Large crowd gathers to celebrate Porter
It sounded like the Gene Stratton-Porter era. The powerful singing of Indianapolis music professional, Adrienne Provenzano, singing, "Back Home Again in Indiana," and "On the Banks of the Wabash," (state song) captured a good crowd of individuals touring the Porter home on Friday evening.
A large crowd of individuals from the local community and surrounding area gathered at the new Limberlost Visitor's Center to celebrate, toast a little wine and partake in a birthday cake provided in honor of local author, Gene Stratton-Porter, who was born on Aug. 17, 1863.
Activities for the evening included sampling wines from a variety of Indiana wineries, refreshments and birthday cake, a walk through the 1888 through 1913 time line of events that occurred while Porter lived in the local area, strolling through the first floor of the Limberlost Cabin and enjoying live music in the music room of the cabin.
In addition, those in attendance had the option to enjoy Victorian parlor games and take a guided grounds tour of the Limberlost Cabin. Although thunder rumbled in threatening skies to the north, rain held off until after the event was over.
Rita Thelen, a retired naturalist from Lima, Ohio, was present because of her profound respect for the naturalist talents of Porter in her writing.
"Her books were great books for children," said Thelen. "She always incorporated aspects of nature in her writing. She wrote about places I was familiar with in Indiana."
Thelen said that the more she studies the aspects of Porter's naturalist background, the more impressed she becomes of her knowledge of nature, especially from the southern Adams County area.
Jim Vorich and his friend, Cindy Heckman, of New Haven, saw an advertisement for the evening. Vorich was familiar with Porter's writing but had never visited the Limberlost Cabin.
"When I saw that they were having this, I said, 'let's go down there; I always wanted to see that cabin,'" said Vorich. "I can't tell you how impressed I am with this and all that is here."
Geneva Chamber of Commerce executive director Pam Krause said what she had been saying all year at various meetings, "It's all about Gene and Gene's 150th birthday.
"She has added a real touch to things to be proud about in this community," Krause said. "I am excited about, 'Geneva Proud;' I'm sure its an organization that Gene Stratton-Porter would be active in today if she were here."
Gerry Reilly, Eastern Region Manager for the Indiana State Historic Sites, drove all the way from Madison for the event.
It wasn't Reilly's first visit to the area. He has been involved in the planning of the visitor's center. He has attended many meetings in the cabin and remembers looking out at the plot of ground where the (then) future visitor's center was going to stand.
"When I first saw this building it looked bigger to me in person than it had in a sketch," said Reilly. "It is a nice facility. I am so thankful they were able to get this building done in time for this celebration. I'll never forget that bald eagle circling on the dedication day. I said then, 'she is still involved.'
"This is such an asset to the community," added Reilly. "It brings people to the site and it brings people to the community."
"We can't thank her enough for all that she did for this county," said county economic development director Larry Macklin. "All that she left to our heritage, to our school children, she is more than deserving of every recognition that she gets here."
Sean Dedert, a young man who has volunteered at the site faithfully, said that he can see how the entire site, from the trails in the Loblolly to the Porter house, has become a big attraction to the community."
As Provenzano performed in the cabin on Friday, she told those present that she wasn't just a music performer. She is a very deep fan of Gene Stratton-Porter and the surrounding Limberlost area. In fact, she has written songs about the Limberlost area.
"I love music of her period, music that she would have been familiar with," said Provenzano. "I write music because of her.
"She was a woman ahead of her time, as photographer, writer and the way that she looks at life," said Provenzano. "I am amazed at the way she preserved her fiction. I would be heartbroken if I had known of her and found out that her things didn't exist anymore," Provenzano said. "I felt that it was important for people in the city to become familiar with her life and the characters in her world. She has given me a much deeper appreciation of Indiana and all that this state stands for."
"When I dream about the moonlight on the Wabash," said Provenzano, "then I think of my Indiana home."
The crowd was totally silent, but many were looking at pictures of Porter on the wall, as Provenzano finished the final words to the beloved Hoosier song.
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