<p>Holiday experiences in Steuben County, Indiana.</p>

Collins Schoolhouse – Lou Ann Homan

By on Aug 17, 2017 in Events, Family Fun, History, Holidays, Steuben County Indiana, Uncategorized | 0 comments

I check the back ribbon of my Minnie Pearl straw hat before leaving the house. I gingerly step into Kathy’s car ducking my head wondering how did women drive with these hats? (Perhaps they didn’t?) I notice we are both wearing summer cotton dresses and sandals. This is not an ordinary outing for a Sunday afternoon. No, we are headed to the Collins Schoolhouse to participate in the fifth annual Ice Cream Social. The drive is once again beautiful as we meander over country roads. We pass the schoolhouse and have to turn around. Once Bart Collins helps us find parking, I feel we have been transported to another century. Tents are set up with tables and chairs for the social. Another long table is filled with home grown and homemade cobblers of peach and berry and rhubarb followed by a tub of ice cream. Whereas we are anxious to sit in the shade and visit with folks, we are, of course, drawn into the schoolhouse itself. It is not my first visit. I used to bring my Hamilton students to the schoolhouse when June Collins was still on this earth and giving her glorious tours. We always came in the Autumn. I can remember June ringing the bell and my students, in awe, taking their seats. My wandering eyes followed the trees in the windows…tree leaves of ruby and scarlet and tangerine. It was enchanting. Once in a while I would be pulled out of my daydreaming state as June reprimanded one of my students. Now the tours are given by other members of the family. On this day is it Claudia Smith who welcomes us smiling from ear to ear. We all comment on the glorious weather and step over the threshold into 1877. It is as it was. Perfect. The books are lined up on bookshelves, lunch pails ready to be taken out to sit under the old trees, cursive writing on the board (is that still June’s handwriting?) and desks waiting for students. It is magical. It is  beautiful. It wasn’t always so. This school, along with most one room schoolhouses in America, fell into disrepair and neglect. The Collins School  was saved by the...

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New Year’s Good Luck

By on Dec 27, 2016 in Holidays, Steuben County Indiana, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Birds have often been associated with Christmas from the goose on the holiday table to the dove of peace. And who could forget the Twelve Days of Christmas carol? Did you know the song is actually an ancient code? From 1558to 1829 Catholics were forbidden from openly practicing in England. So the song was created as an easy way to help children remember key points. Two turtle doves stood for the two books of the Bible, tree French hens stood for faith, hope, and love, and the four calling birds are the gospels Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John. But what about that partridge? He represents Christ because the bird is willing to sacrifice its life to protect its young. While you might not be able to see all the birds of Christmas at Pokagon’s Nature Center, there certainly are plenty to see. The staff makes sure to keep several feeders and baths of fresh water full. The free food always draws a crowd from blue jays and morning doves to house finches, gold finches, chickadees, nuthatches, and downy woodpeckers just to name a few. The cozy nature center provides a warm place for visitors to watch all the action through a large one-way window. There’s a viewing platform and plenty of binoculars for even closer viewing. A bird chart on the wall helps watchers identify the various species that show up for a snack or maybe a bath. Speakers inside the center bring the birdcalls and songs indoors for a full nature experience. It’s not uncommon to see 20 or more birds gathered in front of the viewing window. But when the squirrels show up, all bets are off. The birds often scatter, taking refuge in the higher branches of surrounding trees. If birds aren’t your thing, the Center also has several turtles indigenous to Indiana, as well as snakes and sometimes a mud puppy! In the past there was also an active beehive with glass sides, so visitors could easily spot the queen. But the hive got sick and so it was taken out. I’ve heard they plan to try again when the weather gets warmer. There are also several taxidermy exhibits of other indigenous Hoosier animals. Can...

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Steuben 2016

By on Dec 23, 2016 in Holidays, Steuben County Indiana, Uncategorized | 0 comments

It certainly has been a year in 101 Lakes Country. Like many place during this season I thought it would be fun to a take a look back at the vlogs of the past year. So instead of writing any more about what I’ve already written about all year. I put my review into a poem. Please enjoy the video that goes along with it and Happy New Year. In spring the artisanal well was running swell Muddy shoes visited McClues and Woodland Bog full of moss and logs A stop by three state lines was sublime The farmer’s Market started with vendors wholehearted Pokagon was the space to rejuvenate a race And we remembered those who served to preserve   By summer there were vows by the lake Camping at daybreak Enough SUPs to create a wake There were parties at the Sandbar And a boat show with plenty of guitar Not to mention Orland made us who we are A museum for slaves on the run Fields of bison having fun And trout fishing in the sun   When Fall arrived there was chainsaw art The Bicentennial that gave us our start Sea planes and Ridenour Farm games Hay rides, giant slides, and pumpkin covered hillsides It was wasn’t far to go for some apples from Stroh We watched the Chapman’s crew brew And Outlet shopped till we were blue   Winter arrived with a toboggan ride U-cut Christmas trees brought plenty of pride Santa was seen of the square And winter birds took a moment to share   Erika Celeste is an award-winning journalist who has worked in radio, print, television, and marketing. She owns and operates New Moon Media Group where she’s written several documentaries and books.  ...

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Oh Christmas Trees!

