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

Monday, July 31, 2017

Joseph and his technicolor dream coat

I went to the first performance of the Carnegie Player's production of Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat on Friday night. There are three more performances this week, on August 3, 4, and 5 (Th-F-S).

My favorite scene from the play was when the King--I mean the Pharaoh--made his appearance.
Andrew Lloyd Webber who has been called "the most commercially successful composer in history" wrote the music for Joseph. In the production on Friday, I do not recall any spoken lines--they were all sung. (I may be wrong about that.) The play has lots of humor, including a variety of different song styles. The play itself is very good (which is not true of all musicals, in my opinion) and it was cast well. The whole production was very entertaining.

A potential problem with any musical done by amateurs is getting enough musical talent to pull the play off. The Carnegie Players struggled to find enough people to fill the roles but in the end they got the talent they needed. Kendal Ford, who played the narrator and who was part of many of the songs, did a outstanding job and she was not the original person cast in the role. Her performance alone justifies attendance. The actors and crew put in a lot of time and effort and the results show it.

As I was writing this, I was browsing some performances of scenes from the play on youtube. It is amazing how different the various performances of the same scene can be. By the way, make sure you count the brothers when you go. (And if you want to get into the Andrew Lloyd Webber spirit, try this.)

On Saturday the Rock The Arts Festival filled Potawotamie Park. I wandered through several times to take pictures. Artists had set up their tents to sell their art.
 The beer and wine tents are a key part of many festivals. The Carpenter Creek tent was being erected in this picture.
Reinforcements Design was selling tee shirts, most with SJC logos, from their new tent.
A big part of the Festival is music with five different groups scheduled to perform. Some were very loud. Unfortunately when I took this picture the light was wrong to get a good shot from the front.
Summer vacation for the younger part of the population is quickly coming to an end. In less than two weeks Rensselaer schools will start classes. The last weekday that the LaRue Pool will be open is Wednesday August 9, and then it will be open on the weekend of August 12-13.


Friday, July 28, 2017


The Jasper County Welfare office, whose official name seems to be the Jasper County Impact Office has moved. They were on the corner of Grace/Kannal and College by the gun shop.

 Their new location is in the north end of what was once Fashion Bug. I had heard that Child Protective Services would also be moving to this location but was told by one of the women working there that they decided to stay on Drexel Drive.
 In about a week Birthright will be moving to the old Impact office.

I heard a rumor of what might be moving into the rest of the old Fashion Bug space but do not have enough info to pass it on. However, watch the space. Something may be coming there.

On Friday Teen Mission had an event at Brookside Park. They offered an inflatable for the kids.
And they brought in the Food Finders truck for free food for adults. They told people to bring laundry baskets to take away the food and a lot of people did.
 A few days ago I stopped by the future site of the Watt substation to see what progress was being made. Some foundations have been poured.
Today is the Rock the Arts festival.

Update: I just noticed on Facebook that there is a person who does body piercings moving above Unique Finds.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

An opening and a closing and more meetings

If the number of people attending is the measure of success, the grand opening of the rebuilt Marathon by the tracks, also known as Shorty's Marathon, was a huge success. There were many people who were there to take advantage of the free food.
When the radio station announced that gas was only $1.989, lines quickly formed at the pumps.
The Indiana Lottery had a tent. If you purchased $5.00 of Lottery tickets inside, you could spin a wheel and were guaranteed to win something. When I came back to fill up my gas tank a bit after 2:00, the Lottery tent was gone--perhaps they ran out of things to give away.

Below is the ribbon cutting. The people in the background to the left are in the food line.
It was nice to see a new store opening, but  this morning Facebook had news of a closing. Here is the message from Doggers:
Many of you may have already heard, but we wanted to announce that we will be closing our Rensselaer location at the end of August. Our projected closing date is set for Wednesday August 30th. This will be the last day that we will be open.
There were a couple of County meetings on Monday evening. The Planning Commission had a very short meeting in which they approved a change from A2  to R1 for a woman who wanted to separate a house from a farm property so she could sell it. She said she was tired of renting it and wanted to sell. The case had been on the agenda last month but she had not followed all the procedures correctly so the decision had been postponed a month.

The BZA revisited a case of a man who wants to build storage lockers on SR 10 between DeMotte and Wheatfield. The property is zoned commercial, but storage lockers are a special case. There is no zoning that allows storage lockers; to build them you must go before the BZA and get a special exception. The plan was to build 60 units as a first phase. The back of the units would be a solid wall with no openings. This wall would face the homes that are on the south side of the property.

Three people showed up to express concerns. One said that his realtor told him that the units would reduce his property values by $10,000. His neighbor worried that there would be a dumpster in the back and he did not want that. A lady from the credit union on the adjacent property did not want a barbed wire fence and did want security cameras.

