. He had two quotes, one for $400, and said he might be able to raise some of that money. The Board approved with the hope that a league can be organized after the lines have been painted.

Then there was a short discussion of dog parks and the demolition of the well houses on Bunkum. (Hence the pictures above.) There was still some hope that the site of the well houses could be converted to a dog park, though Scott Barton told them that it will not happen.

Eventually one of the members moved to go forward with the proposal from the Blacker Trust and it passed unanimously.

The meeting concluded with a short report from Heather Hall on new park programs. The camp that recently concluded had 25 campers and 7 helpers. The youth came not just from Rensselaer but also from neighboring communities. She also wants to revive the Riley Read in the park this fall.

The next board meeting will be August 7.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Sunday at the Fair

(For a lot more pictures (and videos) from the Jasper County Fair, check the Jasper County Fair Association's Facebook page.)

I visited the Jasper County Fair on Sunday evening. The Community Building had the living statue, which people were invited to paint.
 Also in the Community Building was the volunteer fair.

There were a lot of people wandering around and many were enjoying the fair food.
 There was a tractor pull for kids that attracted a large crowd.
 New this year was a catch and release fishing pond. The fish were some kind of catfish and they all schooled together.
What is a county fair without animals?
 I was confused when I went into the Dairy Building and did not see any udders. I found out that many of the animals were steers, which I thought strange, but a lady explained that the breed mattered. They were steers of a breed that is primarily dairy. Because the cows that are producing milk have to be milked several times a day, they only come in to be judged and do not stay at the fair.

The Community Band performed in the Retired Iron building.
 The old Parr Post Office is falling apart and will not be open this year. The Jasper County Historical Society needs money to restore it. However, this year's big restoration project is the log cabin.
The Heritage Gospel group was on the free stage.
The full schedule of events is available here.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Goodbye to Hello Dolly

The Fendig Summer Theartre's 2017 production, Hello Dolly,  has finished its run. The audience was large on Saturday night but there were some empty seats. However, for many years there were only two performances and this year there were three.

The costuming and scenery were excellent but that has become a hallmark of the Summer Theatre.

The quality of performance is exceptional given the age of the performers and the size of the community.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Punkin Vine Fair

For the first time in quite a few years, I paid a visit to the Newton County Fair, aka The Punkin Vine Fair. The Newton County bisontennial bison was guarding the commercial building.
 There were a lot of horses and like the Jasper County Fair, they are kept at a distance from the other animals on exhibit.
 The antique tractors had a parade.
 The 4H building was full of projects. Some had multiple ribbons.
I am always impressed at how big cabbages can get. My cabbages have still not developed heads that can be harvested. I expected to see lots of red tomatoes and did not.
 The Domestic Arts building has an interesting design and stands out because it is not another generic metal building. It also stands out because it has a mural on one side.
 On the other side is a prairie planting that was done by the Nature Conservancy.
A banner advertised the location of an ATM machine.
Kids were enjoying the carnival rides.
 The big swing was popular with older kids.
 The free stage had a group called Highland Reign. Here is their web page and here are videos they have uploaded to Youtube.
 The attraction in the grandstand was tractor pulls. The machines made a lot of noise.
Next week is Jasper County's turn.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

County Council--early and short

Tuesday's County Council meeting was a week early this month (because of the fair) and unusually short. They transferred some funds and approved a tax abatement for Monsanto that had not been approved in a previous meeting because the paper work had been misplaced. 

There was no move to change the county income tax. The budget hearings will start next month, with the Sheriff's department taken up at the regular meeting (the 15th, I believe). There will be an all-day budget meeting the 17th and Aug 23 will be a day for discussing cuts.

In March there was a special joint meeting of the Council and the Commissioners to hear a presentation from Umbaugh. As a result of that meeting, the County hired Umbaugh to do some planning and the results are now coming in. The County faces a declining property tax base because farm values are declining (after an unusual run-up to very high levels) and also because NIPSCO will be retiring a couple units at its Wheatfield plant. Umbaugh will make a presentation to the Commissioners at the August 7 meeting and will give a similar presentation to the Council at its August meeting. Rein Bontreger suggested that Council members try to attend the first presentation to help them get ready for the second. 

As the meeting ended, the owner of Movie Madness in DeMotte addressed the Council about library purchases of videos. He said that the Francesville Library regularly purchased from him because his prices were lower than they could get elsewhere and he wondered why the Jasper County Library did not also take advantage of the lower prices he offered. He said that he had reached out to the Library but had not gotten any response. The Council members suggested that he  contact the head librarian and see if that would work better.

Yesterday I took a short road trip. As I was leaving town, I noticed that the new O'Reilly store was being stocked. The stockpile of windmill pieces just over the White/Jasper county line was gone, and new windmills were going up north of US 24 just to the east of Wolcott.

Our wet weather (but thankfully not as wet as some parts of Illinois and Indiana) has been frog-friendly. I found two tree frogs, a little frog that can change color to blend in to its surroundings, hanging about in my backyard.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

City Council meeting and an update on Endless Treasures

Monday night's City Council meeting lasted over an hour, long for a City Council meeting.

