News From Terre Haute, Indiana

News

May 23, 2013

Banks of the Wabash Festival is more than just yearly entertainment

BOW Festival once featured log-rolling, rowing events

TERRE HAUTE — Pioneers think counterintuitively.

Where others see widespread apathy, they focus on the possibility for progress.

In a way, the 2013 Year of the River celebration began in the 1970s. A small group of local folks wanted to breathe new life into Fairbanks Park — the best location in Terre Haute to view and experience the Wabash — and created the Banks of the Wabash Festival.

Today, the festival, now a tradition, resumes for the 40th time. Its venue looks far different. And that was the organizers’ intention.

“The whole purpose of the group that started this festival was to rebuild Fairbanks Park,” said Ron Reeves, a retired Rose-Hulman administrator and treasurer of the original festival board, an independent collection of about a dozen forward-thinkers. Benches and picnic areas were scarce at the park, Reeves recalled, and the amphitheater lacked modern amenities.

Seems like the ideal spot to launch a new community-wide festival, right?

Yet, it happened, and it worked.

The festival started modestly in 1974 in a historic, low spot on the park’s southwest side, explained John Dice, a food vendor at the inaugural festival. Decades earlier, that same area of the park housed the city’s first municipal pool. In 1991, a fountain dedicated to American veterans was built there. In 1975, organizers expanded the activities beyond that spot, added a carnival, and watched the Banks of the Wabash Festival grow.

Crowd numbers were hard to calculate because there was no admission or parking charge, but total turnouts likely neared 30,000 people, Dice estimated. Part of the appeal was the festival’s creativity, featuring small-town activities at an urban gathering, such as small kids racing Big Wheel tricycles while “all the parents and grandparents were around them watching,” Reeves said. Another out-of-the-box twist involved McDonald’s restaurants dropping Ping-Pong balls, labeled with prize information for the finder, from an airplane. “Everyone was running to catch the Ping-Pong balls,” Dice said.

The Wabash itself was a focal point. Motor boats, hydroplanes, log rafts and “anything-goes-craft” raced on the water. And, in what seems eye-poppingly daring now, the Banks festival even included log-rolling and one-man row-boating competitions.

Log-rolling. On the Wabash. Really.

Floating logs, of course, aren’t an uncommon sight on the river, but they’re random, and humans aren’t standing on them.

“I remember people being up on the hillside watching, under the trees in the shade,” said Kevin Morris, who competed in the log-rolling in the late 1970s.

His first try came in 1979, facing a field of between six and a dozen rivals about 20 to 30 yards from the shore. With a public-address announcer calling the action, contestants stood on the log, gaining their balance, while log-rolling officials held the tree trunks still. Then, the logs were released and the fun began. Morris didn’t win — “I remember going in the water” — but, “I think I did fairly well,” he said. When a participant fell off, a waiting motor boat circled and plucked them from the water. The following year, real logs were replaced by foam-covered 35-gallon drums, presumably for safety reasons.

Morris fared better in the row-boat races. In his early 20s then, he’d grown up fishing and rowing on the Wabash with his dad and family. With his youth and experience, Morris won handily in ’79 and ’80, earning nifty, commemorative medals.

For him, the Wabash served as a home away from home. His family kept catfish, which he and his dad caught and cleaned, in the freezer year round. “Back in the day, there were a lot of people out on the river,” said Morris, now 55 and a Sony employee.

The spirit of adventure probably gave the Banks of the Wabash Festival its staying power. “It was a great show,” said Dice, who now coordinates the festival food and merchandise vendors.

Log-rolling, row boat races and aerial Ping-Pong-ball drops ended long ago, and the schedule is tamer these days. The independent festival board turned the operations over to the city of Terre Haute in 1984. “The festival got a little bit too big for us to handle,” Reeves said, “and that’s when the city took over.” Its name changed to the Wabash Valley Festival from ’84 to 2005, to the Fairbanks Park Arts and Music Festival from ’06 to ’09, and back to the Banks of the Wabash Festival in 2010. Crowds remain large, and admission and music free, with rides, food and arts-and-crafts merchandise for purchase.

Most important, as the festival evolved, Fairbanks Park gradually improved, including a $400,000 upgrade of the amphitheater, dedicated in 2002.

Last year, Reeves attended his church picnic at the park. He looked around, in a big-picture way. Reeves, now 77, was impressed.

“It was really what we wanted to have happen in the first place,” he said.

A city such as Terre Haute needs that spirit of positive change.

Mark Bennett can be reached at 812-231-4377 or mark.bennett@tribstar.com.



 

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
News
  • MET 070914 GARDEN 01LARI.jpg Plentiful harvest

    Along the southern bank of Otter Creek near Clinton Street, across the street from North Terre Haute Christian Church, some rocky soil has proven to be fertile ground for new seeds.

    July 12, 2014 4 Photos 1 Story

  • MET 071014 GARDEN 01DIEMER.jpg Meeting need for fresh foods

    There’s something about watching a zucchini go from seedling to soup that is satisfying for Jean Diemer.

