Friday, June 29, 2018

Mermaid Festival (Free!)

The Lions Club opened a chapter in North Webster, way back in 1945. The group focuses on tackling community issues, and held a Mermaid parade as a fundraiser. 73 years later, the parade has become a town tradition, the Mermaid Festival. 

The festival is held the last full week of June and features two parades (a children's parade and the bigger Saturday parade), music, ski shows, fireworks, and yes, a demolition derby. Oh, and during the festival, there's also a Midway on the town's festival grounds. The festival has a website, but we recommend you pick up a Mermaid Festival guide, available at local shops and restaurants. The guide no only has a list of activities, but also tells you which churches and organizations are hosting dinners and other fundraisers during the festival. 
There is both a King and Queen (Mermaid?), as well as the Cutie Kings and Queens.
The Cutie parade's theme was "World of Sports". We took a lot of photos, but feel a bit odd posting pictures of kids without permission. We'll show you a couple where you cannot see the kids' faces. 

This little girl and her dad had a very creative take on the Winter Olympics - complete with snow globe!
Another great float! This girl was clearly enjoying spending time with her dad.
And now the main parade. Thank you veterans,
and fire fighters!
Yogi Bear and friends made a visit from Jellystone.
There were quite a few marching bands,
and a few boats.
This was the smallest car in the parade.
I think this is the first parade we've ever seen with an armored bank truck.
Old vehicles of every size, from tractors to
a very early Ford. Yes, it has a calliope mounted in it!
So, so many jeeps -
and quite a few Corvettes!
After a pretty impressive parade, we wandered down to the Midway to grab some fair food.
Watched the kiddos enjoy the rides,
A few kids even got brave enough to ride the roller coaster.

Stuffed with corn dogs and funnel cakes and elephant ears, we sat down to watch the demolition derby. If you haven't attended a demolition derby, the rules are simple. The last vehicle to still be running AND moving is the wins the heat. Eventually (after a lot of smoke, loud crashing, and the occasional engine fire) the winners from the heats face off against each other. We'll let the photos speak for themselves!

Monday, June 18, 2018

Historic North Webster (Almost Free!)

