You should have been there Wednesday night, August 24. Really.
Because the meeting itself was a good time, and everyone got to learn how to properly handle the Indiana Bicentennial torch.
And everyone got to hold the torch!
Staff of an Indianapolis company called Maribeth Smith and Associates invited all of the torch bearers in the soon-to-start Indiana Bicentennial Torch Relay from a five-county area here in Southern Indiana to attend a brief orientation meeting at Brownstown High School that evening. The firm has been hired by the Indiana Office of Tourism Development (IOTD) to organize the path the relay will be taking through every one of Indiana's 92 counties six days a week. On Mondays, everyone gets a day off.
To prepare and promote the relay, the IOTD set up a website last year, which was hosted on the Indiana State Bicentennial Commission's website. On part of the website, people could nominate those they'd like to see carry the torch through their respective counties. That nomination process was completed last December.
Scott County has 17 torch bearers: Clara Adkins, Ron Atkins, Jim Barley, Landon Campbell, Ed Cozart, Mayor Bill Graham, Pam and Steve Gwaltney, Dustin Houchens, Sue Jones, Raymond Jones, Gordon Julian, Frank Mays, Andie Myers, Rick Rigel, Al Riggle and LeRoy Williams. Frank Mays, who is deceased, will be represented by his grandson, Eric Mays.
The audience at Brownstown was an interesting mix. Youngsters, oldsters and those in-between listened as staff members talked about the relay, how it will be structured and how the Indiana State Police escorts are not at all afraid of telling organizers/participants to, well, step up the pace.
Advised one speaker, “Think of it as a funeral procession....only a happier one!”
The torch relay begins on Friday, September 9, in the old state capitol of Corydon. It'll wander around this area of the state, making its way over to Evansville and back and hitting Scott County at 1 p.m. on Friday, September 16.
Local organizers have 1½ hours to get it through the county, using U.S. Highway 31 (yes, the one that's been messed up ALL summer, thank you for reminding me...) and State Roads 56, 256 and 3. FYI: The media specialist at the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) recently advised that the work on what we locals identify as the Marshfield bridge on U.S. 31 between Scottsburg and Austin will be completed before the torch arrives.
What INDOT plans to do about U.S. 31 is still being decided. We learned from the changed route of our 2016 “Come to the Fair” parade this past July that INDOT is not happy about anyone using a construction area for such events. To be fair, however, the contractor has accomplished a lot of work on the highway in both cities in the past week or so. Maybe that problem will correct itself. Real soon.
At first, local organizers thought the torch would be passed at the county line with Jefferson County on S.R. 256 east of Austin. Oh no, Scott County has to get the torch all the way from Underwood to Deputy. So, the last leg of the relay will actually be going into portions of Jefferson and Jennings counties before our last torch bearer relinquishes the torch.
Each Indiana county gets its own torch to keep, and it's a dandy gadget, fresh from the hands of its inventors at Purdue University. It even has its own camera, and torch bearers can activate it at themselves to take selfies or aim it to take short videos. Ball State University students will be taking those snippets and putting them on social media for everyone to enjoy.
Everyone can keep track of where the torch is by going to the appropriate app, which will soon be available on the Apple App Store and on Google Play for Android devices. Search for Indiana Torch Relay 2016 there. IOTD's recently-launched website can be found at http://indianatorchrelay.com/.
Torch bearers are also being encouraged to share their experiences on social media channels #INTorchRelay or @INTorchRelay.
Right now, the county's Bicentennial Committee is meeting weekly to work out all of the details about where each of the 17 people will take the torch and where they will hand it off. The next meeting is set for 12:30 p.m. this Thursday, September 1, at Scottsburg City Hall. Bring a lunch and prepare to eat and plan at the same time.
If you have 17 participants, you have to have 17 ways of whisking these folks along the route, right? Think about it! There's a lot of ground to cover in very little time. And the torch is going to visit the Scott County Courthouse and Austin City Hall, too.
Currently, our torch bearers are talking about using their feet, tractors, cars, a golf cart or two and fire engines. LeRoy Williams is thinking of whizzing down the highway in a souped-up grocery cart. According to one of the state coordinators, it'll be the only one used on the route.
People will be more than welcome to line the route and cheer on the torch bearers. No one can walk with a torch bearer; there are some things you just got to do by yourself. Torch bearers must supply their own drivers of whatever-it-is they will be using to scoot along their section of the course.
A meeting of all torch bearers is in the planning stage just so everyone is comfortable with what is going to happen where.
Final plans for the September 16 Indiana Bicentennial Celebration in the Courtyard at Scottsburg will be announced soon, too.
Stay tuned for more updates!