By on Dec 20, 2016 in Family Fun, Holidays, Steuben County Indiana, Uncategorized | 0 comments

There’s still time to get a fresh cut Christmas Tree before Santa arrives. This year why not make it an Norman Rockwell experience? After all what could be more idyllic than cutting your own tree as soft white snowflakes peacefully flutter to the ground around you? Booth’s Tree Farm in Orland, Indiana offers a unique experience among u-cut Christmas Tree experiences.  Casey and Prince, a trusty team of horses, happily haul families and their trees in an old fashioned wagon to and from the neatly planted rows of trees. Bill Booth partnered with his father in the early 60s on the tree farm, which they originally started near Miller Poultry. Nearly three decades later he moved it up the road a mile or two to it’s current location. Every spring he and his wife Bonnie plant 4 varieties of pine tree on their 40-acre farm. And every Christmas they sell upwards of 5,000! Don’t have your own saw? No problem, Booth’s has a steady supply on hand. Not sure how to cut your own tree? The helpful staff will show you how it’s done. Rather get a fresh tree, but don’t want to cut it yourself? They can take care of you there too, with a large selection of pre-cut trees. They also have plenty of fresh wreaths and greens for hanging. Once a tree has been selected and Casey and Prince have hauled it back, the modern equipment takes over. All trees are shaken for free. Whether it’s snow, needles, or a little something else from the great outdoors, the shaker gets almost everything free. Wrapping the tree is only $1. Inside the warming house, customers can thaw out with hot chocolate, coffee, and other holiday treats. For more information visit Booth’s Tree Farm on Facebook Or just head on over to 5555 N State Road 327 in Orland, Indiana. They’ll be open every day up to Christmas Eve. Erika Celeste is an award-winning journalist who has worked in radio, print, television, and marketing. She owns and operates New Moon Media Group where she’s written several documentaries and books....

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Sleigh Ride (or the Next Thing to It)

By on Dec 13, 2016 in Family Fun, Holidays, Steuben County Indiana, Uncategorized | 0 comments

A day or two ago, I thought I’d take a ride and soon Miss Fanny Bright was seated by my side… Angola doesn’t have any sleighs for the public to rent this year, but we do have the next best thing toboggans! That’s right it’s toboggan season at Pokagon State Park. Talk about a great way to spend a snowy day with family or friends! The quarter mile track is one of the best rides around and is sure to get your heart pumping. The refrigerated run was built in the 1930s as part of a Civilian Conservation Corps project and has been a staple at the park ever since. I have fond memories of not only riding it in the winter as a kid but also hiking it and hanging out in the shade of the tower during the summer as a teenager. So I didn’t think twice about having my 6 year old climb the 30-foot tower for this vlog. To his great delight, we’ve walked the path of the run several times in summer. The plan was to take a few rides down it after I finished filming. We watched the first group of riders—with a boy about the same age—board their toboggan atop the wooden rollers that help propel the sled down the incline. My son’s eyes grew wide as workers pushed the riders over the 90-foot vertical drop. “Mama, mama, let’s get down right now.” At first I thought he wanted to go down, but then I saw he’d gone gray. “Mama, I’m going to puke.” That’s when I think we both learned he has a major fear of heights. I’d always enjoyed the 30-second ride with wind whipping through my hair at 40 plus miles an hour. Every kid I’d ever met had too. Exhilarating and rush are some of the best words to describe the heart-pounding fun. Back on the ground everything was good again. Color returned to his cheeks as he watched with excitement as the sleds raced by. In fact, I had to pull him inside about 15 minutes later because his lips were turning blue. He wouldn’t go until I promised that he would have an even better view...

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Magical Night

By on Nov 26, 2016 in Events, Family Fun, Holidays, Steuben County Indiana, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Angola, Indiana looks like it’s straight out of the movies about picturesque small towns. A lot of us do know each other. We have a perfect little courthouse and plenty of quaint shops. But one night of the year is just a bit more magical than others. It’s become tradition for families to gather on the night after Thanksgiving on the town circle. The monument, Columbia, plays host to lights that form a giant Christmas tree. A calliope is wheeled out to play holiday tunes, and various elves and Dickens like characters mingle with excited children as the hour approaches. As everyone waits with baited breath, the scream of a fire truck siren cuts through the night. The crowd jostles to get a good view of eight reindeer pulling Santa and Mrs. Claus’ sleigh. Two police cars, lights flashing, follow behind guarding the celebrities as they make their way into town. As tradition goes, they always circle the mound three times before getting out to greet the kids of Steuben County. Santa often knows them by name, and shouts out such things as, “there’s little Mikey,” and “has Dickey been good this year?” Excited children crowd around him as he laughs and pats them on the head or shakes their hands. But the excitement’s far from over. Though Santa has held court in many shops around the circle over the years, his latest hangout has been The Brokaw Theater. The line to see Santa often wraps around a block or more. But it’s a hot ticket and most kids are willing to wait. It is Santa after all. Who else are they going to share their deepest Christmas wishes with? Once they reach the inner sanctum of the Theater, elves serve hot chocolate and cookies to warm them up. Inside the dark warm doors, Santa and Mrs. Claus make their way to place of honor—two thrones on a small stage in one of the theaters. On the screen above them, old Christmas movies play to keep the long line of children happy while they wait for a chance to sit on Santa’s lap. When good little boys and girls finally reach the lively old elf’s lap, he always asks...

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