Another week and yep, we're still in Kosciusko County. The relatives haven't gotten tired of us (yet!) and besides, North Webster is having their 73rd Annual Mermaid Festival later this week. We spent last week connecting up with friends and family, and exploring more of this corner of the county. The farmhouse, above, is still owned by the Warner family, who were early settlers to the area.
This is one the oldest buildings in the county and, sadly, isn't open to the public. Mid-Lake Farm was established in 1837, and originally was hundreds of acres stretching between Tippecanoe and North Webster Lakes. How far back do the Warners go? Well, Thomas Warner established the first school, Harry Warner sold the first bushel of wheat raised in the area in 1830, and in 1840, the first recorded marriage was Rev. Samuel K. Young and Amelia Warner!
Random cows. Moo!
 Mock Cemetery gets its name from the Mock family, who donated the land. This is a historic cemetery established in in the 1830s. There are five cemeteries in North Webster, but two of them are small family cemeteries and not open to the public. Another, the Light Cemetery, has been abandoned and we understand is also on private property.
This cemetery is divided, roughly, into two sections. This is the older section, which runs right by the road.
 Lydia Mock's grave. The Mock family were one of the first families to settle in the area. Isabelle Mock died of ague and was the first registered death in the township. We looked, couldn't find her grave.
 There are quite a few Civil War soldiers buried in this graveyard, and someone has take the time to mark these graves.
 The Browers are another family that settled here and farmed for many years. This is the first surveyor's symbol we've seen on a headstone.
This headstone hints at an interesting story - Henry and Kate Miller were Methodist missionaries.
The grave site of family members.
 The cemetery has a children's section, and the toys and flowers are heartbreaking.
The Strombecks are another founding family. Himes Street marks the boundary of the Strombeck Addition of North Webster. The streets in this section are named after family members of Earl Himes - which is why they have names like Effie Mae and Lura Mae!
 Another first for us. A Harley Davidson grave marker.
 One thing we noticed is how many unusual headstones there are in the cemeteries in the area,
including this rock in North Webster Cemetery!
 North Webster was established in the 1840s.
 It's hard to read, but this tiny marker just says "infant" along the edge.
 Several more graves of the Strombeck family,
 and the Mock family. In 1907, Mack Mock, along with a couple of others, tried producing the 'Ruth automobile' in North Webster! 
 The Rinkers were neighbors, and owned one of the stores downtown.
 A lamb marking a child's grave. 
 We've talked about homemade markers before. Concrete became available in the mid-1800s, but the formulas were mostly guesswork. This headstone was made from a mix of cement and some kind of rock aggregate, and appears to be one of these early (and not too successful) formulas.
 Instead of individual headstones, several family plots just have one larger marker, with room to engrave names on all four sides.
Both cemeteries are a the legacy to the master craftsmen who carved many of the headstones. Even the earlier markers are often beautifully carved, like this willow tree.
 Another thing that struck us was how many of the gravestones are still legible, because they etched the letters so deeply into the stone. 
 Another Civil War soldier's grave. If you look in the upper right, you will also see an unusual oval headstone.
 The front is engraved "Elizabeth Austen" and the back says "Stacy (space) J & E Austin", so we're assuming this is the graves of a mother and her daughter
 We couldn't help but wonder why this one headstone is faced at a 90 degree angle to all the other headstones. Was it an attempt to fit these two graves in, so they would be close to family members? Or is there some other story?
 Another beautiful marker for the Burkman family plot. It's hard to believe this was erected way back in the 1920s.
Headstones in the Arnold family plot. We were surprised at how many bolster headstones were in this cemetery. Bolster headstones were popular only for a short while at the beginning of the 20th century.
 This is the first marker we've seen for a veteran of the Spanish War.
Foster and Adaline Hall's graves, where the marker has been placed.
 Another Hall family grave. Once again, the craftsmanship on the headstone is just exquisite.
One of several Kuhn gravestones. The Kuhns were also early settlers, and also intermarried with the Mocks.
 As we said, this post contains almost free things. A ride on the Dixie costs only $7, which we think is a bargain.
 This is the second Dixie to cruise North Webster Lake. The first Dixie had a wooden hull and began to rot after 16 years of service. Back then, people living on lakes relied on these paddle boats for groceries, lumber, and a ride to other parts of the lake. So, another second Dixie was ordered, with a steel hull, from St. Louis.
In 1929, pieces of the second Dixie were hauled by horse all the way to the end of Washington Street, where the ship was riveted together and launched.
 Local legend says the men missed a few rivets and the Dixie nearly sank! The ship was hauled back onto land, and the missed rivets were attended to. For the next eighty years, she delivered groceries and mail, ferried people across the lake, and at one point, even had a small blacksmith shop onboard!
 The Dixie was in service every summer from 1929 until 2007, when it became apparent she needed a serious overhaul. 
 Concerned citizens formed a non-profit organization and began raising money to have her hull and paddle wheel replaced.
 Not only did they successfully raise the money, but the Dixie is now a registered historical site (boat?) and is officially recognized as Indiana's oldest paddle wheel. I think our $14 was well spent, since it will help the Dixie keep on paddling!
 The UMC church camp at Epworth Forest. Founded in 1924, the camp now has 14 lodges, and even offers hotel rooms!
North Webster is a man-made lake. Way back in 1837, Ephraim Muirhead built a gristmill and built the Webster Lake Dam.  This turned 7 smaller lakes into the Webster Lake, later renamed North Webster.
Although it's been torn down, there was once a hotel called the Yellow Banks in the 1920s which was a popular hangout for mobsters from Chicago. Some locals swear that John Dillenger once hid out here. In fact, some claim that nearby Barbee Hotel on Barbee Lake is still haunted by Al Capone
During the tour of the 7 mile coastline of North Webster, our skipper pointed out this cottage, which is the oldest house on the Lake. He also told us about a custom started by "Tag" Huffman in the early 60's. When the Dixie goes for an evening cruise, people around the lake blink their porch lights off and on - and the Dixie will blink its lights back!