Amish Acres

Amish Acres® Historic Farm and Heritage Resort is Listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It is America's most complete Amish heritage experience featuring historic interpretation, culinary and performing arts, lodging, and shopping.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Log Cabin Commemorative Quilt Completed


The commemorative Log Cabin Quilt that is given away each year by drawing on New Year’s Eve at Amish Acres has been completed by Elizabeth and Katie Borkholder and is on display in The Round Barn Theatre’s lobby. The quilters spent the spring, summer and into the fall stitching the king sized quilt, valued at $2,000, in the Gross Daddi House in Amish Acres historic area. Visitors to the farm have been registering to win the quilt all season long. The winner will be drawn from entries which will top 5,000.

Each year’s design is one of the farm’s most anticipated announcements. This is the eighth year that commemorative quilts have been made, all celebrating milestones at Amish Acres including anniversaries for The Round Barn Theatre and the Arts & Crafts Festival. Because there is no limit to the number of times one may enter, each visit to Amish Acres whether for a Theatre Performance, Threshers Dinner, Theme Dinner, House & Farm Tour, Arts & Crafts Festival or Special Event, increases one’s chances of winning. The quilt's pattern was designed by Amish Acres Founder Richard Pletcher and the top was created and sewn by Amber Burgess, The Round Barn Theatre's Artistic Director.

The Log Cabin pattern is in honor of the 1854 Smid Log Cabin which now serves as Amish Acres Soda Shop & Fudgery. The hand hewn log house was home to the only Mennonite congregation to migrate from the Netherlands to the United States. It was built by Reverend R.J. Smid (1814-1893) for his family and served as their church building until 1889 when the Salem Mennonite Church was built.

Sunshine Artist Top 200 Arts & Crafts Festivals


Amish Acres Arts & Crafts Festival has been named the 21st of 100 Best Classic and Contemporary Craft Shows in American by Sunshine Artist magazine. Each voting artist is given a ballot that allows them to list the top ten grossing shows they attended. The winners are chosen on the total sales of each event. The Nappanee festival has risen from number 56 last year and has never been out of the top 200 shows since the magazine began its rankings twenty five years ago. “Every show’s ranking is so weather dependent, particularly in August in Indiana” said the festivals originator Richard Pletcher, “The artists rank their shows based on their sales; our show has been ranked as high as number 3 in the country.” Pletcher continued, “The increase in ranking in a testament to Elkhart County and the area’s ongoing economic recovery and their enthusiasm and support for the vendors’ creativity and creations.”

Of the top 20 Classic and Contemporary shows only two others have been in existence longer than Amish Acres, which will be celebrating its 56th year in 2018. The Kutztown Folk Festival in Kutztown, Pennsylvania celebrated 69 years this summer and Allentown’s Art Festival in Buffalo New York has reached the 60 year mark. Only Amish Acres show has been run as a business enterprise and integrated into an attraction by a single family. Many of the ranked shows are organized by promoters who rent indoor venues, mostly around the holidays. Of the thirty three honored shows in Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan only the Frankfort Illinois’ Chamber of Commerce’s Fall Festival that includes carnival rides ranks higher.

The 2018 festival, which will be celebrating its 56th anniversary, will be held August 2 – 5. Early vendor applications are now being accepted. Contact: Becky Cappert of Amish Acres, (574) 773-4188 ext. 213, or BeckyMaust@amishacres.com.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Nappanee Apple Festival Recognition Luncheon


Nappanee Apple Festival
Grand Marshalls
Recognition Luncheon

Amish Acres
Remarks by Richard Pletcher

There are so many former Grand Marshalls here we feel like the runts of the litter.

Susie and I played Rock-Paper-Scissors to determine which of us would speak. Susie won, so here I am.

Thank you for this honor and recognition and all of your vision and tireless work over the last forty two years. Susie and I have never known any other home than Nappanee. We come by our love for our home town naturally. Both of our fathers and mothers were lifelong boosters of Nappanee. Our mothers were involved in the family businesses and, we hope, successfully raised two kids each. We in turn are blessed to have both of our daughters, Angie and Jeff Stillson and Jenni and Andy Wysong chose to live and raise their families in Nappanee as well. Susie taught elementary and nursery school. She founded Nappanee’s Chapter of Tri Kappa Sorority that has celebrated 50 years of service to Nappanee. She has been a member and past president of not only Tri Kappa but Thursday Club and Current Club that have been of service to Nappanee for over a century.

