Indiana's 2016 Bicentennial celebration was aimed to honor the state’s 200 years of history in a modern way. Celebrations across the state, including right here in Noble County, were designed to engage all citizens and leave a lasting legacy for future generations.
To realize the Indiana Bicentennial Commission's challenge, the Albion S.T.A.R. Team led a grassroots initiative that culminated in Noble County’s “All IN Block Party”, a project that received a formal endorsement as one of 1,650 Bicentennial Legacy Projects and was one of only eight supported with a grant by Indiana Humanities.
“Legacy” projects were those that highlighted the four pillars of the Bicentennial effort: youth and education, historical celebration, community involvement and nature conservation. Letters of support from the community were required to demonstrate local interest.
The once-in-a-lifetime All IN Block Party was held around the historic courthouse square in downtown Albion on Saturday, June 25, 2016. All segments of the community were invited to participate including community organizations, churches, schools, industries, the arts, ethnic groups, governmental agencies, museums, tourist attractions, parks and recreational agencies, agricultural interests, and more. Participants were encouraged to offer an experience for visitors that would allow them to explore, discover, read, remember, participate, connect, reflect and/ dream.
Noble County’s All IN Block Party brought about 75 exhibitors and vendors to set up around the square offering food, tours, exhibits, contests, live music, and a variety of “challenges”. Hundreds of citizens brought their own lawn chairs and observed a grand opening ceremony, explored, and relaxed on the courthouse lawn. Some enjoyed narrated tours of the historic Noble County Courthouse. Activities began at 9 a.m. and continued until the late afternoon under sunny blue skies.
A report about the event, published by the News Sun, captured the spirit of the celebration:
“It’s been fantastic,” Noble County Extension Educator Doug Keenan said. “It’s a great community effort and great celebration of Indiana’s bicentennial.”
Noble County has produced a Nobel Prize winner, a NASA scientist and an Olympic athlete. One of Major League Baseball’s commissioners also hailed from the county.
“Our ancestors came to this country for something special,” event coordinator Joy LeCount said.
Those who have settled here have made their mark. And many, like Todd Herendeen, have chosen to give back.
Herendeen and his band were a huge hit during their 90 minutes on stage Saturday, mixing in old rock and country tunes with patriotic hymns.
The last time he’d been on stage in Albion, he was one of the entertainment acts at the Chain O’ Lakes Festival. That was 20 years ago.
“It was just a weekend thing at the time,” the popular entertainer said.
From weekend shows, it snowballed to numerous professional gigs. He has made his living entertaining others.
“We live in such a world of turmoil,” Herendeen said. “For that 1 ½ hours of time, we hope we can take their minds off their troubles. It’s love for our veterans, being able to give back.”
Being able to perform in front of family and friends where he grew up was special to him.
“Most of these people saw you grow up,” he said. “It’s a feeling of acceptance.”
There were many youngsters on hand, with fun activities for all ages. When Noble County comes together, it can throw quite the party.
When LeCount and the Albion S.T.A.R. Team first came up with the idea of the Block Party, it was decided this would be an inclusive event, open to any county organization who wanted to participate.
“We thought that fit our goals and objectives,” LeCount said. “We wanted to involve as much of the community as possible. I’m just pleased the community partners bought into this.”
“It’s a great opportunity for people in the community to get a quick taste of everything in Noble County,” United Way of Noble County executive director Debi Pfaffenberger said.
At the United Way’s booth, people were asked to write out their thoughts of the county.
One visitor to that booth told Pfaffenberger, “This is such a friendly place.”
Noble County is a place that thinks beyond its borders as well. Zach Hayden manned the booth for St. John’s Lutheran Church and School. At that booth, youngsters could carry 5-gallon water containers to simulate the lengths some people in Africa have to go to to get fresh water.
The St. John booth also collected money for an African water program. Spreading that message at the ALL-IN Block Party just made sense.
“We’re part of the community,” Hayden said. “We want to be involved. It’s neat to see a whole Noble County event. The 200 years for Indiana… it really is an impressive event.”
“We have always had a sense of generosity,” LeCount said of her fellow citizens.
Saturday’s strong attendance had an overall message, according to Noble County Visitors and Convention Bureau director Sheryl Prentice.
“It says people are excited and enthused about the bicentennial,” she said.
Prentice, like others at Saturday’s event, credited the work of LeCount who spearheaded the event.
“Joy did an outstanding job as coordinator,” Prentice said.
In addition to fun and fellowship, the All IN Block Party also provided people a way to give back. Non-perishable food items, paper products, and cash donations were collected and divided among the county’s food pantries.
Albion S.T.A.R. Team was joined in the effort by other supporting organizations including Indiana Humanities, Noble County Community Foundation, Olive B. Cole Foundation, Noble REMC Operation Round Up, Parkview Noble, NIPSCO, United Way of Noble County, Noble County Convention and Visitors Bureau, Leatherman Construction, and several other individuals and local organizations.
(Photos by Steve Garbacz and Barry Rochford, KPC Media.)