    July 12, 2014 3 Photos 1 Story

  • MET 071214 60 YEARS.jpg Celebrating 60 years of pride at Hulman Field

    The buildings may have changed, and the mission has certainly changed, but the pride remains the same when those celebrating the 60th anniversary of the 181st Intelligence Wing of the Indiana Air National Guard came together Saturday at Hulman Field.

    July 12, 2014 5 Photos

  • MET071214 treasure sign.jpg Treasure-hunters forced in doors

    Rain on a Saturday morning can be a big bummer for yard sales.

    July 12, 2014 5 Photos

  • Tank wiring said to be cause of oil-field fire

    An electrical short has been blamed for a Friday night fire at the Pinnacle Exploration oil field on Fruitridge Avenue south of Hulman Street.

    July 12, 2014

  • MET071114  St bens ellis.jpg Annual St. Ben’s community festival kicks off

    The St. Ben's Community Festival kicked off Friday night and continues from 5 p.m. until midnight today.

    July 11, 2014 4 Photos

  • MET 071114 DELISH GREENE.jpg Adding to the mix

    The mix of local food choices will get a fresh stir in the near future, as a café opens a second location, a pizza place moves downtown and a national chain sprouts in two more spots.

    July 11, 2014 4 Photos

  • MET071114 guard bennett.jpg Shift from jets to intelligence

    Loud, impressive fighter jets once zoomed regularly across the sky in Terre Haute, their roars drowning out the sounds of televisions and telephones all around the area.

    July 11, 2014 4 Photos 2 Stories

  • MET 071114 MANN P.C..jpg Candidates’ views clash over more education testing, vouchers

    Indiana needs to change direction to improve education, said Democrat Jim Mann, who will face incumbent Rep. Robert Heaton, R-Terre Haute, in a rematch race for Indiana House District 46.

    July 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • MET071114bad check.jpg Fraudulent checks with an extra ‘t’

    A Terre Haute woman who received a large check in the mail this week wants to warn others that though the check looks legitimate, it is a scam.

    July 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Truck, van collide, stopping some U.S. 41 lanes for an hour

    Northbound traffic on U.S. 41 south of Terre Haute was blocked for about one hour Friday because of a two vehicle crash.

    July 11, 2014

  • council mtg 013.JPG Mayor: City will not file bankruptcy

    The Terre Haute City Council took well more than  an hour to ask questions and discuss the health of the city’s finances with top city officials in a special meeting Thursday night. A few councilmen expressed grave concern about the financial picture, while Mayor Duke Bennett said things were improving.

    July 10, 2014 2 Photos 1 Story

  • State official threatens prosecution of city leaders who talk about audit

    A state official has threatened to pursue the prosecution of city officials if they violate a confidentiality agreement signed last month.

    July 10, 2014

  • MET 071014 181 02EXPO.jpg ISU, 181st Intelligence Wing show off capabilities at expo

    Communication and getting unmanned eyes in the sky can be vital parts of responding to a natural or man-made disaster.

    July 10, 2014 3 Photos 1 Story

  • Feds relent: Military to restore equipment program for fire departments

    An agreement has been reached to keep surplus military equipment rolling into rural fire department bays in Indiana and 47 other states.

    July 10, 2014

  • united way.jpg UW kicks off pilot campaign

    Dottie King remembers the day she saw a young man leaving St. Ann’s Dental Clinic after having 17 teeth pulled. He had not received sufficient dental care before that day so his need was dramatic. That was unlike King, who had visited the dentist regularly since childhood, but still found getting a tooth filled not on her list of fun things to do. “I thought to myself, ‘I never have thought about the blessing of dental care,’” King recalled, sharing that story on Thursday morning with other volunteers for the United Way of the Wabash Valley.

    July 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • MET 071014 181 HILL.jpg Indiana’s director of homeland security sees unmanned systems’ potential

    Integrating unmanned flight systems into use for domestic surveillance can provide first responders with key information in responding to fires, earthquakes and man-made disasters, said John Hill, director of the Indiana Department of Homeland Security.

    July 10, 2014 1 Photo 1 Story

  • Stunt performer scheduled to be at Wigwam

    A celebrity stunt man named Jim “Crash” Moreau is scheduled to perform at Terre Haute’s Wigwam Skate and Event Center on Saturday.

    July 10, 2014

  • Rain barrels offered for sale

    The Vigo County Soil and Water Conservation District is taking orders for 55-gallon rain barrels.

    July 10, 2014

  • Ash.jpg Tips lead to meth lab bust

    Two people were arrested after police busted a clandestine methamphetamine lab Thursday in the 2200 block of Fourth Avenue in Terre Haute.

