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

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Feast of the Hunters' Moon 2008

On Saturday, 9-27, we set off to visit the 2008 edition of the Feast of the Hunters' Moon. It celebrates life in an eighteenth-century French fort, at which each fall there would be a gathering of Indians and French fur traders. It is the biggest and most interesting of the area festivals.
Because there are so many people who attend, there is not enough parking in the area of the festival, and people are encouraged to park in a Purdue parking lot and take a shuttle bus to the grounds of the festival. This year the normal shuttle bus transportation was interrupted (by a lawsuit, according to someone in line with us), so we arrived to a very long line.
About fifteen or twenty minutes later we got on a church bus, because the area churches had volunteered their busses to provide transportation, and soon arrived at the festival. The nice volunteers even offered us candy and water while we waited in line.
There are many things to do at the festival. You can buy a wide variety of stuff, you can eat a lot of weird food that you would not normally eat, you can watch and listen to a variety of entertainment, and you can watch the people. We did three of the above.
Shortly after entering the grounds, we stumbled on a performance of two jugglers. They were good jugglers, but the best part of their performance was the chatter that they kept going--they were very funny. We then wandered over to the performance area by the reconstructed blockhouse, which may or may not be like an original building of the fort. Here is a picture of it, complete with a line of people waiting to get to an ATM machine.
This area had musical groups on stage pretty much continuously throughout the day. The groups specialize in older, historical music.
After listening to one group, we decided to try some buffalo burgers. (They tasted pretty much like regular hamburgers.)

We wandered into the eastern edge of the festival, which had a variety of historical exhibits.
The people watching here was excellent. I loved the way many of the visitors try to dress in costume. Some of them do not quite get it. My favorite outfit was a guy in a loin cloth. I wonder if I could use that outfit in some future trip to the festival.
We found more food. I tried buffalo stew. It was being cooked in big iron kettles.
Our wanderings continued. We saw a clown performance, with a small woman who was a contortionist. Again, very entertaining. Then we wandered over to the military drill field and watched part of a performance. This part of the festival was in the sun and hot, so we did not want to stay too long.
Along the way we encountered a group playing strings. I wonder if they performed somewhere on a stage. They were really good and I would have enjoyed hearing more from them. We wandered back to the Blockhouse arena and listened to two musical groups.
And then we decided it was time to start moving to the exit.
Along the way we again encountered the jugglers, and this time watched their entire act. When we got out the gate we found a much longer line than we had encountered at the start. After another 20 minutes in the queue, we boarded a bus, standing room only, and returned to the Purdue parking lot.

And here is a youtube clip giving some of the sounds:

(Updated video)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The End of Summer

The autumn equinox marks the end of summer, and it also marks one of the most colorful times of the year for the roadsides around Rensselaer. Here are a few pictures I snapped on two different days. If I had taken my camera on a third day, I would have gotten a whole lot more. But I left it at home.
I am not sure what this yellow, daisy-like flower is, but it is abundant in September. Desert Survivor always tells her readers what the plants are. I do not.
The same kind of flower, but in a closeup.

This yellow flower above is goldenrod. There is a lot of it along the roads, but it was about a week past its prime when I took this picture.
Pokeberry is a weed. I do not know if the berries are edible, but I suppose I could find out if I googled it. My daughter-in-law has some growing in her yard because she thinks it is pretty. When I get it, I yank it.
There is a lot of yellow along the roads, but not so much purple this time of year.
These little white flowers were not very impressive. I took the picture because they were the only white flowers I saw.

Autumn is the most colorful time of the year, and the colors start before the leaves start turning. The roadsides are full of beauty in September.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Art in the Alley

(This was originally posted on August 16, 2008 on

Rensselaer has a number of small, community events, such as Taste of Rensselaer, Oktober Fest, and Art in the Alley. These events are sponsored by the Prairie Arts Council or the Mainstreet group, two groups that have a lot of overlap in leadership. Rensselaer used to have a bigger, two-day event, the Little Cousin Jasper Festival, but it ended when no one was willing to do the work needed to get it organized.
What is Art in the Alley? It is art displayed in an alley, much of it for sale. (I do not know how much of it actually sells. Personally, I have all the art I will ever need.)

The alley has some character, and someone saw the possibilities for something a little offbeat.

Food and beer are sold, and there is free live entertainment.

But the ambiance is probably half the fun.

Footbridge part 1

(This was originally posted on on August 13, 2008.)

A couple weeks ago activity in the local Weston Cemetery caught my interest. City workers were clearing trees and bushes around the proposed site for a footbridge across the Iroquois River. This site is almost half a mile from the nearest bridge and would give walkers, and hopefully bikers, a shortcut in crossing the river.