Susie’s dad, Jack Templeton, was the face of Nappanee. When you stopped for gas at Templeton Shell on Market Street, more often than not it was Jack who filled your tank. He not only washed your windows, checked your oil and radiator fluid, he also found out who you were, where you were from, why you were here what were you going to do and, most importantly, how could he help you do what you were going to do. Although his life was cut short at the age of 59 as he, fittingly, was pumping gas, his influence is still with us through our family and his community. His Notre Dame diploma hangs in his great grandson Jack’s room.

Across Market Street my father, LaVern, returned to Pletcher Furniture from the Navy after WWII and found our business community and industry exhausted and demoralized from the war effort. So with 65 other merchants in 1947 they created the Nappanee Development Corporation and raised $11,500. With the money they set about pulling Nappanee up by the bootstraps. They built the first house for speculation following the war, they created Nappanee’s first industrial park, developed and financed off street parking surrounding the downtown. That corporation still exists and I remain president. We continue their tradition of giving back to the community. Together LaVern and we owned, built, replaced, moved or renovated over 60 buildings to help Nappanee have room to grow.

I remember a prominent city businessman and community leader telling me shortly after I returned from college that Nappanee had nothing special to attract anyone to visit. We were not on the ocean, had no lake or river or mountain or attractions. Having lived in Bloomington for four years I begged to differ. We had special people with a special background and singular heritage.

We started with nothing long after Elkhart County was fully settled by migrants; no one wanted to live in this swamp and forest. But in 1874 the B&O Railroad made a bee line to Chicago along the continental divide that is now U.S. 6. Fittingly, three farmers, one Amish, one Mennonite, and one German Baptist combined corners of their land and donated 5 acres to the railroad for a depot. From that point on Nappanee, likely named for Napanee, Ontario, took off as fast as building a town with tinker toys or Legos as hardscrabble optimistic opportunists flocked to the new town. Those around us looked on with envy as Nappanee soon outgrew Bremen, Locke, Foraker, Gravelton, Hepton, Syracuse, Garrett, Milford, Leesburg, Lakeville, LaPaz, Wakarusa, Bourbon, and Etna Green, in fact becoming the largest city in Northern Indiana that was not a county seat or a river town.

Our industry concentrated on woodworking with a work ethic, craftsmanship, entrepreneurship seldom seen in one place. We took and take for granted our current traits that were handed down to us. But special we are. In our lifetime we worked diligently to expand our public library, repurchase and restore the railroad depot, create the Nappanee Center, and envision what has become Coppes Commons.

Because I am left handed and was not a very good carpet layer with right handed tools, my frustrated father told me to go start an art show for sidewalk days. Now 55 years later we are still doing what he ordered me to do. He took me as a high schooler to Lancaster, Pennslyvania to see how Amish tourism was enriching the community and bringing new customers to town. We started Amish Acres as a hobby for those reasons and are still enticing visitors to come to Nappanee 50 years later. Millions of visitors have found their way to Nappanee and Amish Acres to be enlightened, educated and entertained, by three generations of hosts while being drawn in to our unique little corner of the world.

Today we have a new generation of entrepreneurs who are transforming the downtown, diversifying our industry, and doubling down on our unique traditions.

Doctors have thermometers to check our temperature, stethoscopes to listen to our heart, and machines to register our blood pressure, but our pulse is taken by holding another person’s hand and looking at a wrist watch while counting for fifteen seconds.

For 42 years this all encompassing Apple Festival has proven that Nappanee, without a checkup, is alive and well and in fact vibrant. Our pulse can be confusing to outsiders because some of us go slow, others of us go fast, but we all embrace the pace together. Now, because of this happy event and celebration, thousands of visitors come from many corners to embrace our pace as well. It is contagious and we like spreading it around.

