Football weekends in Bloomington are serious business, and with them comes serious traffic. Bustling sidewalks filled with devoted IU football fans and out-of-town guests, parking lots and grass fields busy with tailgate parties, and football, football, football.
But for those for whom the football fever has yet to take hold, September offers two options to get out to farm country and enjoy some authentic Hoosier heritage in pastoral southern Indiana.
White River Valley Antique Show
The first, set for September 6 to 9, is the 34th Annual White River Valley Antique Show at the Daviess County Fairgrounds in Elnora. Situated between Bloomfield, Sandborn, and Linton, the sleepy little town has a population of just 657. However, every second weekend in September, more than 17,000 people visit to attend the antique show. But labeling this popular event as merely an antique show is akin to calling the Titanic merely a boat.
Administered by the White River Valley Antique Association, the show features gas engines, hundreds of antique tractors, cars and trucks, oil-field engines and pumps, a farm museum, handmade quilts, hand tools, antique farm toys, and lessons on how to make cider, sorghum, apple butter, lye soap, hand-dipped candles, ice cream, and root beer.
Also offered daily are live demonstrations of threshing, bailing, plowing with a horse; workings in the sawmill, smokehouse, machine shop, water-powered grist mill, wood shop, blacksmith, print shop; and a look at what goes into Baker fans, looms, and steam engines.
Festivities kick off Thursday, September 6, and include the Horse Pull at the Arena and live music by the Paul Edwards Band and the Mike Miller Band at the Shelter House.
On Friday at 9 a.m., live demonstrations begin and the Homespun Handcrafters Market opens for business, where handcrafted items are offered for sale by the artist or artisan who made them. The demonstrations and the market continue throughout the weekend. Also opening Friday morning is the One Room School House, an attraction that replicates the one-room schoolhouses from the early part of the last century. A school session begins every half hour, and guests are reminded not to be late for school.
That evening at the Arena is the big Tractor Pull, featuring antique tractors and sponsored by the Indiana Super Farm Association, and live music at the Shelter House.
Saturday is jam-packed with more live music and demonstrations, plus toy displays, a pet parade, antique tractor parade, kid’s pedal-tractor pull, garden tractor pullers, and the exhibitor fun-tractor pull and tractor games, in which tractor owners pit their motorized steeds against one another, vying for the vaunted first-place ribbon.
The show wraps up on Sunday, September 9, closing for the year with the Antique Tractor Parade in the Arena at 2 p.m.
The White River Valley Antique Association states on its website that it exists to “encourage the collection, restoration, preservation, and exhibition of antique Americana for the members’ and the public’s education and amusement, but not for profit beyond reimbursement, and also to promote fellowship and cooperation among members.”
Daily admission is $5 per person and those age 12 and under enter for free.
Lanesville Heritage Weekend
Hoosiers will have a week’s rest before the beginning of another annual antique farm show — this one in Lanesville, about 20 minutes west of Louisville, Kentucky.
The 43rd annual Lanesville Heritage Weekend, held from September 13 to 16, draws about 80,000 people every year and features craft and food booths, a carnival midway, helicopter rides, a parade, truck and tractor pulls, live music, vintage farm machinery displays and demonstrations, antique tractors, and contests for all ages.
Demonstrations will be held daily in making apple butter, rope, sorghum, stained glass, brooms, shaker boxes, and honey, as well as blacksmithing, glassblowing, chair caning, weaving, looming, chainsaw carving, wood carving, spinning, and woodturning.
Created in 1976 to “promote, preserve, demonstrate and display our rural and agricultural heritage while serving as an educational and civic leader in our community,” the annual mid-September festival offers free admission and free parking.
Amy Watson, secretary of the Heritage Board and one of three directors of the antique tractor section of the event, says the Lanesville Heritage Weekend is a great option for families.
“It’s a community-minded, family-oriented event,” Watson says. A lot of people avoid festivals in Louisville and other cities, she says, “because paying for parking and admission for a family can be expensive. If a family were to pack a picnic lunch or dinner, the whole day for them [at Lanesville] can be free entertainment.”
Watson says the event features live music every day, with the Doo-Wop All-Stars, the Sweet Water Band, Lanesville High School Choir, the Corydon Dulcimer Society, Falls City Drifters, Juice Box Heroes, the Backwoods Bluegrass Gospel Band, and The Monarchs, among others.
Contests, too, are an important feature of the event’s entertainment. Antique tractor games, a horseshoe pitching tourney, pedal-tractor pull, queen and princess pageants, an amateur fiddle contest, and a log sawing contest are scheduled throughout the weekend.
“What’s also nice for families is the educational aspect,” Watson says. “This is an opportunity for kids and parents alike to see how things used to be made, and how hard our forefathers had to work every day. There were no smartphones or Chromebooks, just horses to feed, cows to milk, and plenty of other chores.”
Watson says a family can begin at the east of the event, where the tractors, steam engines, and heavy equipment are located, and work their way through the grounds. Toward the middle are craft booths, including quilting, beekeeping, and rope making. And as you continue, the west end features the carnival midway, with a toy tractor show for kids. The west end also features more than “100 different food choices,” Watson says, from the more traditional carnival foods to homemade pies, barbecue, and baked potatoes.
“There is not only plenty to do,” she says, “there is also plenty to eat.”
After attending either of these fun-filled family-weekend events, one might welcome the opportunity to relax, put their feet up, and catch the next football game on television.