At the beginning of the meeting, the mayor read a statement commending Kenny Haun for his long service in the fire department and announced that as of August 1 Haun would be retiring as fire chief. His replacement will be Robert Graves.

Both the gas tracker for July and the electric tracker for the next quarter will show slight increases. A bid of $20,121.86 for spill containment for the Watt Substation was accepted. There was a transfer of funds in the police department budget to allow purchase of new radio console. After purchase, a grant will reimburse the department so the funds can be transferred back. The Council approved an amendment to a bond ordinance that will allow the refinancing of a bond issue of 2011 when bonds for the Watt Substation are offered.

Then it was time for the main event, two fundraisers working on the Parks for People project. They began with an introduction. They are hired by the Blacker Trust and previously worked on the fundraising for the hospital addition. They work in Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin. They said that the leadership structure for the fundraising has been established and that there is still a need to pull different factions together. The goal is to raise $1.5 million. The oversight committee, which it seems will have a lot of say in how the funds are spent, will consist of Mayor Wood, Dr Jack Drone and/or his wife Jana Drone, Ed Dumas, Mike Manis, and Dave Schrum. The fundraising will rely partly on payroll deductions. The first group to be approached will be City employees, and the Council passed a resolution allowing the pay roll deductions for this purpose. They said that pledges are not binding agreements, that amounts pledged or given will be confidential, as will participation, The project plans are not quite finalized but may be for next Monday's Park Board meeting, which will be held at 6:00 in the City Council Chambers (City Hall). (If you are interested in knowing what is going on, this might be a fun meeting to attend.)

The money raised will be given to the Jasper Foundation. Because it is a non-profit organization, gifts to it will be tax deductible. Councilman Barton grilled them about the role of the Park Board, wanting a yes or no answer if the Park Board would set the priorities for spending and they hedged their answers. They did not realize initially that he sits on the Park Board. Councilman Hollerman asked it we really need $1 million for parks and was told that Rensselaer's parks facilities are poor compared to those in other communities.

Then it was back to more ordinary Council business. The Council approved spending $26,718 for 18 fire hydrants. They will be purchased with City funds but then some one will reimburse the City--I did not understand who or why. Rick Odle moved to give the Park Board authority to name a park or so something to commemorate the late Thomas Effinger for his long service to the parks. The only parks they cannot rename are Milroy, Potawotomie, and Brookside.

 Several days ago I stopped by to take some pictures of the newly opened Endless Treasures. I have been sitting on them because other items seemed more pressing to write about.

I do not like the design of the letters--the S is too wide. However, that may be intentional, referring to the meandering layout of the store.
 The first two pictures are taken from about the same point as two pictures in the post before the store opened.

 I did not get a picture of hallway shown in the next picture of the previous post on the store because someone was working in the area. The room below is in the same area.
 This next picture corresponds to the last picture in the pre-opening post. This space seems to be all Bloomtique, which was planning to open in a little store on Washington next to Gutwein Seeds. I do not know if it ever did. But now it is part of Endless Treasures.
 A lot of the shelves look like they are not yet fully stocked. The picture below shows a booth that is an exception.
 Below is a room off the main room, full of decorative items.
Who knows what you might find in a store like this?

The long wait to learn the future of Strack and Van Til is over. The families that originally owned the chain have bought them back. The will remain Strack and Van Til. See here or here.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

A busy weekend part two

After I left the car show on Saturday, I headed for the Fly-In at the Airport. Along the way I checked out the fairgrounds, where preparations were being made for the fair. The first event, the crowning of the new fair queen has already taken place.
 The Jasper County Historical Society needs to do repair work on the log cabin. Some of the logs are rotting. Fair visitors will have the opportunity not only to watch repairs being made, but to help make them.
 The Fly-In did not seem as big this year as it has been in the past--perhaps because some of the potential vendors had visited during career day in May.
 However, Purdue, which had not been able to bring a plane to career day was there and letting kids sit in the plane and play with the controls. In the hangar behind the plane people were enjoying the pork chop dinner that goes with the event.
 This looked like it might have been the oldest plane there. It was tiny, with cramped quarters for a pilot and one passenger. The plane is made of fabric and then painted with a heavy paint that makes it feel like plastic. It has no electronics. When it gets close to big airports, the pilot is supposed to radio the airport and tell them where he is because the plane does not show up on radar.
 On Sunday I attended the soft opening of the Station at Embers. The idea of the soft opening is to allow a limited number of people to attend so that the staff can train, test food, and learn their jobs. The danger of just opening to everyone is that there may be a crowd too big to handle and thus the customers first experience will be a bad one.

I think the appearance of the place is great. The theme is industrial because this was once a service station.
 The restaurant has hired about ten people. The waitresses were very busy when we were there. All the cooking is done in the kiln or oven. The cooks are not experienced cooks, but it probably does not matter because cooking in the oven is unlike cooking in a normal kitchen. It also gives the food a different taste.

I am not a food critic (I have been told I do not have a palate and I cannot disagree), but I liked the pizza a lot. The menu had more items than I expected and the prices were reasonable. Below are pizza and Italian beef sandwich.
The bottle is for water--part of the ambiance.

There is another day (Tuesday) of the soft opening (you need a reservation to attend) and then there will be a day or two to make any changes necessary, and then the public opening happens.