Erik is a professional blogger and social media consultant. He is also a humor columnist in several weekly papers around Indiana, and on his own blog at ErikDeckers.com. A supporter of the local arts scene, Erik is a rabid fan of the Indy Fringe Theatre Festival in the summer. Erik is married and a father of three, and a Ball State alum. Erik receives compensation from the Indiana Office of Tourism Development — and a warm fuzzy feeling — for blogging. For more information, see our FTC Disclosure page.
Day 2 of the Hendricks County travel writing trip sees us sitting in what I have dubbed the Man Cave, which was originally a high school cafeteria. Except now there are four men in here: two of the guys from Visit Hendricks County, a random bus driver, and me.
There are also eight women in the room, so I don’t think I was clear on the concept of the Man Cave when I declared it.
Yesterday, we traipsed all over Morgan County — well, Mooresville and Martinsville — as part of our travel writers’ tour. Visit Hendricks County added several stops in Morgan County onto their own cultural trail as part of a grant from the Indiana Office of Tourism Development. Today, we’re checking out several stops on Hendricks County, all as a part of the winter and holiday time of year. First stop, Plainfield High School for a little Christmas shopping.
We’re at the Gingerbread Christmas in Plainfield, a single day event put on the by the Tri Kappa sorority, Plainfield chapter. It’s a juried arts and crafts show where artists and artisans from around the area set up a booth and sell their wares for Christmas shoppers. It’s a fund raiser for Tri Kappa, and they use the money they make to support several different charitable funds and support causes, like providing dental care and eye care for area children.
If you love arts and crafts, and handmade items to give as Christmas gifts, this is definitely a must-stop for you. There are dozens of booths with handmade wooden toys, food items (I almost bought some honey from a nearby beekeeper, but they didn’t take plastic), clothing, bags, and other gift ideas. The place is full, and we’re in early enough that only people with special invitations can get in this early. There are people waiting outside the Plainfield High School gymnasium, and this place will fill up at 9 am.
I make the wise choice and head back to the cafeteria, where we all had breakfast, generously provided by the Plainfield Chik-fil-A, before visiting the Gingerbread Christmas. I sat down to start writing today’s article, when the bus driver came in and asked me if it was the man cave. I said it was, and he was soon followed by Josh Duke and Eric Ivie of Visit Hendricks County.
Ever the entrepreneur, I’ve already suggested to a couple Tri Kappa members who popped in that they should turn the cafeteria into a real man cave for next year. Get a couple large screen TVs, some wings and biscuits and gravy, and invite all the men who are currently shuffling like zombies in the shopping area, while the wives flit from booth to booth looking at their gift ideas for the season. If they don’t run with this idea, maybe I’ll do it myself next year and make a little extra money.
Everyone congregated back at the cafeteria after they were done shopping, and it was time to head off to our next stop.
Frazee Gardens is a high-end nursery and gift shop in Brownsburg, Indiana on State Road 267. Not only can you find the typical garden-variety, uh, garden varietals — flowers, plants, shrubs, vegetables, and seeds — but there are several different artisans whose works are available as well. Whether you want jewelry, carved stone, or framed paintings, you can find something to decorate your home, greenhouse, shed, or garden area.
I ended up talking social media marketing with Sarah McMillen for a lot of the time as we walked around the Frazee Gardens, since I don’t know that much about plants and gardening. (Every year I promise myself I’m going to grow tomatoes, but I never do. Maybe 2014 will be my year.)
From Frazee, we headed over to Danville and the Mayberry Cafe right there on the square for a catered lunch. The Mayberry Cafe is a themed restaurant based on the Andy Griffith Show, complete with a replica of Andy’s car out front.
It’s a two-story restaurant, so we were sent upstairs for a special buffet lunch of meatloaf, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and vegetables — I did the kids’ trick of putting my corn in my mashed potatoes, something I’ve always done, no matter how childish it seems.
I also watched a long-forgotten episode of The Andy Griffith show on the TVs upstairs, the one where Barney Fife is trying to sing opera (“Santa Lucia”), only to learn that Gomer Pyle is a much better singer. They run nothing but old episodes of Andy Griffith on their TVs, including the old commercials. It’s interesting to see those old ads and to see what was considered effective marketing back in the 50s. I think about the parents and grandparents who take their kids to the restaurant to show them their favorite childhood show. This is something I often do with my own kids, showing them the way things were when I was a kid. We’ve made them watch Gilligan’s Island and The Brady Bunch. Maybe we need to come here to show them what our parents watched.