One Jeff Potter, owner, Out Your Backdoor, discovered Nappanee to be the "Bike-Friendliest City in America” and blogged about us; "not for our path, not for anything special, but for the Amish community's integration of the bike in with daily life, "using the power of the wheel simply for transport." He said most eloquently of Nappanee, "I saw the leanest, sturdiest, tannest, most polite, clearest-eyed people I've seen in awhile. They seemed patently to be community members paying every inch of their way, from scratch-which does something to the steadiness of the gaze of anyone. These folks get respect from motorists because of who they are every minute of the day, not for the laws they pass, or city hall meetings they shout at, or courts they sue in." That makes us proud to be from Nappanee.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Roll the Dice and Roll with Life and Love in “Guys and Dolls”

Although I generally save the sermons for Sunday, let’s face it -- if a certain first century religious notable were to find himself transported to our times he would no doubt face criticism for seeking out -- and being seen with -- the denizens who partake in the Oldest Established Permanent Floating Crap Game in New York.

And if he can believe that there’s hope for Pharisees and other assorted sinners, we shouldn’t be surprised the larger than life guys and dolls that inhabit the world of Damon Runyon might end up on the sinner’s bench as well.

Traditionally the organizations that license performances of big time musicals don’t allow changes in the script, and so the Round Barn has labeled this summer’s production of “Guys and Dolls” PG-13, but since we see from the scriptures that it takes real life flesh and blood sinners to make full-bodied saints like the apostle Paul, we should expect against this backdrop of the Prohibition era Big Apple that Miss Sarah Brown of the “Save-A-Soul” Mission would set her eyes on some really big fish that might well turn into even bigger saints.

But “Guys and Dolls” is no simple morality play. With music and lyrics by the inimitable Frank Loesser this musical moves from one unforgettable standard to another, like “Fugue For Tinhorns,” “A Bushel and a Peck,” “More I Cannot Wish You,” “Luck Be A Lady,” “Sit Down, You’re Rocking The Boat,” and of course the title song, “Guys and Dolls.”

In the musical Sarah Brown is out to save souls through the “Save-A-Soul Mission,” while gamblers like Nathan Detroit and Sky Masterson are hoping Luck will truly be the Lady she ought to be and change their fortunes.

Bringing the musical to life is Director David Craven, of Atlanta. Craven, who’s recently finished acting the role of Sam in a production of “Mama Mia,” emphasized that when it comes to “Guys and Dolls” it’s important to create living, breathing human beings out of the raw material of the caricatures taken from the original Damon Runyon story.

“I go always go back to analyzing the script. These characters are seemingly incompatible. I struggled at first to figure out what is the root of the play, and I came to the conclusion yesterday I think the root of this play is joy. All the characters are seeking joy in their lives and using whatever means to get them there.”

For each character joy comes from something different, Craven said. “For Sarah, she thinks being a member of the mission is going to bring her joy because she is saving souls. For Sky, gambling will bring him joy, Adelaide just wants to be married. Nathan thinks it can be found making money. But what they discover is that the thing that brings is joy is a relationship with someone else.”

For Craven it’s important that the characters are living in the same world. In this case that world is New York in 1932, right before prohibition ends.

“I’m loving this show,” he said. “I always love working for Dick (Pletcher). He's got such a good heart for theater. He loves designing sets. He has such a good heart for wanting to support artists because he is an artist.”

Friday, June 16, 2017

Kristen Brintnall IS Elle Woods in Legally Blonde

And she persisted….

Elle Woods failed to win the hand of the man she adored. She failed to measure up the standards of Harvard Law School. She failed to make a good impression the first day of classes. She failed to do the smart thing to insure future success as a lawyer. She believed she failed herself.

Still, she persisted!

“Legally Blonde,” playing at the Round Barn Theatre at Amish Acres in Nappanee, subtly suggests there are no “safe” prejudices, no populations you can get away with turning them into caricatures. Every individual ought to be judged not by the color of their skin -- or hair -- but by the quality of their character.

Kristen Brintnall navigates a tricky course through Elle’s own self-imposed preconceptions of what is important or even possible in life. Brintnall’s Elle may at first seem shallow but over the course of the show she draws out a character with far more depth that Elle gives herself credit for.

