Bicentennial Birthday Bash on tap for Bendix Woods

On October 8, the Indiana Bicentennial Torch Relay will wind its way through St. Joseph County, beginning at 10 am in Walkerton and culminating at Bendix Woods County Park in New Carlisle.

Over 150 nominations for St. Joseph County torchbearers were received last year, and 34 were selected to carry the torch.

Two of those include residents of New Carlisle, Dana Groves and Robert Middlebrook, who will carry the torch after it enters Bendix Woods County Park, along with Donna Pfeil of Granger.

Throughout the day on October 8, the official state caravan torch will wind its way past historic sites, institutions of higher learning, and state and local parks.

It will be conveyed by torchbearers on foot, on a bicycle, in golf carts, and in historic Studebaker vehicles. To celebrate the day and cap off ten months of Bicentennial-related activities, the planning committee for St. Joseph County is hosting the Bicentennial Birthday Bash at Bendix Woods County Park.

The free event will kick off at 10-11:15 am with “Bike the Track!,” a unique opportunity to bicycle on the three-mile track at Navistar, Inc. next to Bendix Woods.

Bike Michiana Coalition is coordinating the bike ride and is asking for a $10 donation which helps fund bike helmets for school children.

Helmets must be worn on the ride and no bicycles will be allowed to enter the track after 11:15am. Those interested in bicycling may park their cars at Navistar, but only until 2:15pm. A walk-through gate allows access to Bendix Woods County Park next door.

The track is the original Studebaker Proving Ground test track which is celebrating 90 years of operation. “Navistar has been a great partner in helping to plan and host several of the day’s festivities,” says Evie Kirkwood, Director of St. Joseph County Parks and a member of the Bicentennial steering committee for the county.

Navistar will also offer free bus tours, a rare opportunity for the public to see the back areas of the Proving Ground adjacent to the oval track. Tours begin from the Bendix Woods Nature Center, approximately every half hour from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm.

Within Bendix Woods County Park, the Bicentennial Experience, Indiana’s mobile interactive museum, will be on-site and open from 10:30-1:30pm.

“We are honored to host this traveling museum, as not every county was afforded the opportunity,” says Kirkwood. Most other activities kick off at 11 am within the park. New Carlisle’s own “Down by the Dock” will launch the music tent at 11:30. Billy Styx Nix and the Motown Machine and Tierra Viva will also perform during the day.

Historic New Carlisle will sell apple dumplings in the food vendor area where pierogis, sausage, tacos, and strawberry shortcake will also be offered. In the beer tent, South Bend Brew Werks will pour a “Bicentennial Brew” made with Bendix Woods maple syrup.

It is anticipated that the Torch Relay will arrive sometime around 1:30 pm and the New Prairie Marching Band is tentatively scheduled to perform, if their competition schedule allows.

Among the variety of children’s activities, the New Carlisle Library will host a Hoosier Scavenger Hunt. Two Bison-tennials, full-size fiberglass bison, will be on display, and the Potawatomi Zoo team will share info and activities about these mammals featured on the Indiana state seal.

Studebaker cars will be on display at the former Studebaker Clubhouse, now the Nature Center at Bendix Woods. The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi will perform a dance and drum demonstration, and black ash basketry artisans will demonstrate their craft.

Since St. Joseph County Parks is also celebrating “50 Years of Outdoor Fun,” park staff and volunteers will offer tours of the Studebaker Clubhouse, a hayride shuttle and a timeline of park history, among other activities.

“The Bash is a perfect way to celebrate both Indiana’s Bicentennial and St. Joseph County Parks’ 50th Anniversary,” adds Kirkwood, “We hope the community will come celebrate with us.”

A general list of activities can be found on Page 12 of The Gazette, and at

New Carlisle’s Torchbearers Dana Groves spearheaded fundraising and restoration for The Old Republic - the most prominent historic home in New Carlisle transforming it to a multi-use rental facility.

As director of Historic New Carlisle, she gives presentations to school and community groups and manages the local history museum.

She oversaw a community tree reforestation project and organizes tributes to Veterans, Lincoln Highway Day and restaurant events that showcase the town.

She also authored the book "New Carlisle" in the Images of America series.

Robert Middlebrook has served over 40 years on the New Carlisle Volunteer Fire Department, nine of those years as Chief.

He has been a youth sports coach and additionally, he volunteers his time with CASA, serving as a voice and advocate for abused and neglected children.

In the Vietnam War he served two terms as a surgical specialist.

He received the Sagamore of the Wabash Award in 2015.

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