Pair of reenactors, nine local writers to be highlighted at Forks of Wabash Pioneer Fest

Beverly Williams, of Fort Wayne, entertains with a selection on the hammered dulcimer, a pioneer days instrument, at the 43rd annual Forks of the Wabash Pioneer Festival last year at the Huntington County Fairgrounds.
Beverly Williams, of Fort Wayne, entertains with a selection on the hammered dulcimer, a pioneer days instrument, at the 43rd annual Forks of the Wabash Pioneer Festival last year at the Huntington County Fairgrounds. TAB file photo.

The latest Forks of the Wabash Pioneer Festival will be a celebration of writers.

A pair of reenactors portraying famous Hoosier authors, along with nine local authors, will be among the special guests at this year’s festival, which is set for Saturday, Sept. 28, and Sunday, Sept. 29, at the Huntington County Fairgrounds, in Huntington.

This is the second year the festival has had a theme, says Publicity Chair Cindy Klepper. Shining a spotlight on the efforts of writers made a lot of sense to the festival’s steering committee, she states.

“They’re the reason we have the history,” she says, “is because the writers wrote it down. So, we’re paying tribute to the writers and their experiences.”

The famed Hoosier authors that will be brought back to life by reenactors are James Whitcomb Riley and Gene Stratton-Porter. Both writers were active in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Riley will be portrayed by Tanner Crawford while Stratton-Porter will be depicted by Claire Wiedman.

The local authors at the festival will be Bryan Ballinger, Dan Bickel, Christy Cabe, Kristi Drillien, Janice Harshbarger, Doris Gaines Rapp, Matthew Weigelt, PeggySue Wells and Debbie Wilson.

“They’re going to have a booth in the Antiques Barn,” says Klepper, “and they’ll talk about their books and their experiences writing.”

The authors will rotate through the booth during the festival’s two days. In addition to conversing with visitors about their craft, they will perform readings.

Writers won’t be the only creative people on hand at the festival. Actors, singers and musicians will be sharing their gifts with attendees as well. The actors of Masque and Gavel will be putting on melodrama shows throughout the weekend in the event’s Opera House, located inside the Larry and Joyce Keiffer Family Living Building. Also, Danny Russell, an Abraham Lincoln reenactor, will be appearing as the 16th president on both Saturday and Sunday.

“He always draws a crowd,” comments Klepper. “He is good. He looks just like Abe Lincoln.”

The event’s music lineup is robust, consisting of JennyLane, Sunny Taylor, Ivory West, Huntington North High School’s Varsity Singers, Bob Hart, Marty Miles, the Rust Belt Drifters, Dan Daniels, Lizzie eHoff and her Cough, the Roanoke Rounders and Whoa, Man!

Whoa, Man! is a Fort Wayne band that performs the music of pioneering female artists in rock and roll.

“We pay tribute to the pioneers of the mid-1800s as well as the pioneering spirits of today,” says Klepper of the band’s inclusion at the festival.

Aside from music, festival attendees can look forward to being entertained by magician Jim Barron, as well as the Huntington Champion Hill Toppers, a local baseball team that plays the sport in accordance with the rules and attire of when it was known as “base ball” in the 1800s.

In addition to the base ball reactors, military reenactors will be conducting demonstrations throughout the festival. There will even be a recreation of a historic duel, set to be performed on both Saturday and Sunday.

Attendees keen on seeing some sharpshooting also won’t want to miss the demonstrations put on by the Indiana Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association over the course of the festival.

Festival attendees should make sure to bring their appetites, as a wide range of food will be available for purchase at various  locations on the fairgrounds. Food Circle, located in the center of the fairgrounds, will boast over a dozen food vendors. Treats will also be sold in the Saloon, which is situated in the Parkview Huntington Hospital Show Arena, as well as Olde Town Town and Pioneer Village, both of which are located near Garfield Street.

Attendees will be able to purchase edible items to take home, too. The festival’s Farmers’ Market is located in the Forefront Ag Solutions Pavilion and will feature items ranging from jam to honey sticks.

Aside from tasty treats, a bevy of antiques and crafts will be available for purchase. First Merchants Bank Heritage Hall will serve as the festival’s Antiques Barn while the Helena Chemical Company H Building will serve as the Craft Barn.

“The Craft Barn is full,” says Klepper. “It’s bursting at the seams this year.”

Festivalgoers looking for an ATM can find one in Heritage Hall.

The festival will be open on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. On Sunday, there will be a pancake and sausage breakfast served starting at 8 a.m. Later, at 9 a.m., there will be a non-denominational, old-time worship service conducted by Rev. Chris Hayden, of Central Christian Church, in the Saloon. The main festival events will commence at 10 a.m. and run until 5 p.m.

There is a festival admission fee, which is reduced for students and waived for children under 5 years old.

The Huntington County Fairgrounds are located at 631 E. Taylor St., Huntington.

A complete festival schedule and map will appear in the Sept. 26 edition of The TAB. For more information about the festival, visit www.pioneerfestival.org.