Indy 500 race fans fill local hotels

With the Yard of Bricks a straight shot across Interstate 74, local hotels again expect to be fully booked for the Indianapolis 500.

The short drive to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway makes Crawfordsville a popular stop for out-of-town fans looking to avoid no-vacancy signs closer to the track. Nearly every hotel room here was sold for last year’s race, which saw record crowds for the 100th running.

“We do feel that impact here,” said Heather Shirk, executive director of the Montgomery County Visitors and Convention Bureau.

This is the first Indy 500 for Best Western Plus, which opened last fall.

Some guests are traveling 200-300 miles for the festivities, said Jason Scott, director of sales.

“There’s probably a hard chance to find a room between here and Indianapolis,” he said.

Across the highway at the Holiday Inn Express, race weekend is like a family reunion. Hotel staff have come to know the same customers over the years, including former Crawfordsville residents visiting for the events.

“They kind of become like friends to us because they come back every year,” sales director Paul Parry said.

Holiday Inn expects to be full Friday, Saturday and Sunday, before guests travel home on Memorial Day.

Last race weekend, local hotels were 96.5 percent full on Saturday, and still more than three-quarters occupied Sunday, according to MCVB figures.

Numbers for this weekend won’t be in until next month.

“If they’re not booked, it would be close,” Shirk said.

Like with other high-profile events, extra hotel guests have a ripple effect on the local economy, as restaurants and other businesses see increased foot traffic.

CSX train derails in city

Just when area motorists could start traveling over the CSX railroad crossing on East Market Street, traffic was hindered Tuesday along South Water Street when an engine partially derailed.

A CSX engine had departed from the LSC North Plant and was headed in reverse toward the east when it was partially derailed just past the South Green Street crossing. Railroad cars blocked the crossing while railroad workers scurried to fix the problem.

The incident happened around 2 p.m. Tuesday. As soon as Crawfordsville Mayor Todd Barton heard the news, he walked from the City Building to the scene of the derailment to see it for himself.

Barton was highly interested in the incident since he has been working for several months to get CSX to abandon the rail line. The mayor would like to see the tracks removed as part of the Stellar Downtown Rails to Trails project.

“CSX wants to abandon the rail line since it is only here to serve LSC Communications,” Barton said. “LSC uses the railroad to drop off materials and also to ship books.”

Barton was unsure how the incident would affect his negotiations with the book producer.

“By law, CSX has to keep the railroad for LSC,” Barton explained. “The only way we can get the tracks removed is if LSC agrees to it. If CSX has to start throwing a lot of money into this line, then I don’t know how that would change CSX’s opinion about abandoning the line.”

A CSX worker at the scene said his company would dispatch another engine to move the box cars. He did not know a time schedule for the removal, but expected it to be completed by Wednesday morning.

When the six wheels of the engine’s left side came off the tracks, it damaged several railroad ties. Bolts holding the ties together were sheared off and found in the gravel. No damage estimate was available.

The condition of the rail line appears to be in poor shape. CSX will have to make a decision on what needs to be repaired along the whole line and the timing to do so.

Earlier Tuesday, CSX opened the East Market Street crossing. 

The rail company also started work on the crossing at the intersection of U.S. 231 and C.R. 550N. The railroad has announced motorist should expect the crossing to be closed for up to 10 days.

Crawfordsville was popular stop for presidential campaigns

Frederick A. Douglass was keeping his supporters waiting.

With Indiana shaping up to be a swing state in 1876, the former slave-turned-abolitionist was sent to Crawfordsville to drum up support for Republican Rutherford B. Hayes, who ended up the winning one of the nation’s most heated presidential elections.

“The train bearing the distinguished gentleman was late and then he must have his supper, all of which occupied no little time,” the Crawfordsville Star complained, “and in the meanwhile the shivering torch-bearers had the exquisite pleasure of huddling together to keep warm enough to hurrah for the speaker, who finally made his appearance ...”

A new book explores Indiana’s nearly century-long reign as a battleground state in presidential elections, beginning in the Reconstruction era and into the 1960s.

In “Campaign Crossroads: Presidential Politics in Indiana from Lincoln to Obama” from Indiana Historical Society Press, Goshen native E. Stoner studies the influence of technology, transportation and communication on politics.

Crawfordsville was once a popular whistle stop, thanks to the railroad, proximity to large cities and Wabash College.

“I think a lot of candidates probably thought a good college town is supposed to be full of people who are ... thoughtful and interested in political issues,” said Stoner,

assistant professor of public relations at Sacramento State University.

Five years after leaving the White House, William Howard Taft received a rousing welcome when he came to Crawfordsville in 1918 to promote World War I war bonds and the American Red Cross.

Taft was thrown a parade by school children and treated to receptions and dinners.

Theodore Roosevelt was also out of office when he rolled into town campaigning for a senator’s re-election bid in 1910. “The Bull Moose” spoke to a crowd of 8,000 on Wabash’s football field where, as Stoner recounts, the students demonstrated their ability to yell.

