INDIANPOLIS - Pioneer Village is a special place. It's where fair visitors go to get a taste of pre-modern life, where one can experience the nostalgia and memories of life on the farm while being entertained and educated with the bygone ways of rural America.
It's hard to imagine the Indiana State Fair without Pioneer Village and its dozens of overalls-wearing volunteers, but that's the way it was before 1961. That's when Purdue University Ag Alumni Executive Secretary Mauri Williamson convinced fair officials to let him display a handful of antique farming tools in a small room under the grandstand.
Fifty years later, many of those same displays are part of the Pioneer Village complex that now includes multiple buildings spread out over about five acres on the fairgrounds' north side. The area attracts hundreds of thousands of people to the fair each year.
"Pioneer Village continues to draw big crowds, and we are celebrating how much we've grown over the last half century," said Tim Nannet, who took over as Pioneer Village Manager when Williamson stepped back from the position a few years ago. "We want everyone to come out and celebrate with us!"
The biggest part of the celebration takes place Sunday, Aug. 14 at 1 p.m. when more than 150 antique tractors - a Pioneer Village staple - will dominate a special 50th Anniversary Parade in the Hoosier Lottery Grandstand. The parade, presented by PNC Agricultural Group, will also feature bands, animals, vintage vehicles and other unique oddities.
For the unfamiliar, Pioneer Village is where people slow down and listen to the folk music played on the small stage in the back of the main building. It's where pioneer women quilt, candles are hand-dipped and draft horses plow in a circle. It's life the way your grandparents, or great-grandparents, lived.
Here's just a partial list of the things to do and see at Pioneer Village:
- The Pioneer Experience: Different aspects of pioneer life with various Pioneer Village artisans and interpreters demonstrate how pioneers packed their wagons, cooked their food, built their tools and much more. Demonstrations are at 11:30 a.m., 3, 5 and 7 p.m.
- Old-time Threshing Shows: Grain was separated from the chaff before combines came along. Demonstrations of the process take place at 10 a.m., 2 and 4 p.m. every day on Machinery Field.
- Opry House Stage presented by CountryMark: A variety of theatrical and musical performances go on here, including A Tribute to the WLS National Barn Dance radio show Saturday, Aug. 13 at 7 p.m.
- Pioneer Threshing Dinners: The village volunteers may work hard, but they eat well. Re-enactments of the traditional farm family meal take place every day at 11:30 a.m., noon and 6:30 p.m.
- Antique Tractor Show: Each day a different "Tractor of the Day" will be featured with facts about the tractor and its restoration. Tractors are located in the lot west of the Normandy Barn and north of the main Pioneer Village building.
- One-room Schoolhouse: Volunteers offer special programs for kids in the re-created schoolhouse that offer a glimpse of what it was like to learn before computers and even overhead projectors.
For those of us who enjoy the modern conveniences that keep us connected and comforted 24 hours a day, Pioneer Village can be a scary place. Did people really live this way? It can be hard to believe. And that's why it's something to celebrate.
About Indiana State Fair
The Indiana State Fair is the state's largest multi-day event attracting more than 900,000 people annually. Nationally recognized for offering the best in entertainment, showcasing youth, interactive agriculture education programs, premiere facilities and a variety of unique, fun foods, the Indiana State Fair has been an annual tradition for generations of Hoosiers since 1852. Admission is $7 in advance, $8 at the gate - kids 5 and younger are free. For more information, please visit http://www.indianastatefair.com/.
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