HANCOCK COUNTY — The Indiana Bicentennial Torch Relay passed through Hancock County Friday along its roughly 3,200-mile journey through 260 Hoosier cities and towns. The torch relay ends today at the state capitol, where a Hoosier Homecoming celebration is planned.
Twenty local residents carried the torch, honoring Indiana’s 200th birthday this year, through Fortville, McCordsville, Cumberland, New Palestine and Greenfield.
Along the way, communities conducted small celebrations to commemorate the historic moment with their residents.
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There were car shows, music, food, children’s events and booths celebrating state and local history.
The local leg of the relay ended Friday evening at the Hancock County 4-H Fairgrounds, where torchbearer Sarah Kesterson used the torch to light a cauldron, symbolizing the end of the torch’s journey through Hancock County.
Here’s a snapshot of Friday’s events.
The hustle and bustle that filled Main Street just moments before fell silent.
As the national anthem, followed by “On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away,” Indiana’s state song, filled the air, residents put their hands over their hearts and looked to the flags.
Dozens of spectators and classic cars lined Main Street in Fortville on Friday to celebrate the relay.
The torch began its travels through Hancock County in Fortville on Friday afternoon, where torchbearer Andrew Ebbert picked it up at the Madison County line.
Just before the torch made its way through Fortville’s downtown, a short ceremony was conducted, honoring 200 years of statehood and Fortville’s torchbearers.
It was Paul Okerson, a Fortville resident who is the driving force behind the Ten West Center for the Arts, who carried the torch down Main Street as friends and neighbors watched.
Myrna Cook of Greenfield came out for classic cars — she’s an enthusiast — but she couldn’t help but snap a few photos of the historic moment.
“It’s something to see,” she said. “Something for us to be proud of.”
At the Hancock County Courthouse, adorned with gold and blue balloons and streamers, local musician Jim Mayfield played music for spectators who crowded around, eagerly awaiting the torch’s arrival.
Just a few miles at the county fairgrounds, revelers kicked off the party hours before the torch passed through.
Area organizations filled the exhibit hall to talk with visitors about their history and missions. Some were around for the state’s centennial, while others were established after, said Kesterson, a local bicentennial organizer.
The Hancock County Purdue Extension Office marketed a new book launched just in time for the 200th celebration of statehood.
“Enriching the Hoosier Farm Family” by Frederick Whitford highlights the history of the Purdue Extension Office, which was established in 1912.
The Hancock County Herb Society showed people how to make potpourri and offered coloring pages as a tribute to the Hoosier poet James Whitcomb Riley, who once lived in Greenfield.
On a day focused on the past, John “Rob” Richardson wondered about the future.
The Fortville native smiled as his family members took turns wrapping an arm around him to pose for a picture, his bright yellow torchbearer windbreaker standing out among the crowd.
Richardson was among the area residents entrusted with carrying the Indiana bicentennial torch as it passed through Hancock County Friday. He rode up to the McCordsville United Methodist Church in an antique fire truck from the Shirley Volunteer Fire Department to greet a crowd of about 100 friends and neighbors, who waited excitedly to witness a moment of state history.
Each person who came to the McCordsville United Methodist Church on Friday was given a mini Indiana state flag as a souvenir, McCordsville town manager Tonya Galbraith said.
The church is one of the oldest buildings in McCordsville town limits, prompting bicentennial organizers to select it was a spot along the route, Galbraith said. Organizers set up snack stations, yard games, a face-painting booth and parked historic cars in the packing lot for spectators to enjoy.
After climbing down from the old fire rig, Richardson, a U.S. Army veteran with more than 20 years of service to his name, paused for a moment to appreciate how the event had brought so many Hoosiers together. Days before this and for days to come, crowds just like the one in McCordsville have formed around the state, all looking to celebrate the same milestone, he said.
It made him wonder what it will be like when the state comes together again in 2116 to celebrate the state’s tricentennial. He hopes his descendants will look back on this day and smile.
“My family, 100 years from now, can look back and know I was part of this,” he said. “That’s special.”