Members of board worried that the amount of asphalt he was planning might cause a drainage issue and advised him to check with the Drainage Board. After much discussion, the board decided he needed to provide more detailed information the item will come up again at next month's meeting.

Update: This just popped up on Facebook from the Pub III:
To our patrons...we have decided NOT to renew our lease at the pub. This is our decision totally, and has nothing to do with the building owners....they have been nothing but supportive to us since day one....we will miss all of your smiling faces, stories and laughter....we cant express our gratitude enough for all of your support. THANK YOU-THANK YOU-THANKYOU from the bottom of our hearts!
Anyone with gift certificates, please use them at your earliest convenience.
If you would be interested in leasing or buying, i can get contact information to you.
Our last business day will be August 19th.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

News from Monday's City Council meeting

At every City Council meeting there is opportunity for public comments before the Council begins the main agenda. Usually no one speaks. However, there were three speakers at the meeting on Monday night. First, a representative from the SJC Alumni Board, which is now an independent organization separate from Saint Joseph'e College, asked for permission to use Brookside Park on September 30 for a homecoming celebration. The Alumni Board wants to keep the homecoming tradition alive. A reason for approaching the Council is that they will be serving alcohol. They noted that the event would be during the day and hoped that it would boost attendance at the Oktoberfest in the evening. The Council approved the request.

Next Linda Commingore of the Rensselaer Chamber of Commerce announced that the Tuesday Night Farmers Market would have their Kids Night on Tuesday. She said that there would be more Chamber members participating this year than last--27 compared to 15. She also announced several other upcoming Chamber events, such as the Grand Opening and ribbon cutting at Shorty's Marathon by the tracks on Wednesday.

Finally, Michael Manis, president of the Rensselaer Park Board requested Council approval of his talks with Project Coordinator Jerry Lockridge about using some of the City property on Bunkum for a dog park. He noted that presently people are letting dogs run free in the fenced ballfields and that causes problems. The Bunkum property was once the site of three water wells but their structures have been removed and the wells will be capped or filled in. The Council approved the request.

On the main agenda there was an additional appropriation to cover some park repairs and the authorization to set up a fund to handle grants better. The Electric Utility requested acceptance of bids to purchase a standby generator and DC storage batteries for the Watt substation under construction west of town on Bunkum Road. They were approved. The Council also approved funds for electric linemen to participate in a lineman competition in Mishawaka. The argument here was it was both education and a networking event that allows City linemen to work better with other linemen when that is needed.

The Council approved a bid of $6975 to construct a small parking lot near the bridge over the creek in Weston Cemetery. The mayor presented several awards--look for the pictures in the Rensselaer Republican.

Attorney Michael Riley said that he is working on getting easements to move the city gas line near the intersection of Mt Calvary Road and US 231. In 2018 the State plans to move the highway about 15 feet to the east (which is why that stretch of road was not fixed when the rest of it was). Saint Joe's has turned the matter over to its lawyers so no one knows how long the process will take.
The City wants to move a tile on land north of town so it can be used for another solar farm. The matter should be on the agenda of the Drainage Board on August 7 (which is also free admission day for Jasper County residents at Fair Oaks Farms.)

As I finish this I can hear the crop duster planes flying overhead--they are loud. They have been here for several days so should be about finished. And speaking of crops, sweet corn was abundant at the Tuesday Night Farmers Market.

Coming this weekend--the first showing of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat by the Carnegie Players and the Rock the Arts festival.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Miscellany, July 24, 2017

There is a new store front in downtown Rensselaer.
The orange sign in the window says that they will appear before the Alcohol Review Board on August 8 at 10:00 at City Hall for a beer retailer and L, B, and W retailer permits. However, they may already have some kind of permit because on the bottom of the form it indicates that the premises are permitted to sell alcoholic beverages. Usually the Alcohol Review Board meetings are quick and uninformative but this one may have some interesting tidbits.

The new auto parts store is open but I have not stopped by yet. Shorty's Marathon by the railroad tracks will have its grand opening on Wednesday with a ribbon cutting at noon. The hours are posted at the eMbers Station.
 We went from much needed rain to too much rain in a very short time. The river will crest at about 10.5 feet if we do not get more rain, but flood stage is 12 feet. The storm that passed through on Friday night shut down the County Fair so some events were postponed until Saturday. I did not have enough energy to go out and see how that worked out.
 A truck took out a power line last week and some of the City suffered a power outage. I had an cable outage at about the same time and it might have been related. The Library had internet problems, but that was from a bad router or switch. The Library also changed the software used to reserve computers so the next time you want to do that, you may need some help.

I noticed that the ash trees in Weston Cemetery are not looking good.
 One of the storms last week knocked down most of an ash tree. The trunk was partially rotten.
 Some idiot has been throwing glass over the fence into the baby pool area at LaRue Pool. The baby pool was closed a couple days last week as a result.

My neighbors have some unwanted plants growing in their parkway. Can you identify what kind of plant it is?

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.