Fall time is a great time at the Riley home and museum

James Whitcomb Riley Boyhood Home and Museum 2021 By Maribeth Vaughn/Daily Reporter Staff Writer /[email protected]

GREENFIELD — Scarecrows, jack o’lanterns, birthday cake and more will highlight fall events coming up at the James Whitcomb Riley Boyhood Home and Museum.

Stacey Poe, coordinator for the home, said fun events like these are a great way to keep the mid-19th century home and museum relevant in an ever-changing world.

“James Whitcomb Riley is our local celebrity, born and raised. His poetry tells stories of Greenfield in the late 1800s, but his poetry transcends time. It is just as relevant today as it was then,” she said.

The home and museum, at 250 W. Main St. in Greenfield, draws visitors from all over the world.

This month, the home is hosting several events featuring Riley’s friend Lew Wallace with a presentation and silent film featuring “Ben Hur, A Tale of the Christ.” In October, it’s all about Riley’s birthday and fall favorites in the second annual Festival of Jack o’ Lanterns plus new scarecrows throughout downtown Greenfield. Here’s a look at what to expect.

Silent film to honor author

September’s events are spotlighting a comrade of the Hoosier Poet. Last week a book discussion was held on Lew Wallace’s “Ben Hur, a Tale of the Christ” and this Saturday, Sept. 18, will be a silent film followed by a presentation by Larry Paarlberg Sept. 25.

“(Wallace) was a contemporary of Riley’s, he was a friend of Riley’s and so it just seemed like a good fit,” said Stacey Poe, coordinator of the home. “We’re always trying to talk about Riley and all his friends.”

She added that the silent film, held at the H.J. Ricks Centre for the Arts, will have the same feel as it did a century ago.

“We’re going to have live accompaniment, a piano player,” she said. “It’s going to have that feel like it did in 1925 with the piano playing with the film.”

Buy a book at the museum and get a free ticket to the film and presentation; register at parks.greenfieldin.org.

Birthday party among celebrations

Each October, fans of the poet are invited to a birthday celebration in his honor. A cake and punch reception will be held from 1p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 10.

The annual event coincides with the Riley Festival each year, the city’s trademark event that bears his name.

Tours of the Riley home are extended the weekend of the festival, Oct. 7-10. Born in 1849, this marks the 172nd anniversary of Riley’s birth.

Poe said Riley’s birthday is a good time to visit the home, albeit a busy time. The home is open regularly for tours from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday throughout the end of October.

“Our hope is that visitors will come back to take a tour of the home, but our vision for the complex is to create a cultural center,” she said. “We want the community to know that there is always something of interest happening at the Riley Home.”

Poe wants people to think of Riley as not ‘just a poet’, but as an artist, a musician, an actor, and, according to Mark Twain, “the funniest man in America.”

Pumpkins, scarecrows on the way

Not long after the cake is gone, pumpkins and scarecrows will be featured at the historic site with the second annual Festival of Jack o’ Lanterns and a new Scarecrow Stroll in downtown Greenfield.

The home is partnering once again with Hancock County Arts for the pumpkin event, free and open the week prior to Halloween for people to view carving art and enjoy the glow of the home’s gardens. New this year is the addition of scarecrows: Greenfield Main Street is encouraging businesses and nonprofit organizations to display unique scarecrows throughout the downtown district, with several family contest entries displayed at the Riley home. Add in some hand-painted goblins for flair and prizes, and organizers hope the free autumn events will bring cheer to the community.

“Last year we had 50 jack lanterns and this year our goal is to have 100. The more jack-o-lanterns, the better,” said Carol Barrett, gallery and special events chairperson for Hancock County Arts. “We had families (in 2020) that were so delighted just to have a safe outdoor family-friendly event to participate in.”

Families or groups may carve a pumpkin at home and bring it to the gardens Oct. 24, or they can attend a pumpkin carving workshop at the gardens from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. that same day to learn artistic techniques. The pumpkins will be lit nightly through Oct. 31.

The stroll is free and open to the public. Barrett said it’s especially fun to see people come dressed for Halloween; treats will be given on Oct. 31.

Poe, who is also on the Greenfield Main Street board, said the success of last year’s pumpkin event made her realize that Main Street’s Scarecrow Scroll would tie the downtown perfectly with the home.

As nonprofits and businesses decorate downtown with scarecrows, families are welcome to bring a scarecrow to the Riley home. Prizes will be awarded for best pumpkins and best scarecrows.

“The gardens is just the perfect place to have a pumpkin walk,” Barrett said. “Adding the contest with the scarecrows will add lots of fun.”

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The James Whitcomb Riley Boyhood Home and Museum are owned by the City of Greenfield and operated by the Parks and Recreation Department.

The home provides an opportunity to view life from the poet’s perspective in the mid 1800s by offering a glimpse into a pioneer-era homestead, which includes many family items that influenced his life and poetry. The museum displays objects from later in Riley’s career as well as a gift shop and programming facility, Lizabuth Ann’s Kitchen.

The Boyhood Home and Museum are located at 250 West Main Street. Both are open for visitation from the first Tuesday of April to the last Saturday of October, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., except for Sundays, Mondays and major holidays.

Off season tours are available by appointment.

For more information or to schedule a group tour, call 317-462-8539 or email [email protected].