    July 10, 2014 2 Photos

  • MET070914 house exterior.jpg Historic Ohio Boulevard house inspired by 1948 Cary Grant movie

    Spurred in 1948 by a newly released movie staring Cary Grant and Myrna Loy, coupled with a growing post-World War II housing market, General Electric partnered with Hollywood’s RKO Studios to build “dream homes” throughout the country.

    July 9, 2014 4 Photos 1 Story

  • Detour ahead

    A panel of public and private officials is calling for $10 billion in projects to upgrade Indiana’s aging roads and bridges, but its members concede there’s no money to pay for it all.

    July 9, 2014

  • MET070814 barrels.jpg MARK BENNETT: Making road work a barrel of fun for drivers

    We’re lucky orange barrels can’t talk.

    July 9, 2014 2 Photos

  • City Council to take up city finances tonight

    The Terre Haute City Council will have a chance in a special meeting tonight to delve deeply into the city’s financial health. However, council members are being asked to avoid raising the most controversial subject of recent weeks: The city’s use of Redevelopment Commission tax increment finance (TIF) money.

    July 9, 2014

  • Bennett accepts $5,000 fine in ethics settlement

    Former Indiana Schools Superintendent Tony Bennett has agreed to pay $5,000 as part of a settlement with Indiana’s ethics watchdog in which he admits to using state resources for campaign work but is cleared of formal ethics violations in the grade-change scandal that cost him his job as Florida’s schools chief last year.

    July 9, 2014

  • Vermillion Jail trusties face new charges

    Two former inmate trusties at the Vermillion County Jail face new criminal charges after a recently discovered security breach at the jail.

    July 9, 2014

  • Lawrence police acquire armored military vehicle

    A central Indiana city has acquired an armored military vehicle for use in highly dangerous situations.

    July 9, 2014

  • Free carwash for law enforcement

    Mike’s Carwash locations in Central Indiana, including Terre Haute, will honor the sacrifice of IMPD Officer Perry Renn and thank all those who serve and protect our communities with a free carwash for police and emergency personnel today and Friday.

    July 9, 2014

  • MET070814 voice four.jpg Hitting a high note

    A 17-year-old from Casey, Ill., won “The Voice of the Valley” Tuesday night, singing and shaking his hips and legs to an Elvis Presley song, then wooing the grandstand audience at the Wabash Valley Fairgrounds with a country tune.

    July 9, 2014 2 Photos

  • MET 070814 STORM STAUNTON.jpg Clay County residents clean up debris, get power back

    Several power outages still affected hundreds of Duke Energy customers on Tuesday, more than 24 hours after storms and strong winds swept through west-central Indiana, leaving a swath of damage in the Staunton, Brazil and Center Point areas.

    July 9, 2014 4 Photos

Latest News
TribStar.com Poll
AP Video
Joy Fills Streets of Cleveland As LeBron Returns Raw: Stunning Timelapse of WC Final Host City Raw: Militants, Israelis Exchange Rocket Fire Israel Widens Attack As Gaza Death Toll Rises Raw: Israel, Gaza Exchange Rocket Fire Texas Shooting Suspect Collapses in Court Raw: Airstrike Creates Chaos on Gaza Streets Netherlands Beats Host Brazil 3-0 to Finish 3rd LeBron: Move Back to Cleveland 'Exciting' Raw: Airstrike Creates Chaos on Gaza Streets World Cup Final Pits Argentina Against Germany Ana Ortiz on 'Devious Maids' Finale WH: LeBron's Move a 'Powerful Statement' Raw: Sirens Blare Over Jerusalem Proposed Bill to Regulate NY Costumed Characters Diaz and Segel Strip Off for 'Sex Tape' FIFA Rejects Suarez Appeal Against Biting Ban Raw: Rebel Leader Weds in Eastern Ukraine Death Toll Tops 100 As Israel Offense Continues Raw: Brazil Fans Cry After World Cup Loss
NDN Video
Cellphone Video Shows Assault Tracy Morgan released from rehab month after crash LeBron: Move Back to Cleveland 'Exciting' Cleveland welcomes home LeBron Houston Killer Collapses in Court When Read Capital Murder Charges for Allegedly Killing Family of Six Worst Valet Ever Wrecks $500K Lamborghini Glee Star Becca Tobin's Boyfriend Matt Bendik Found Dead in Hotel Aerial fish restocking in Utah ScarJo Channels Marilyn Monroe Obama Responds to Hecklers on Immigration Tiny Hamsters Who Ate Burritos are Back for a Tiny Hedgehog's Party Watch Kelly Ripa Get Soaked! 'Referee' Hands Out Yellow Cards for Social Faux Pas in NYC 2014 Emmy Nominees: 8 Snub Shockers Emma Watson Is Va-Va-Voom in Valentino 7 Infamous Sports Blowouts Argentina tops Holland in World Cup semifinals News flush: Japanese toilet exhibition making a splash Emmy Nominations: What to Watch For 'Game of Thrones' Leads 66th Emmy Awards Nominations
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
  • -

     

    March 12, 2010

activity
Real Estate News