newton county pun’kin vine fair provides classic and new adventures

If you could put the month of July on your tongue it would taste like elephant ears and pork burgers and swirl soft serve ice cream.

It smells like wood shavings and a smoky sweetness mixed in with fresh cut grass. It sounds like the community band playing John Phillip Sousa and the crow of a rooster and old friends laughing.

It’s kids with faces scrubbed clean of the grime from a year’s worth of work spent corralling and cajoling pigs and sheep. It’s photography and woodworking and cake decorating and ceramic projects marched in proudly to the 4-H building by youth of all ages, exhausted parents trailing behind. It’s outbidding the fair board president for a famous award winning rhubarb pie in the Domestic Arts Building. It’s a meandering midway, banked by tall somber oak trees and old friends that make a 10 minute walk stretch into a two hour long promenade. It’s watching carnival rides light up a star filled country sky.

 

The Newton County Fair is a classic. While there are many wonderful county fairs in Northwest Indiana, not many are able to provide modern attractions along with the vintage charm and friendly atmosphere of the Pun’kin Vine Fair.  Just to be clear, that is not a typo, it’s not “Pumpkin”, it’s “Pun’kin.” The local slang and nickname for the fair is due to the original fair date in September, when pumpkin vines were growing over the entrance to the fair.

And you can find pumpkin vines and pumpkins themselves intertwined throughout the fairgrounds. They’re in the hanging baskets along the midway, sketches and drawings decorate some of the buildings, and there is also an entire category in the Domestic Arts confections and baked goods competition devoted to pumpkin inspired recipes. My personal favorite is pumpkin cake, and also pumpkin cookies, and well the pie is really good too…ya know what you’re just going to have to view some of the concoctions for yourself they’re just too good for me to choose one.

The big attraction is always the concert and if you’re interested in some good music, food and a country sky then get your tickets for Cole Swindell at 8 pm Tuesday in the grandstand. He’s going to be putting on a great show. It’s best to arrive before 6 pm and get your fill on fair food. The North Newton FFA stand features great burgers, hotdogs, fries…everything, and is right next to the grandstand. The Lions Club soft serve ice cream before or after the show is also a must. Don’t wait too long though, or you will have to stand in a line 30 people deep.

I love the concert but the truck pull on Wednesday and the tractor pull on Thursday (both starting at 7:30 pm) are the two favorites for my husband, and usually serve as our fair date nights. Honestly I hardly ever attended the truck and tractor pulls until we started dating, but I love them now. There’s so much energy in the air when a big truck revs its engine and the crowd cheers. You hear the squeal of the tires as it takes off trying to get as far as possible before the weight pulls it back. It’s great to see how locals will fair against out-of-towners and the excitement from the audience is contagious.

Jr. Leaders at the Newton County Pun’kin Vine Fair explain exhibits to Head Start kids
Jr. Leaders at the Newton County Pun’kin Vine Fair explain exhibits to Head Start kids

Wednesday is always a juggling act because it’s also Earth Night in the sheep arena for me. I’ll be there encouraging youth and adults alike to reduce, reuse, recycle! Games, crafts, Sno Cones, popcorn and a Silly Safari animal show will all be featured and everything at Earth Night is absolutely free. When there’s a break in the crowd I dash down to Miss Piggy’s for a pork burger and maybe some nachos.

The 4-H Council Pork Chop Supper and Community Band concert on Friday night CANNOT be missed. If you do not get one of these delicious chops then I have serious doubts about your sanity. I recommend walking off the pork chop supper by strolling through the 4-H and Domestic Arts Buildings. Friday night is a double bonus because a new event, quad and bike drag races, will be featured at the Grandstand at 7:30 pm.

The queen pageant is a staple on Monday night with young women in evening and business attire gracing the Grandstand stage. The pageant has a cult following with local family and friends decorating t-shirts and making up cheers for the girls they are supporting. I’ll be there but you won’t see me in the grandstand. As former fair queen royalty, I’m recruited to help out behind the scenes, lacing up dresses, applying lipstick and providing those few last words of support.

As former fair queen royalty, I’m very sentimental about the Pun’kin Vine Fair
As former fair queen royalty, I’m very sentimental about the Pun’kin Vine Fair

The Newton County Fair captivates old and new visitors alike. Many county fairs have simply gotten so large that some of the charm and nostalgia of classic fair attractions has been lost and so the Pun’kin Vine Fair with it’s tall oak trees and winding midway next to the Iroquois River is like something out of a storybook.