Ryan Schisler has a daunting task in this show as Warner Huntington III but he’s up to it. As the villain of the piece he avoids the easy path of caricature by embracing future career goals that preclude Elle. Schisler’s portrait is by turns likeable but never lovable.

It is an axiom of acting that you should never share the stage with animals, but Oxford, who plays the role of Bruiser, is charming and a team player. As to whether Oxford is a diva off-stage who can say? He is not alone, however, with regards to canine casting.

I like the look of this show, including Ashley Alverth’s costume design, and the clever way the Richard Pletcher’s set pieces act as transformers, becoming by turn a dorm room, a court room, and a beauty parlor. Most impressive is the brisk pace set by director Mike Fielder. This show never lags. It moves briskly from scene to scene and song to song, without losing sense. The efficient scene changes also contribute to the effect. That’s important, because this is a fun show.

It’s also a large cast production, which fills the Round Barn stage with cleverly choreographed numbers.

Character transformation is key to good theater. Vivenne Kensington believably grows the character of Lauren Morgan, the “serious” alternative for Warner’s upward climb, into a more self-aware proponent for Elle. Ian Connor’s driven Emmett Forrest, who has known want, is able to unlock his will to succeed to include the possibility of personal fulfillment and love.

I hadn’t heard this musical before I attended the Round Barn production, but I enjoyed the music and never felt puzzled about what each song was trying to accomplish as sometimes happens in a first viewing. Kudos to the cast for making each song from beginning to end come alive. My favorite numbers, I must admit, were “Ireland” and its reprise, wonderfully sung by Katherine Barnes in the marvelous pull-up-your-big-girl-panties role of Paulette Buonufonte.

Special shout out to Martin Flowers who plays God’s Gift To Women twice, portraying both sides of the coin as Dewey and Kyle, to great comic effect.

 “Legally Blonde” is a You Go Girl musical that demonstrates that life ought to be a meritocracy. You’ll cheer for Kirsten Brintnall as Elle Woods because despite her travails, she persists.


And she prevails.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

“Plain and Fancy” enters its fourth decade

Local folks in Elkhart County quickly realize that children permeate every aspect of Amish society. It is taken for granted that Amish children, whether at home on the farm, in the family business, or on trips to the market or other errands, are carrying their share of the work load not because anyone’s forcing them to, but because it’s natural for everyone in the family, from the oldest to the youngest, to play an active part.

Of course Amish children also play; but then, so do their elders. And we see that element of work, play, and belonging in this year’s thirty-first edition of “Plain and Fancy.” This flagship production at the National Home of “Plain and Fancy” includes the talents of Amelia Lowry, who plays the role of the child Sarah Miller.

Lowry has become something of a regular at the Round Barn Theatre in recent months. In “Plain and Fancy” we see her playing, working in the kitchen, helping with the chores, as well as mischievously watching everything to do with the star-crossed lovers Katie and Peter. She’s the one, even when Peter is shunned, who is willing to hug him, and who rejoices when he is restored.

Director Amber Burgess artfully weaves together the parallel worlds of Amish men and women. The two circles intersect at their society’s predetermined places, but the Amish men and women also have their own separate communities.

Although Amish society seems strictly patriarchal, Kristin Brintall’s incarnation of Katie Yoder is not afraid to make it clear that there will be a conversation between her and her father. Rather than being simply acted upon, this Katie Yoder directs the action is subtle and occasionally not-so-subtle ways. And thanks to her strong voice cutting through “Plain We Live,” we recognize that Katie Yoder has religious as well as personal integrity.

I appreciated David Goins successful portrayal of Papa Yoder. We not only see this patriarch firmly uphold the faith, Goins also makes it clear that Yoder loves his daughter, and all the people of his family and community. There is joy here as well as a stiff backbone. 

The relationship between the brothers Peter (Martin Flowers) and Ezra (Ian Conner) Reber is always a difficult one to portray. It verges on Cain and Abel and it is only with difficulty that it veers closer to the eventual reconciliation between Jacob and Esau. I like Conner’s take on the brother who usurps his brother’s place at the altar, at least temporarily. Although he gets what he wants in the first act -- the farm, the girl, and his brother banished, there is clear regret on his face during the barn raising.
Flowers has crafted a character who is flawed, but earnest, and certainly loving, a brother who in the end desires more to save Amish honor that let his brother become a prodigal.

