Ever worry so much about an upcoming event with so many variables which could go wrong that you end up waking up in the early darkness, staring at the ceiling and wondering how in the WORLD it's going to get pulled off with no missteps?
Yeah, well, the local organizers of the Scott County leg of the Indiana State Bicentennial Torch Relay had a few nights like that.
In fact, when Friday, September 16, finally dawned, several on the committee were already up and going, despite the fact that the state entourage wasn't expected until 1 p.m. at Underwood.
And when that group pulled in, it looked like half the Indiana State Police (ISP) force was crowding into the parking lot of the old Underwood grocery store.
One of the most composed persons milling about the area was the first torch bearer, Ed Cozart. He wore a colorful version of early 1800s wear instead of the printed white pull-over shirt and the yellow hat and jacket distributed by the State Bicentennial Commission for all torchbearers. And on his red coat was his official Bicentennial torchbearer pin.
The group took a few minutes to eat box lunches ordered from a downtown Scottsburg cafe and delivered by the local Bicentennial Committee and then hopped back into their vehicles (or on some really snazzy ISP motorcycles), ready to roll once again. They'd spent the morning escorting torchbearers all around Clark County. Now, it was Scott County's turn.
Cozart climbed aboard the large fire engine, the department's 2013 E-ONE quint with fireman John Lord at the wheel, and away they went, clipping off the miles pretty quickly, and that was a good thing. The torch and the last torchbearer was to be at Johnson Elementary School at 2:30 p.m. No, make that HAD to be there.
Cozart, always a cordial fellow, handed off the torch to retired Scottsburg High School (SHS) basketball coach Jim Barley. Jim, a terrific coach and a nice guy, trotted it north on U.S. Highway 31 past a lot of people who came out along the highway to shout encouragement. Jim gave the torch to young Landon Campbell, a SHS freshman and the third torchbearer.
Landon never talks much and reluctantly said his experience was “....just walking the torch past the high school.” He didn't mention the rabid crowd of family members and friends who yelled happily as he completed his lap.
Landon gave the torch to Erick Mays, who had his own groupies consisting of his very proud grandmother, wife and two young sons, one of whom burst into tears because he could not accompany Dad on his route. There were already some tears among that group because Erick was carrying the torch for his late grandfather, Frank Mays. “If he had been able to be there, he would have proudly carried the torch,” Erick said later. In fact, Erick said he felt his granddad's presence “...right by my side...” as he walked to Ace Hardware to hand over the torch to LeRoy Williams.
In a few words, LeRoy is a character. So naturally his mode of transportation was a little, er, odd. Unusual. Crazy! LeRoy with his son-in-law as pilot rode in an oversized grocery cart the pair of them created. Guess what: It is the only grocery cart that will be used in the relay! How about that!
LeRoy zipped to Hyland Street on State Road 56 (McClain Avenue) where Sue Jones was waiting with several of her family members and her seven great-grandchildren across from Scottsburg Elementary School grounds. After a quick pic with her kids, Sue was supposed to climb aboard a golf cart her son Mike was driving. Instead, she walked for a bit and then rode for a bit, but she made sure the last few hundred feet were completed on foot as the 83-year-old walked the torch into downtown Scottsburg where Scottsburg Mayor Bill Graham was waiting for her with a big hug and a kiss.
Mayor Bill climbed on the fire department's 1934 fire engine driven by Scottsburg Fire Chief James Richey, the original one local firemen used in the department's early years, and was driven around the downtown courthouse square, winding up once again on the north side. Mayor Bill offered a few words, saying how grateful Scott County was to be on the torch relay. Iva Gasaway, President of the Scott County Council, also welcomed the Indianapolis people to the county. “We're very happy to participate in this important event,” she commented.
The torch was handed to County Councilman Raymond Jones, the next torchbearer. Raymond once led the department as fire chief, so he was quite happy to get on board the old fire engine. The engine stopped by the elementary school property once again, to the cheers of lots of excited elementary youngsters let out so they could witness the exchange and see the torch. “The whole experience was an honor,” stated Raymond.
At that point, cancer survivor Dustin Houchens was scheduled to be the next torchbearer, but Houchins was unable to participate, so alternate April Ramoni accepted the torch and carried it to the Sunoco station at the corner of S.R. 56 and U.S. 31. Ramoni was one of the artists who painted Scott County symbols on “Scott,” the county's Bicentennial bison won through her efforts earlier this year. There, veteran Al Riggle was waiting in a 1943 Willys jeep.
That jeep carried the retired USAF officer to Scott Memorial Hospital, where Riggle met up with former sheriff Gordon Julian, who, with wife Millie and driver Deputy Jac Sanders, carried the torch all the way to Austin High School, where Julian and his brothers had graduated many years ago.
As the Sheriff's Department Hummer pulled up in front of the school complex, the AHS band played the National Anthem and then the AHS Eagles' fight song. Yelling, screaming and clapping, the entire population of the high school and middle school joined the celebration. Balloons were released as Gordon handed the torch to Rick Rigel, a former coach and a darned good math teacher.
Rigel headed north on U.S. 31 and, in front of the original high school building, now Austin Upper Elementary School, and lots and lots of enthusiastic youngsters, he handed the torch to yet another good and memorable AHS teacher, retired educator Ron Atkins.
Ron paused briefly for photos and then turned north, jogging toward the corner of U.S. 31 and State Road 256, where retired Austin clerk-treasurer Clara Adkins was waiting.
Holding it carefully, Clara walked the torch to her old workplace, Austin City Hall, there receiving the congratulations of Mayor Dillo Bush, several city councilmen and city employees.
A shiny, huge fire engine supplied by the Jennings Township Volunteer Fire Department and manned by firemen Jason Campbell and Greg Hammond was waiting as was the only couple honored as torchbearers, the Rev. Steve Gwaltney and wife Pam of Grace Covenant Church of God. They climbed aboard, and off they went to Frontline Ministries, located in the old Austin Methodist Church along State Road 256.
There, the Gwaltneys handed the torch to Andie Myers, now a sixth grader at Scottsburg Middle School. With an elated Andie aboard, the firemen headed to Johnson Elementary, her alma mater and where she earned her citizenship certificate awarded by the General Charles Scott Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. There, the state entourage thanked her and the firemen and hurried on to their first torchbearer for Jennings County, waiting on State Road 3 near Paris Crossing.
“It was a lot of fun, a lot of fun,” said a still-excited Andie at the Bicentennial Bash held in downtown Scottsburg on Friday night.
Scott County was also praised by state coordinators. Having experienced some awkward moments in other counties, torch entourage members had nothing but praise for local participation. Scott County and its participants stayed on schedule. Advised one of the ISP officers in the entourage, “You guys were terrific!”
Not only was the whole relay definitely a lot of fun, it gave Scott Countians a chance to honor some remarkable people who have contributed to the betterment of the entire county, said Bicentennial Committee Chairman Brandon Polley. He thanked all of the torchbearers and those 60 some people nominated. He also gave a special nod to local committee members Adrian Smallwood, Jennifer Spicer and Jessica Jones for their help in making the torch visit a success.
For those unable to celebrate on September 16, there is a way to get a souvenir of the event. The local committee has several nice torch relay t-shirts available at the office of the Scott County Visitors Commission, which sponsored the torch's visit.
Interested in getting a shirt? Call the Visitors Commission at 812-752-9211 or visit the office at Scottsburg Heritage Station on North Main Street, Scottsburg.