I’m truly sentimental about the Newton County Pun’kin Vine Fair , my life would have been completely different without it. As a 10 year 4-H member, the fair was the pinnacle of my summers. It was because of the fair that I met my husband. My title as Miss Newton County Fair Queen provided an excellent excuse for him to drive me in his Corvette for a parade, which also served as our first date. Six years after that first date, we had our wedding reception at the most fitting location, under the oak trees at the Newton County Pun’kin Vine Fair.

Josh and I love the fair and the fairgrounds are truly beautiful, it was the perfect place for our wedding reception
Josh and I love the fair and the fairgrounds are truly beautiful, it was the perfect place for our wedding reception

 

See you on the midway!

The Importance of Fiber

Importance of Fiber title

This post has become stale. I’ve been picking at it for so long that finally it just turned blue and hairy. It just never morphed into the dynamic sexy piece I was aiming for. However, after attending a very heated government meeting that covered several topics, one of which was infrastructure for businesses, I felt like it was still very relevant.

There were several good points that came up during the meeting, some of which I agreed with and some of which I didn’t. One that struck me was an argument that more funds should be diverted away from county services (payroll) and instead directed toward infrastructure that will attract businesses…which I agree with on the surface. Newton County is rural, and residents, unless they want their taxes to skyrocket, should not expect the same level of service that they would receive in an area with a higher population and higher tax rate. But the argument can also be made that these services are infrastructure. Would a business want to be located in an area with poorly plowed roads or a barely visible law enforcement presence? I’m not sure.

Are there areas that should be trimmed, yes of course, it is government. The discussion mainly became heated about the method of searching for where to cut, which I won’t get into, but I’m sure you can read more about it in the local paper The Newton County Enterprise

So, back to this post—about infrastructure—which is not incredibly sexy but as my brother Thad told me, still really important. Plus I also had Thad make a specific trip to take a photo for me, albeit not a very good photo, I had to publish it, or I think he would kill me.

 

The importance of fiber
Fiber is substance, it not only fills you it fuels you, it makes everything work better. It’s an essential nutrient that lots of people talk about few take advantage of. But what I’m referring to isn’t dietary fiber, its fiber optic internet.

It makes everything work better
The lightning fast speeds allow you to watch three adorable internet cat videos at the same time and download that full length HD movie in seconds. It also means those critical medical files such as CT scans, lab reports and other information can more easily be collected, transferred and sent to your doctor. Fiber internet is also vital as businesses grow and rely more and more on the data transferred over the internet…as this photo shows.

 

It’s an essential nutrient
My family owns a convenience store that has dominated our lives for over 30 years. When I was behind the cash register, there was a lot of information flowing through my brain that resulted in the keys punched on the register and a sale made. There was no credit card at the pump and I was more likely to receive a grimy $5 bill than a swipe of credit card. But now everything is done electronically from the cards swiped at the pump, to the taxes paid, to the cash register that allows us to monitor sales from anywhere. But moving that much information through our current internet connection is cumbersome. We need fiber to keep things moving quickly, we need this essential nutrient in order to better absorb the data running through the store every day.

Internet Cables
I know not the best form of photography ever. But it gets the point across right? There are a lot of cables

Here is a photo of a cute baby to make up for my brother’s horrible photography skills.

Otto Cool Baby

A lot of people talk about fiber
I can tell you all about how awesome and important fiber internet is but it’s nothing that hasn’t been said before by people more knowledgeable than myself. The following excerpt is from a piece featured in Inside Indiana Business by Cullen McCarty, the president of Smithville Digital, a telecommunications provider located near Bloomington. The full article can be found here.

“In a post-Great Recession business climate that includes a growing role for Big Government (whether anyone wants it or not), Indiana needs compelling and personal incentives to reverse these future-sapping trends. If Indiana can create new opportunities that represent exciting and fulfilling challenges that have high payoffs, we’ll likely see more young people stay and grow their home state.

Added to this attraction mix is the fact that young people, particularly young single people and couples who do not yet have children, living in a region that has a distinctive “sense of place” and viable entertainment opportunities is important. Increasing numbers of young people express a preference for “green,” environmentally friendly areas that may be close, but not too close, to large urban areas. Young professionals today also increasingly telecommute or maintain home offices to work.

 How does Indiana fulfill these preferences and attract and keep young people here?

 Perhaps surprisingly, and as several research studies confirm, high-speed and high-capacity fiber-based broadband can and does play a direct role in achieving these critical goals. ‘Broadband” has become an almost meaningless term, as the federal government defines it in several different ways. On the other hand, one gigabit connectivity is a phrase that packs a punch. One gigabit connectivity means one’s home office can handle almost any kind of data modeling or intensive bandwidth-hungry applications. It means that young professionals and young couples have the increased capacity to create a high-tech “sense of place,” even though they may choose to live in a semi-rural area.