Don Hart returns as Isaac Miller, who serves as something of a Greek Chorus to the action. Hart’s wry yet practical outlook is a bedrock of his characterization. This, along with Katherine Barnes’ version of his spouse Emma Miller provides the rock that acts as conscience and anchor for the embattled Yoder family. There’s also their comedic and deft advocacy for the Amish lifestyle in their song, “City Mouse, Country Mouse.” 

At one point it was author Joseph Stern’s intention to center the musical around the character of Hilda Miller. Through Laura Morgan we see Hilda escape from her parents suffocating expectations as well as her illusions about “English” life, returning with integrity and a little more dignity than earlier productions.

My favorite directorial choice was the decision to have the New Yorker Dan King snap a photograph of Hilda (on a wonderfully genuine antique camera) rather than kiss her on the forehead. Indeed, Ryan Schisler’s King may be a little dense, or perhaps unperceptive, when it comes to Hilda and Ruth Winters’ attraction for him, but we see King genuinely regretting the way his attempts to make things better backfire. He and Mikaela Brielle, who plays Ruth Winters, also from New York, have a strong chemistry between them. Thanks to Brielle, Winters projects sensuality and a gently frustrated sexuality which allows her, like Katie, to assertively take control of things when it is time.

The set changes look smooth and well-practiced. Costumes, lighting, and other technical aspects of the show seem natural. Get out to enjoy “Plain and Fancy” this year as it enters its fourth decade, because even if you’ve seen it before, you’ll see it in a whole new light in 2017.


Monday, April 24, 2017

Nobody's Perfect

During his acceptance speech at the 2016 Tony Awards, Lin-Manuel Miranda recited a sonnet he’d written that said in part, “Love is love is love is love is love is love is love, cannot be killed or swept aside.” Despite its rather arch title, the current Round Barn musical, “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change,” might be better described by Miranda’s poem.

In twenty sketches spanning two acts and a couple of hours cast members Rory Dunn, Josey Miller, Lauren Morgan, and Ryan Schisler portray love in all its twists and turns, in success and failure, and as experienced in the several different ages of life. The quick costume changes demonstrate the clear design of Costumer Ashley Alverth, helping to delineate the many characters played by the four, and the actors themselves help us quickly realize the only thing the many scenes have in common is the theme of love.

There’s an almost mystical aspect to the opening and closing when the actors, dressed in awe-inspiring druidical robes celebrate the divine and all too human facets of love from the beginning of time.

Almost immediately we are shown two paradoxes -- Rory Dunn and Josey Miller seem like they’re made for each other, but having been brought together by a dating service they talk themselves through and out of the many twists and turns of the relationship they never have.

That’s followed by the revenge of the geeks -- Ryan Schisler and Lauren Morgan seem to have been put together out of spare parts, yet somehow despite their obvious incompatibility, things click.
The four conspire together in the cynical “Men Who Talk and the Women Who Pretend They’re Listening,” as four (or is it six or eight) individuals go through the motions of pretending they’re enjoying each other’s company because they’re not sure they’ve got other options.

One of my favorite scenes was “I’ll Call You Soon (Yeah, RIght)” when an unseen young man’s phone call leads to the four actors filling the stage with what feels like a full production number.

The whole first act, which ends with marriage, seems to prove the observation of my first college drama teacher, Linda DeVries, who way back in the early seventies told us that in Shakespeare’s comedies Love is a sickness that is only cured by marriage.

Perhaps that’s why Act Two is the stronger part of the play, when love passes the test of time and endures. I was especially impressed by: Josey Miller’s tour de force in “Always a Bridesmaid,” as she recounts the many failed marriages whose start she witnessed just a few feet from the altar; Ryan Schisler’s and Laren Morgan’s desperate attempt at carving out time to let the sparks fly within the confines of a household that included kids, pets, and a mother-in-law (“Marriage Tango”); and Rory Dunn’s star turn as the Husband who lives through his car in “On the Highway of Love,” and his duet with Miller closer to the ending of life in “I Can Live With That.”