We had a little time after lunch, so I walked around downtown Danville, and stopped in at Court House Grounds for a quick cup of coffee, before we were going to be treated to story time and dessert at the Visit Hendricks County office.
Noted author Philip Gulley calls Danville home, and I’ve been proud to share the same general geographic region with him, even if we are an hour away from each other. He’s the author of over 18 books, and travels the country speaking. This year, Philip was asked by the Downtown Danville Partnership to write a Christmas story they could illustrate around the square to help promote the merchants, as well as the town.
So he came up with the story of Clarence the Camel, a children’s story about a dromedary (one-hump) camel who’s tired of living in the desert, and wants a change of scenery.
Twenty-five local and area artists then came together and each illustrated one of the pages of the book, with their creation adorning one of the windows. If you start near the Mayberry Cafe, on the northwest corner of the square, you can walk all the way around the square and read the book in its entirety. I made it about a third of the way around before it was time to go back and hear the story in its entirety.
I say “hear the story,” because Gulley’s wife Joan was going to read it to us. She was doing that because when the book was first unveiled, organizers had asked him to read it. Gulley declined, saying Joan was the professional out-loud-reader (she’s a children’s librarian), and she should be the one to do it at the unveiling, which she did. Today she reprised her role for us, and we got to hear the story of Clarence the Camel.
“Don’t fall asleep,” she admonished us before she started. “That could be disheartening.” Except I couldn’t help it. After a carb-heavy lunch of fried chicken and mashed potatoes, plus sitting in a warm room after a cold walk, I found my eyes getting heavier and heavier.
Thankfully, Joan finished the story before I face planted onto the table or into my dessert, provided by the Bread Basket, a local cafe and bakery just a couple blocks away from the courthouse. (I had the white chocolate peppermint cake, which was outstanding, and oh-so rich.)
I would imagine several of us were ready to nap after that, so it’s a good thing we had a schedule to keep. We thanked the women of the Bread Basket, and Joan Gulley, and climbed back aboard the bus for a trip to Beasley’s Orchard just a few minutes east of downtown Danville.
Seeing an orchard in winter time is a weird feeling. The apples are gone, or nearly so, the trees stand in naked row after naked row. Thanks to the rolling terrain, this particular orchard looked like these trees went on forever. A few stubborn apples remained on the trees, and were soft and pulpy on the branch. I wondered if animals ate those, or if even they turned their noses up at what remained. I thought about what it would actually take to make them fall off the branch, but left them alone so they could continue to cling for as long as possible.
Beasley’s Orchard is a working orchard and a rustic gift shop inside an old barn, selling several different kinds of apples, cheeses, local food items, as well as cider and gifts. We warmed ourselves by a fire in the corner, and a couple of us got to see the sorting line where workers sort through all of the apples as they come in from the orchards.
As if we weren’t full enough, Beasley’s plied us with cheese, apple slices, Amish salami (try saying that five times fast), and hot cider. After spending several minutes outside to take a bunch of pictures of that damn apple, I was ready for a warmup. I always love apple cider in the fall and winter, especially hot cider, so I went back a couple of times for a refill.
By this time of day, my trip was over. The rest of the group was heading to Cutters Brewing Company (started by an IU grad, named after the bike racing team in one of my all-time favorite movies, Breaking Away), but I had to be in Muncie for a mini-reunion with some friends, so I left.
As I was telling Josh Duke, communications manager for Visit Hendricks County, since I live up in Hamilton County, Hendricks and Morgan Counties seem so far away. In fact, they are. I can get to Muncie from my house in about 45 minutes, but it takes me nearly an hour to get to Danville. Even Fort Wayne up in northeast Indiana, at 90 minutes away, seems closer.
But after spending two well-spent days in this part of Indiana, it feels closer and more convenient — and necessary — to visit, now that I know what’s “over there” in that part of the state.
I mentioned in my previous post about Day 1 in Morgan County that the last time I was in Mooresville was when I went to lunch at Zydeco’s five years ago. After this latest trip, I’ll be sure to get back to these two counties much sooner than that.