 The presence of high-speed fiber in a region is a game-changer. Without it, rapidly growing business centers like the WestGate@Crane Technology Park, a 600-acre high-tech region that will soon likely be a hub of energy research and development in a rural area, could not exist. Couple that with the opening of I-69 through a long-underserved rural region with big data pipes driving deep into the area, and you have some catalysts cooking off that can create real change.”

Few Take Advantage of it…
The presence of fiber internet is slowly expanding across the country and rural America, but it will be those communities that are at the forefront of this technology that will gain the most. Not only will they be ahead of their rural peers and have a competitive edge for business development, these communities will also demonstrate their forward thinking and strategic planning. My guess is an expanding business, a company on the move, or a resident looking to relocate might value forward thinking and strategic planning in their new community.

Lunch, Foreigners and Agritourism

I felt bad for the worker at Subway. Foreigners were in line ahead of me, and they didn’t know the procedure for ordering a sandwich. When the woman behind the counter asks, “What cheese?” The couple chats between themselves trying to decipher what she said and finally what cheese they want.

You would think based on the people in line ahead of me and the license plates and cars in the parking lot outside that I was at a Subway near the city, but I was closer to a cornfield than a shopping mall. I had stopped at the Subway next to Fair Oaks Farms for lunch. It’s amazing to think about the variety and number of people that stop at this destination. Whether you’re a fan of Fair Oaks Farms or not (or as locals refer to it- The Dairy) the company has tapped into something with incredible potential. Potential that I wish more local people would pay attention to, Agritourism (capitalized because it’s that important).

So what is this…agri who ha? As defined by Melinda Geisler from Iowa State University, Agritourism is activities like visiting a working farm or any agricultural, horticultural or agribusiness operation to enjoy, be educated, or be involved in what is happening at that locale. Examples include:

  • Farm tours for families and school children,
  • day camps
  • hands-on chores
  • self-harvesting of produce
  • hay or sleigh rides
  • overnight stays in a bed and breakfast.

According to Geisler, the rural United States is a popular tourist destination. As I resident of rural America or as my wonderful friend Michelle said to me…”Sara, you live in the BFE,” I find this shocking. Newton County? Popular? Crazy…

It gets better. Nature-based tourism, or ecotourism , works well with the agritourism market. Ecotourism is usually comprised of activities like hunting, fishing, photography, bird watching and visiting parks. If only Newton County had some of these draws…

Oh wait…

Kankakee Sands

The Nature Conservancy Kankakee Sands

Willow Slough Fish and Wildlife Area

LaSalle Fish and Wildlife Area

We totally have ecotourism destinations and activities.

Other Related Tourism Markets

Rural Weddings
Weddings are an expensive and big business. I should know, I got married 18 months ago and it still hurts to think about much money we spent. (Our wedding was amazeballs though, even the bartenders said so). Despite our attempt to have a no frills, DIY affair….you just spend money, it’s crazy. Every cute insanely expensive thing catches your eye as the perfect detail for your big day. How can you NOT spend $$$ on adorable cake toppers and pretty stamps and glittering table decorations? Weddings are a $48 billion a year business and the average wedding in America is around $22,000. Guess what is one of the more important items for a wedding? Location, and outdoor weddings are attractive to many couples because the natural decor can’t be duplicated. Also, rural locations are appealing because they can sometimes be more affordable when  compared to an urban locale.

Just to be clear though, having your wedding in a rural location can also be a ton of work. This is something I also know about, as we had ours at the county fairgrounds…no real kitchen, restrooms were a bit of a jog from the venue, and the building had power but little else. There are just a lot of details, but people are willing to pay someone else to worry about those details. Meanwhile, the rural location gets some great easy marketing from beautiful wedding photos. Businesses in the area (such as bakeries, catering, photographers) benefit from the money spent on their services and wedding guests represent an influx of new potential customers in possibly untapped markets.

Starting an agritourism business wouldn’t be easy, but no small business is “easy.”
University of Iowa specialists state there are three things to really look at before even considering an agritourism venture:

  • Define the attraction
  • Create a marketing plan
  • Examine important details like extra labor expenses, insurance and biosecurity.

These points are geared toward current agriculture producers and adding an agritourism aspect would require additional diverse resources. More labor may be necessary and the marketing work might take time away from typical farm work. Also a farm’s risk and liability increases when visitors are factored in. Close proximity to a significant population center is another important factor. I think Newton County has that covered…

Google_Maps

Many producers who are involved in agritourism note there is synergism in having non-competing agritourism enterprises in the area to increase traffic to the area and provide more tourism attractions for customers.

