With countless ways to spend their leisure time, East Central Indiana residents enjoy a high quality of life. The region is home to extensive trails systems, beloved annual festivals, concert series and dozens of parks, providing events and outdoors activities that entertain and bring the community together.
“These opportunities for entertainment and recreation blend together nature, meeting new people, community pride and supporting local small businesses, which are all so important to the growth of a small town like ours,” says Mandy Ford of Richmond.
Mandy, her husband, Dan, and their twin nine-year-old sons, Ben and Landon, enjoy the many local festivals, as well as nature hikes in Richmond’s Glen Miller Park and Springwood Park, which has Cardinal Greenway trail access.
The area’s many parks and its excellent network of trails for hiking, running, cycling, inline skating and horseback riding are immensely popular with local residents and visitors. Many of the trails are part of the extensive Cardinal Greenway system – Indiana’s longest rails-to-trails system – including Cardinal Greenway, White River Greenway and Cardinal Equestrian Trail. Other popular local trails include Whitewater Valley Gorge Park trail in Richmond, White River Greenway in Muncie, Yorktown trail system and Wilbur Wright Trail in New Castle.
Locals and visitors also enjoy numerous outdoor pursuits at nearby Mounds State Park and Summit Lake State Park, and fishing, boating and camping at Prairie Creek Reservoir and along the White River.
“Our beautiful parks, arboretum, orchards, connecting trail system, programs and citywide events enhance the quality of life for residents by giving a sense of place, space to explore, and many hands-on experiences,” says Nancy Sartain, with the Richmond-Wayne County Convention & Tourism Bureau.
A Region of Food and Fun
Every county in the region has festivals and events that reflect its own unique flavor. Some have been happening for decades and celebrate the area’s agricultural history.
“The Jay County Fairgrounds is host to many events such as the Tri-State Antique Gas Engine & Tractor Show and the Vintage Bike Show, which brings in tourists from around the world,” says Gyneth Augsburger, Jay County Visitors and Tourism Bureau director. “All of the surrounding communities have parks and events planned each year that help enhance the quality of life.”
Marion is home to Mississinewa 1812, the largest War of 1812 living history event in the country. The annual James Dean Festival in Fairmount celebrates the life and legacy of “The Rebel” with a parade, competitions and a costume contest.
The Gaither Fall Festival in Alexandria, the brainchild of Grammy award-winner and local celebrity Gloria Gaither, features home cooking, live music, family-friendly activities, and an arts and crafts show.
The Andersontown Powwow & Indian Market is a Native American and intertribal celebration that offers activities such as sampling buffalo burgers and fry bread, and learning about the area’s first inhabitants through dance and games.
Muncie’s Old Washington Street Festival brings special attention to the architectural, cultural and social heritage of the Emily Kimbrough Historic District and the surrounding Gas Boom Era neighborhood with music, food, antiques, art and demonstrations of period crafts.
Hartford City Civil War Days is Indiana’s largest Civil War Reenactment and Artillery Night Firing, with battle demonstrations, both period and modern foods, and characters depicting blacksmiths, rug-makers and weavers.
The Wilbur Wright Birthplace Festival in New Castle features barbecued pork chops and free tours of the famous aviator-inventor’s birthplace and museum.
Rushville’s Wendell Willkie Days bring the community together each fall for a parade, apple pie auction and farmers market in honor of the Indiana native and 1940 presidential nominee.
In Portland, the Jay County Heritage Festival celebrates the area’s colorful history with live entertainment, artisans, carriage rides and free admission to the Jay County Historical Museum.
Now in its 26th year, Farmland’s Christmas Walk in Winchester ushers in the holidays with family-friendly activities and a showcase of downtown Farmland.
The ever-popular Meltdown Winter Ice Festival held each year in Richmond highlights winter at its best with a week of activities, including ice sculptures, ice ping-pong games, a Frozen Fun Run and a Chili Crawl.
Connersville’s Apple Dumpling Days is an autumn weekend of food and craft vendors, an auto exhibit, and tours of the city’s historic buildings.
“You can tell a lot about a community by the activities, events, festivals and recreational opportunities it presents,” says Marty Hancock of Richmond. “These are the very types of offerings that make us who we are. We’re friendly, outgoing, passionate folks who love to be social and engaged with each other.”
The region also is home to several music and concert series.
Rushville offers a summer concert series and, in warm months, Marion hosts Concerts in the Gardens in Matter Park. The outdoor Hoosier Park Summer Concerts in Anderson host many big acts.
Civic Hall Performing Arts Center in Richmond brings both internationally known and local performers to the area year-round. Emens Auditorium at Ball State University in Muncie is the place to see a diversity of concerts, and Muncie offers the free Three Trails Music Series.