The site has been marked with pegs for about a year. Before the city could put in the bridge, it needed approval from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, and they are not speedy. The workmen, on the other had, were. They quickly cleared the site.
And the next day they began to pour concrete for the footings.
Pouring concrete actually took several days. First they poured a footing in the ground with rebar sticking out. Then they poured more above ground, first on the south side and then on the north side.
I think they did the two sides separately because that way they only needed to construct one form.
The site now looks ready to receive the bridge itself. I do not know when it will appear or what it will look like, but I will post something when further progress is made. (Can you see that we had a heavy rain between the time these two pictures were taken?)

Busy Tuesday Night

(This was originally published on August 5, 2008 on

Most nights are pretty tame in Rensselaer, but this Tuesday there were two special events in Rensselaer. First, there was the fifth special Tuesday night Farmers’ Market, which the main street group has organized to bring a bit of life back to the downtown. It drew a reasonable number of people, many buying fresh fruits and vegetables.
There was a bluegrass group providing entertainment on the steps of the courthouse, and it was a nice event. I did not buy anything--my garden is finally producing.

Meanwhile, at Brookside Park the annual cookout with the cops was taking place.
This draws a bigger crowd because there is free entry to the pool and you can get a free hotdog, chips, and drink.
The best displays were not by the police, but by the fire department.

The highlight of the evening was the arrival of a medevac helicopter. Here it is coming in past the raised aerial ladder truck.
And once on the ground it draws a big crowd of kids and some adults.
But soon people are back in the pool enjoying the water on a hot, humid evening.

A Little More on the County Fair

(This was originally posted on on July 19, 2008.)

The county fair is over, but after my first visit, I went back a couple times and took a few more pictures. Here are two former students of mine, Sarah and James, getting ready for one of the rides. They told me that I should join them, but I declined.

I declined because the ride began by rocking back and forth like a big swing, until it finally made a complete loop. At the top of the loop the riders were upside down. It would probably have taken me several days to recover if I had gone on this ride. The good old Ferris Wheel was about a much excitement as I could take even when I was young.

I admire the engineering that must go into designing a ride like this. It is a big ride but it has to be put up and taken down every few days and transported on truck. It would have been interesting to see how they assembled it. All the carnival rides were powered by electricity, with a big generator in a truck trailer providing the electricity. The generator was easy to spot because it was belching out quite a bit of diesel exhaust.

I met another former student, Kendra, who told me that her favorite part of the fair was the food. Lots of people ate and listened to the free musical program near the fair office. The musician in the picture below decided not to stay on stage but to mingle with the audience.
On the final day of the fair, those 4-H members who entered animals sell them at an auction. (Finally something that sounds like economics.) But do not go to this auction to get a good deal. The prices are exorbitant. The bidders are mostly local businesses, and their purchases are a way of supporting the 4-H program. So if you want to spent $100 on a chicken, come and bid. Otherwise, stay away.

The county fair

(This was originally posted on July 15 on

This is county fair week for Jasper County. I biked out and strolled around, and reflected on the many different activities that happen. The county fair means very different things to different people.

A lot of people bring their campers or RVs and stay the nights. I suspect many friendships and little communities form. Here is a picture of some of the trailers at the south end of the fairgrounds. I do not know how many are there--maybe 50?

And there are more just north of the grandstand.

For some kids the fair is all about the carnival rides. There are not very many, but they do have the traditional merry-go-round.

Some of the historic buildings of Jasper County have been moved to near the main entrance, and members of the historical society staff them. There is also a building that houses old tractors. When I came by, there was a demonstration of some old equipment that took the kernels of corn off the cob. I remember seeing old farm equipment when I was a kid because one of my uncles collected old farm equipment. Our fair does not have any of the really old stuff, the steam engines. The sign on this tractor said it was a 1947 Farmall tractor.

The windmill in the background of these two pictures is not old, but it was actually pumping water.

For some people the fair is all about entertainment. Not little demonstrations like the one above, but the evening programs where they have races and demolition derbies and country singers. I have never attended any of these, but based on what I have seen in the morning, I am sure people had fun.

Here is my friend Judy teaching in the old one room schoolhouse. I think she at one time did teach in a one-room schoolhouse.

4-H is big in our area, and the kids in it do lots of things. Some of their exhibits are in this exhibit hall.

You do not have to be in 4-H to exhibit. There is also open class, and at one time I entered various things. But that was many years ago.

The farm kids in 4-H raise animals: chickens, ducks, geese, rabbits, goats, cattle, pigs, and sheep. For them this is what the fair is all about, and this is why many of the campers and RVs are there. When I was wandered by, they were judging rabbits and cattle.

I thought this little goat was cute.
Here is part of the sheep barn.This is some kind of chicken, I think.

The horses are on the south end, and there was some kind of competition going on there. I did not wait around to see who won. These competitions are not like some of the schools, where every one wins. Here there is only one winner.

Many local groups raise money with food booths, so for them the fair is about working and earning dollars. And there is a commercial tent that I enjoy because sometimes they give away free stuff, but it was not staffed when I came by.

The county fair is probably the biggest of the yearly events that happen in or near Rensselaer.
(I tried to think of a clever tie to economics, but I came up empty.)