Fortville throws historic birthday party

FORTVILLE — Dressed in long floral skirts, billowing blouses and straw hats, sisters Shirley Arnett and Erilne Baker sat in the shade in Landmark Park in Fortville on Saturday, smiling at the hustle and bustle around them.

The pair were dressed in outfits resembling those worn by women in the 1800s in honor of the town’s sesquicentennial.

Families filled Landmark Park on Saturday for a festival sponsored and organized by the Fortville-McCordsville Area Chamber of Commerce. It featured a parade, car show, live music and a fireworks display. Organizers said it turned out to be exactly what they were hoping for: a day to honor Fortville’s history while encouraging its future.

“We were both born here, and we lived here our whole lives, but we’re so glad see Fortville is growing,” Arnett said, as she watched children playing in the park.

In 1865, Fortville’s settlers decided in a 36-19 vote to incorporate their town. A similar celebration was conducted in 1999 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Cephas Fort, Fortville’s namesake settler, making the original plat survey of the town on his property in 1849.

Nancy Strickland, the chamber’s executive director, said the day was a culmination of nearly a year of planning. The town always hosts a fireworks display on the Fourth of July, but the town’s 150th birthday required bigger festivities.

More than 200 children participated in a parade to kick off the holiday. The route led people to Landmark Park, where dozens of food and craft vendors lined the property. Residents participated in contests and old-fashioned games such as tug-of-war, croquet, sack races and stilt-walking.

Main Street remained closed all day to drivers, so festivalgoers could roam among the businesses on the stretch.

In the basement of the Fortville United Methodist Church, next to the park, organizers set up a display about the town’s history.

Rebecca Crowe, who helped run the display, said there was a steady flow of people through the church looking to learn more about the town.

Crowe said those who stopped by were intrigued to find out that Fort paid about $1 per acre when he bought the land where Fortville now sits and that the town had two other names before Fortville — Woodberry and then Walpol.

Sharon Beemer has lived in Fortville for roughly 40 years. She said she’s rarely seen such a large number of residents turn out for a town-sponsored event.

“It’s great to see the activity,” she said. “People are (in the park), the shops are open, and people are getting together and talking. It’s great.”

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Caitlin VanOverberghe is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3237 or cvanoverberghe@greenfieldreporter.com.