TAI Activities in Southern Indiana
Northern Indiana
Central Indiana


Southern Indiana (Regions 8,9,10,11,12)
Old-time fiddle player Joe Dawson hosts a weekly music session in his home in Indiana. Photo by Erin Roth.
Where the Upland South meets central Indiana, cafes serve buttermilk biscuits and sausage gravy, and musicians still gather in living rooms to play old-time fiddle tunes. Southern Indiana's distinctly regional flavor is woven into the fabric of its traditional arts. Primarily white and rural, most of southern Indiana's residents have roots that bind them to their neighbors to the south. Farmers host hog-butcherings, giving neighbors and friends an opportunity to pitch in, drink a few beers or homemade wine, and tell stories. From blood sausage to liverwurst, very little of the hog goes to waste.

Others maintain deep ties to Old Country ways. The German influence in Vanderburgh county and surrounding areas is still evident in Evansville's Germania Maennerchor, established in 1900. The 300-member club is one of the most active and continuous men's choirs in Indiana.

Limestone veins run deep beneath the timbered, rolling hills of Owen, Monroe and Lawrence counties. Fourth generation family quarries extract huge blocks of quality Indiana limestone from open-pit and underground mines. Chip Fell, great-grandson of the founder of Hoadley Quarry south of Bloomington, describes limestone extraction as art, just as carving in stone is an art. Chip and his brother (who oversees the milling operation) are heirs to an intimate wisdom of the land, passed down to them by older family members. Chip masterfully grades a block of limestone for market and approximates the depth of useable limestone with ease. Indiana stone workers have been in the limestone business for several generations scoring initial cuts with diamond-studded saws, maintaining the equipment, driving front-loaders, or grading stone for market.

American Folklife Center staff member David Taylor and TAI Staff Erin Roth listen as Chip Fell explains the process of extracting limestone at his family quarry south of Bloomington. Photo by Inta Carpenter.
The New Frontier Band performing at a festival. Photo by Erin Roth.
Indiana University exerts a strong influence in Monroe and surrounding counties. Students from all over the world bring musical talent, cuisine, customs and outlooks. While accomplished native performers lead such local bands as Afro Hoosier International, Capoeira Angola Kupe, and Alma Azul, other members come from a variety of ethnic backgrounds. Several singer/songwriters in the acoustic "folk" world have made Bloomington their home. Nationally-known musician Grey Larsen tours the country with his Irish flute and fiddle, but also plays regularly in and around Bloomington. Weekly "slow sessions" encourage beginners to learn Celtic fiddling from Chris Smith, a local Celtic musician.

Music in the southern most part of Indiana is strongly influenced by Kentucky and Tennessee. Bluegrass and old-time music dominate from the annual fiddle contests at Mitchell Opera House, the Lotus Dickey Hometown Reunion in Paoli, to such smaller jam sessions as the Norman Conservation Club gatherings every Wednesday and Sunday evening in Jackson County. The late Lotus Dickey, Paoli fiddler and songwriter, sparked a world music festival in nearby Bloomington. He is only one of many talented fiddlers from the region.

Hoadley Quarry. Photo by Inta Carpenter.
People enjoying a chicken meal at the St. Mary's Catholic Church Annual Picnic. Photo by Erin Roth.
Woodcarvers, rag rug weavers, and quilters make up many of the artists in southern Indiana. Don Pacey, wildlife wood carver from Freetown in Jackson County, learned to carve as an adult. Pacey, now deceased, was recognized as one of the best wildlife carvers in the state. Forced into early retirement for medical reasons, Pacey spent hours carefully measuring feathers to achieve a realistic and exact replica of a cardinal or a red-tailed hawk. Bob Bruner, woodcarver, knife-maker, and inventor, lives in Martin County, three miles south of Shoals. Bruner makes his comical carvings and elegant knives in what was his father's workshop. Bruner even fashioned two of his false teeth out of porcelain and Teflon in this shop, securing them with superglue.

Southern foodways are at home throughout Indiana, but especially in its southern most counties. Evansville, just inside the northern edge of the BBQ belt, is home to some of the finest BBQ masters in the country, many of whose families migrated north in search of better employment.

Fiddlers (catfish) are served in restaurants along the Ohio River along with sweet tea. Much of southern Indiana is German Catholic. At the Headquarters, a tavern/restaurant located in downtown Jasper, co-owner Lavella Singer's homemade rhubarb pie and German stuffed cabbage is a regular feature. Singer's father caught and delivered turtles to the Headquarters when she was a little girl. Turtle soup, a local specialty, used to be on menus until the state outlawed the hunting of turtles.

An elegant knife carved by Bob Bruner. Photo by Erin Roth.

St. Mary's Catholic Church Annual Picnic (Ireland in Dubois County), some 50 years old, raises more than $100,000 each year for the parish. Over eighty quilts are raffled off for $1 chances. Additional booths line the churchyard, enticing people to buy chances to win a ham, soda pop, or embroidered pillowcase. The family-style chicken dinner is worth the trip.

2000 Dogwood Festival Queen poses with her boyfriend at the festival in Orleans, Indiana. Photo by Erin Roth.
Orange County, in addition to nurturing a vibrant old-time music scene, is a county of beauty pageants festival queens, homecoming and prom queens, princess contests for pre-adolescent girls and participants in state-wide beauty pageants are key elements in Orange County's celebrations.

TAI Activities in Southern Indiana:
Seymour Schools Folklife in Education Project
Arts of Ethnography Workshops
Field Schools
Lyceum 2002
Work and Life: Voices of Perry County

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