Showcasing Lanesville’s Heritage
Stephanie Taylor Ferriell, Senior Staff Writer, [email protected]
Rachael Mattingly described Lanesville Heritage Weekend as a “tractor tradition” for her family.
“We’d always pick one souvenir tractor,” said the Nabb resident. “Through the years, our collection grew.”
Today, she continues that tradition with her own son.
Mattingly started a new venture at last year’s festival, a craft booth with friend Robyn Gardner of Sellersburg. Heartfelt Crafts for Kindness features personalized and handcrafted items.
“Today was really busy,” Gardner said Saturday evening.
Mattingly said Heritage Weekend is a big boost to the tiny town of Lanesville, providing a bump to the local economy and showcasing the community to many people from outside of the area. She likes the focus on agriculture, saying the educational aspect is beneficial for those who don’t live in a rural area and aren’t exposed to tractors and farm life.
Heritage Weekend had a humble beginning.
Robert Schickel, a member of the planning committee, remembers being a student at Lanesville High School in 1976, when the community had a bicentennial celebration. Students built booths for the event. It seemed a shame to let them go to waste afterward, so English teacher John Richard spearheaded a new festival, one that focused on heritage and reminiscing.
“He had foresight,” said Schickel as he surveyed a steady stream of visitors perusing the grounds Saturday.
Heritage Weekend is unique in that parking, admission and shuttle rides are completely free. Schickel said the planning committee believes attendees are more likely to spend money at the festival if they don’t have to pay to get in.
The festival contracts with Boy Scout Troop 10 and Scouts BSA (for girls) affiliated with St. Anthony Church in Clarksville to provide parking and trash pick-up. The group begins working shifts Wednesday, said Christy Heiligenberg, as she waved vehicles into rows in a field at the west edge of town. There are five main lots and two for handicapped drivers.
Heiligenberg said not only do the Scouts working the weekend earn money for troop expenses, “they learn how to work as a team, how to problem-solve, deal with the public; there’s many lessons learned.”
Rachel Leffler was another youth who worked at this year’s festival. She and other members of the Lanesville Student Council staffed a booth selling drinks and chips.
While it was her first year working, Heritage Weekend is a tradition for Leffler, who cited the rides and tractor pull as her favorite events. The festival, she said, “is the kickoff to fall.”
Variety is the key to the festival’s success, said Schickel.
“It’s for all ages and there’s something for everyone: a beer garden, rides for the kiddies, arts and crafts, farm machinery, a tractor pull and lots of food,” he said.
Food has been a staple from the beginning. And the members of St. John’s Lutheran School have staffed a booth consecutively each year. Not rain, not hurricane-force winds or anything else Mother Nature dished out deterred St. John’s members.
Brian and Pam Johnston have worked the booth for decades, inheriting the responsibility from the original group. Pam remembers her relatives working in the booth and at night at home after the festival closed.
“They’d come home with dirty dishes; some would wash the dishes while someone else sat at the table and counted the money,” she said. “That went on for years.”
They’ve seen the festival expand and expand, getting bigger almost every year. While the crowd of thousands and thousands comes from far beyond the Lanesville town limits, it’s a special time of year for those who grew up there.
“It’s like a class reunion,” said Pam Johnston. “You see people from your class. A lot of people don’t live here anymore, but they come back every year.”
Lanesville Heritage Weekend is “the heart of Lanesville,” said Schickel, noting, if people from out of the area know of Lanesville, it’s because of the festival. “It has put Lanesville on the map. Heritage showcases what a small community can do preserving history when we all work together.”
Want to get involved?
Planning for next year’s Heritage Weekend begins now. The festival committee will meet tomorrow (Thursday) at 7:30 p.m. at the Lanesville Heritage Community Center. Meetings take place throughout the year on the third Thursday of each month. Anyone interested is always welcome.