Harry Truman also drew a large crowd of Wabash men when he visited in the 1940s.

Not every politician’s visit here went off without a hitch.

During his campaign for vice president in 1920, Franklin D. Roosevelt narrowly escaped injury when the vehicle he was riding in lost a tire.

Protesters greeted George Wallace when he arrived at Fremont Street Baptist Church, where the segregationist Alabama governor was campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1964.

There were 200 people gathered outside the church, booing and jeering as they listened to his remarks over a loudspeaker.

Wallace’s appeal in northern, industrial states is a mystery to Stoner, who’s researching a book on his campaigns in Indiana, Wisconsin and Maryland.

Wallace opposed President Lyndon B. Johnson’s agenda on civil rights and “Great Society” programs including Medicare and Medicaid.

“You’re talking about amazing change on the domestic level,” Stoner said, “and I think Wallace was effective at reaching out to people’s concerns and fears.”

Elsewhere in the state, the book also recalls Hoosier Benjamin Harrison’s front-porch campaign for president, a local resident reading remarks for a hoarse John F. Kennedy and Kennedy’s brother, Bobby, announcing Martin Luther King, Jr.’s death at an Indianapolis park.

Local newspapers helped Stoner, a former South Bend Tribune reporter, build the narratives for the campaign stops. Stoner was also deputy press secretary for Gov. Frank O’Bannon.

Early newspapers often published richly detailed accounts of a dignitary’s visit.

“Coverage, I think, gets more objective,” Stoner said, “more on the spectacle of it and less on the verbatim, word-for-word speeches.”

Guard wins SAC Meet, Athenians place 2nd

DARLINGTON — Devin Guard birdied the final three holes and finished 1-under with a 35 to claim Meet Medalist honors and lead Crawfordsville to a second place finish at the Sagamore Conference Meet Monday at Rocky Ridge.

The Athenians scored a 166 in a 9-hole round originally scheduled for 18 holes on Saturday, but delayed due to inclement weather.

“In the last couple of weeks they’ve shown me heart and how much they love the game, and want to improve and compete,” Crawfordsville coach Roger Tribbett said. “Our scores have really improved over the last two weeks and they’ve taken some ownership in what’s going on.”

Lebanon’s final score, a 40 from John Parks, was enough for the Tigers to move ahead of Crawfordsville for a 12th SAC title in 13 years.

Lebanon won by five strokes with a 161.

Tri-West shot a 167 to finish third. Western Boone, who won the meet last year, placed fourth with a 168.

North Montgomery shot a 179 and tied Frankfort for sixth. Southmont was eighth with a 182.

Crawfordsville was on track to win its first conference championship since 2004. That was thanks to Guard’s finish at the end, but also Jack Sommer’s 41. And Simon Hacker scored a 43 after shooting 5-over on the par-5 fifth hole.

That’s the same hole Guard had trouble with at conference a year ago when he shot 6-over on five and ended with a 42 on the front nine. 

“He’s way ahead of last year,” Tribbett said. “His mental game is so much stronger than where it was last year. Last year at this time he’d have trouble bouncing back, but now he has his head where he wants it and he’s been working on that.”

Crawfordsville’s fourth score came from Matt Mitchell, who shot a 47.

Southmont’s Charlie Bullerdick birdied the eighth hole and shot par on the ninth to finish with a 36 to lead the Mounties.

“Charlie had a great round,” Southmont coach Bill Whalen said. “We’ve got county coming up and I’m sure he has goals for county, and we have team goals for county, and then we have the sectional coming up. Obviously we’d like to get the team out, but if we can’t then we’d like to get individuals out and I think Charlie has a good chance.”

Austin Wente finished with a 44 for Southmont and Will Bradley and Ben Korhorn each had a 51.

North Montgomery’s Bob Ryker shot a 40 and Zach Taylor shot a 41 while Kris Knuth had a 45 and Shane Young finished with a 53.

“It seems like when we get one or two people low, then we have to take a really high score,” North Montgomery coach Fred Johnson said. “We have a couple of guys that if we can get them down, then I’d be very satisfied. Last year we came out here and we bombed. We didn’t place much higher, but at least we shot better.”

North Montgomery will host Sheridan and Bethesda Christian at 4:30 p.m. today at Rocky Ridge. The Chargers, along with Southmont and Crawfordsville, will compete in the Montgomery County Meet at 4:30 p.m. Thursday at Crawfordsville Country Club.

Avery Marcus Bradley

Avery Marcus Bradley, a son, born May 13 at Witham Memorial Hospital, Lebanon, to Marcus and Brenda (Barker) Bradley, Crawfordsville. At birth, he weighed 7 pounds, 2 ounces. He was welcomed home by a brother, Bradyn Barker, 18, and a sister, Aliyah Davis, 13.

Grandparents are James and Rita Barker, Roachdale; and Tennia Bradley, Georgiana, Alabama.