According to the 2007 U.S. Census of Agriculture, 23,350 farms indicated they provided agritourism and recreation services valued at $566 million. Of the total farms, 3,637 farms indicated gross farm receipts of $25,000 or more.

Agritourism is valuable, not only for a rural area such as Newton County Indiana but also for people from urban and suburban areas. Visitors can explore, learn and enjoy both the natural resources in our area and the agricultural processes involved in food production. Residents could benefit from the economic and community development agritourism generates.

Just my thoughts…as I enjoyed my Subway sandwich.

***On a side note

This post was slightly delayed due toworking on a friend’s blog (hopefully an update on that soon) and providing my brother with feedback for his own. Woo! I’m inspiring others to write. Fantabulous! Check out my brother’s blog: pokethemonkey.com. Other great blogs to check out that I forgot in my previous post Other Word Connoisseurs include; The Blogess and Hyperbole and a Half. They’ll be added to Blog Love. Enjoy!

Additional Info:

What is Agritourism?

Official: Agritourism vital to Indiana economy

Other Word Connoisseurs

We have established that I am a reader. So I was really looking forward to friends’ suggestions for blogs. Facebook Friend FAIL. Except for Krista, she’s a rock star who actually suggested a fabulous blog, Young House Love, that I’m already a fan of. My friend Amy also gets special recognition, because she told me about the organization AGLOW, The Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers.

After scanning AGLOW’s website and some of their award winners, I was led to other sites and sites beyond that. I just kept jumping around the internet looking for active content I liked.  Then I scanned the sites of bloggers I was already following, like Little Indiana, for additional sites. I created my own list of interesting blogs because there are some great writers out there and you should know about them. My list can be found here. It is in no way complete but I eventually had to stop reading and ya know eat, feed baby Otto, let the dog out, etc.

Also I was thrilled to have people comment about my first blog post. Not so thrilled about my complete lapse in providing an e-mail sign-up. Woops, I missed the most crucial point of having any type of information providing site, getting repeat visitors. So, dear Vanessa, I have created an e-mail sign-up.  You can find it here


and on my about page, and at the bottom of this blog post, and at the top of the left sidebar. I felt like I should go above and beyond.

In my defense of this serious offense, I started this blog for myself,  without the expectation that anyone would really read it beyond me and my lovely family (excluding the husband, remember he doesn’t read). I’m thrilled other people are reading, even if it’s just in passing. The literary critic Cyril Connolly said,

“Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.”

Lastly, there was a great response to pictures of baby Otto. This should not be surprising. I believe the internet is powered by cute babies and pets. Here are photos belonging to both groups and they’re Christmas themed!

Otto-Christmas-Card
The cutest baby Santa
christmas-card-dog
The dog just jumped up next to the lights and all I had to do was place the hat on his head

Why a blog?

My husband hates to read.

Imagine that, a writer marrying a man who never…and I mean never, looks with an appealing eye at the written word. It’s a humdinger. On our second date we had some time before dinner and there was a bookstore next to the restaurant. I started babbling about a book I really wanted to read and how much I loved bookstores and he blurted out,

“I hate to read.”

I thought our relationship would end right there in the parking lot. But it did not, for some comic twist in the universe we fell in love, got married and have a tiny dog, Oscar,

Oscar is small but mighty.
Oscar is small but mighty.

 

and a not so tiny baby, Otto.

 

Otto, he's kind of awesome.
Otto, he’s kind of awesome.

We are opposites and there are many positives to this, one being that we provide each other with perspective that is completely different from our own. There are also negatives. When I read a fantastic book or think of a great character or line I can’t turn to him for his opinion or thoughts. It’s null and void. It’s not that he doesn’t care about me. It’s that the written word is very low on his priority list.

Josh’s priority list:

  • Sara
  • Baby Otto
  • Farming
  • Excavating
  • Ruling the world
  • Buying big cool equipment
  • Diet Mt Dew
  • Little Debbies
  • Unwrinkled shirts
  • ….other stuff….
  • Mountain Men show on history channel
  • Buying groceries
  • Balancing checkbook
  • Changing poopy diapers
  • reading/writing

So what’s a lover of the written word to do? Start a blog, which I did, but it morphed into something for my environmental adventures (oh yes I’m also an environmentalist) you can read more about those fun times here. This blog is my writing outlet. It’s where I hope to collect my general and creative writing endeavors and to connect with other writers and bloggers. I’m hungry for the written word and I’m in search of other word connoisseurs.

Sometimes opposites attract
My husband hates to read and I’m a writer, so this blog an outlet for everything I love about the written word.