My favorite moment was Schisler’s understated but satisfying defense of love that has lasted decades despite the dissolution of so many marriages around him, in the song “Shouldn’t I Be Less In Love With You?” personifying Shakespeare’s words (him again) that “Love varies not with his brief hours and weeks, but bears it out even to the edge of doom.”

Indeed, if I can get biblical, the second act proved the truth of the words, “…love is strong as death, passion fierce as the grave.” (Song of Songs 8:6)

Director/Choreographer Amber Burgess deserves a lot of the credit for creating a clear arc from chaos towards order in this collection of sometimes uneven parts, and crafting a thoughtfully fun show from so many disparate ingredients. And let’s not forget -- the accompaniment was live and lively, featuring the piano magic of Music Director Paul Rigano and the violin expertise of Burgess.

I wonder if the title ought to have been simply, “I Love You.” Nobody’s perfect, and for the most part, there’s no changing each other. We are who we are, and that’s okay.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Fast. Frenetic. And Fresh.

The fast and frenetic we already knew – “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged),” currently playing on the Second Stage at Amish Acres, has been around for more than three decades, and its manic presentation of the Bard’s life and words is still laugh out loud hilarious.

But time hasn’t stood still, and neither has the show. Even though I’ve seen this show before, as well as purchased and read the script, I’m pretty sure there was no such person as SIRI back in the 90s, nor had anyone heard of Alexander Hamilton, at least as a rapper.
Which is a way of saying even if you’ve seen Complete Works before, you haven’t seen it before. And if you haven’t seen it, you’ve got to see it.

The premise is simple -- preeminent Shakespearean scholar Martin Flowers recruits the formidable Ryan Schisler and the weak-stomached Matthew Springer so that together they can present all the Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies of the Immortal Bard in under ninety minutes.

Each player has a star turn -- Schisler as Romeo, Springer as Juliet, Flowers as Hamlet, but basically everybody plays everything because, as Shakespeare once said (or was it Ferris Buehler?), “Live comes at you pretty fast.”

There are some surprises such as when -- Spoiler Alert -- Ophelia’s corpse is played by an overstuffed dog that sort of looks like Scooby Doo, or when Hamlet begins to treat his knife like a lolly-pop. Actually, the whole play is surprising. Fortunately it’s surprisingly fantastic.
Do they succeed? It depends on how you measure success! They certainly succeed at getting us to laugh, out loud and often. Flowers’ manic insecurity overwhelms his attempts at scholarship. Schisler broods and breeds his way through his intentionally inept portrayals of classic characters, while Springer, who plays the preponderance of female parts with a decidedly weak stomach, is game on, all in, and wit in. (I’m not sure if that last phrase is a real thing, but it ought to be).

The result is a riotous romp through the several classic and not so classic classics. The three agonize how to perform “Othello” without blackface, what to make of any play like “Troilus and Cressida” that features a character with a name like Agamemnon, or how to tell all those history play kings apart without a program. (Fortunately there’s a program!)
And lest you think the stomach churning cooking show parody of Titus Andronicus is over the top, let me assure you that the actual play is far more gory than you’d guess.
Right before the show I mentioned to a family member that it looked like the play would skip the largely unknown Shakespeare collaboration “The Two Noble Kinsmen,” which is not list in the program’s list -- but they didn’t! (They do skip Edward III, Arden of Faversham, The Book of Sir Thomas More, and the additions to The Spanish Tragedy, but then, everybody does, or did, until this year).

The show is ably directed by Rory Dunn. Richard Pletcher is the Executive Producer, Garth Moritz the Production Stage Manager, and, as the program notes, Amber Burgess is “Everything Else.” That everything else seems to include conducting all the backstage costume changes and probably the costumes too.

Box Info: “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)” by Adam Long, Jess Winfield, and Daniel Singer, is presented at the Locke Township Meeting Hall’s Second Stage, at Amish Acres, Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 PM, Sunday’s at 2:00 PM, through April 9. For tickets and information call 800-800-4942, or go to www.amishacres.com.