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.

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Location: Nappanee, Indiana, United States

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Here came the Russians



Six museum directors from Russia visited Amish Acres in Nappanee, Indiana on December 18, 2014. They were part of the U.S Department of State's International Visitor Leadership Program, a professional exchange program. The visit to Indiana was coordinated by The International Center in Indianapolis. The purpose of the three week trip across the United States was to learn how to improve cultural and natural tourism as an economic driver. Artur Hakobyan and Ella Lungwitz, Russian Language Interpreters, led the delegation during its 21 day visit.

The project focused on the management of living history and open air museums in the U.S. and the impact they have on local economies. Visited sites included living history museums and outdoor historical sites and monuments. The objectives of the program are to highlight the contribution of museums and historic sites, particularly in smaller locales, to regional economies and tourism, strategies and revenues through partnerships with local communities, governments, and businesses, marketing strategies local partnerships, 

 ​The group included Yuriy Komlev, Director Orenbufg Regional Museum of Fine Art, Orenburg; Stepan Ankudinov, Vologda State Museum of History, Architectural and Art; Svetlana Astapovicy, Deputy Director of the Torum Maa Ethonography Museum; Olesya Gavrilova, Director Bitoslavlitsy Department of Architecture; and Olga Titova, Director World Heritage Object, a UNESCO Heritage Site. None of the directors had prior visits to the United States. Participants are nominated buy staff at U.S. Embassies around the world. Every year 5,000 international visitors come to the U.S. Over 50 current Chiefs of State are alumni of the program​.

The group was particularly interested in the roll of private sector entrepreneurship and philanthropy in the U.S. museum world​. Most of the directors are involved in the preservation and intrepretation of indigenous culture and well as folk art and costumes. 

Amish Acres was their final visit. Richard Pletcher, Founder and CEO, Janis Logsdon, Jeff Kitson, Director, Nappanee, Area Chamber of Commerce, Kath Miller, Director of historic interpretation met with the group. Their day included tours of the historic farm, and threshers dinner. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

Max Gwin, One of the Good Guys

Max, as you will read, was a special influence on my life. I was reminded last night that I have not been fulfilling my responsibilities with this blog. This is my latest chance to start anew.

Max J. Gwin
(November 30, 1924 - December 30, 2014)
Eulogy
Nappanee United Methodist Church
Nappanee, Indiana
January 3, 2014

By Richard Pletcher

My name is Richard Pletcher. I taught senior high Sunday school for two weeks and ran out of this church screaming. Max Gwin taught the same class here for 40 of his 90 years. Max’s patience made Job look neurotic.  We are here to celebrate St. Max. He was the ultimate observer of human beings around him and found humor in their well meaning attempts to help each other navigate this funny thing called life. This skill became his person and profession.

Max saw Jesus in everyone and everything, and enjoyed him most in the faces of our children. Frank Ramirez recently said, “There is nothing more quiet than a church without the sound of children.”

With never a harsh word, he somehow found inspiration and glee from the MYF antics of Phil and Rob Lehman, Vance and Stan Lopp, Jan and Gary Culp, John and Ron Kendall, George Freese, and, of course, yours truly who was banned from Cub Scout meetings in my own basement by my Den mother who was also my real mother.

I felt most accepted, cozy, and loved when in the presence of Max’s teaching and tutelage. To him I am thankful to know that Moses went to the top of Mt. Cyanide to get the 10 commandments, Joshua led the Hebrews in the battle of Geritol, and David fought the Finkelsteins.

Oscar Wilde said, “The best way to make children good is to make them happy.” Each of us felt we were the most important person in Max’s life, no one had more interest in our well being than he. Out of my immediate circle of Max’s prodigies came graduates of Drew Seminary, Princeton and two West Pointers, plus IU school of law, with a masters degree in theology, and an Emmy winner.

As the understated James Weygand said in his book “They Called it Nappanee: A History 1874 - 1974”, “From Nappanee have come more top-notch cartoonists per capita than from any other city in the world. That claim ought to stand up for quite some time.”

The six funny-paper men are recognized on the Indiana State Historical Bureau bronze marker placed  in 2005 appropriately in front of the Nappanee Public Library.

It reads, “Merrill Blosser was first Nappanee artist to gain national recognition as a professional cartoonist. Freckles and His Friends, his most popular cartoon, ran from 1915 to 1973, syndicated by Newspaper Enterprise Association. In 1965, National Cartoonists Society honored Blosser on fiftieth year of Freckles and its "wholesome entertainment."
Five other Nappanee artists became nationally recognized cartoonists. Henry Maust and Francis "Mike" Parks drew newspaper editorial cartoons; Bill Holman's best was Smokey Stover (1935-1973); Fred Neher's Life's Like That ran 1934-1977; Max Gwin drew Slim and Spud for Prairie Farmer 1955-1991. Town, training, and careers connected these artists.”
An asterisk would add that Max’s cartoons were published in nearly 300 additional publications including “The New Yorker,” “The Saturday Evening Post,” “Cosmopolitan”, and “Collier's,” which, he recalled with a chuckle, went out of business the following year. More importantly, it would mention that his attic contains four nail kegs filled with nearly 10,000 rejection letters. Did I mention perseverance?
It all started with a $2.00 cartooning course while in grade school, followed by a gag-writing course in high school, and after his hitch in the Navy during World War II, he attended Chicago’s Academy of Fine Arts and became the only one of the six cartoonists to have studied at the Art Institute. He and Betty, his wife of 68 years, lived in a 26’ trailer with no running water, no bathroom, and no car for five years.
While working for the “Prairie Farmer,” Betty finally convinced Max to look for an apartment with at least a bathroom. He said he never understood why a bathroom was so important to Betty, he guessed it was just the way women were. This started the sequence of events that led them to move back home with Max setting up shop in the next largest town south of Nappanee, Gwin’s corners. Max’s father, W.H. Gwin and his brothers owned land on three of the four corners of SR 19 and CR 1350. The intersection is still known to natives as a landmark. On the south west corner was Willard’s filling station. The closed one room station became his studio. Once again there was no outhouse.

Betty joined her two sisters and sang with Vivian and Carol as the Postma Sisters trio for many years; therefore, Kent and Dawn are blessed with the double vision of the artist and the musician and the ability to express it beautifully through their music and photographic creations.

In 1971 at the age of 16 Kent was the first lighting technician for Amish Acres theatre. He climbed a rope ladder and balanced on a plank flicking switches through 8 weeks of dinner theatre. Safety harnesses had not been invented. Twenty seven years later, he returned to music direct “The Sound of Music” in The Round Barn Theatre. Of all Amish Acres tour guides over the decades, Dawn’s infectious smile, a cross between Max and Betty’s, was, perhaps, the most memorable.

The comic strip, “The Adventures of Slim and Spud,” a pair of hired hands on the farm of Penny Pincher, began in 1921 in the prestigious “Prairie Farmer” magazine. A series of cartoonists and staff artists and even a Wisconsin farmer kept the strip alive until Max took over drawing it in 1956 and continued it for 36 years.

In those nearly four decades, Max retired farmer Pincher, Slim took over the farm and married Annie, who was the cook and housekeeper for Pincher, a widower. Spud stayed on as Slim's hired man. Slim and Annie had two children. Their son, the older, was named Pinch. The daughters name was Peach. They grew until the ages of 10 and 6 and remained at that age. They lived in Corn County in Illinois or Indiana. Max said in a 1991 article in the Prairie Farmer’s Sesquicentennial Commemorative edition, "Slim, Annie, and Spud have problems and victories like those of other contemporary farmers.”

In 1957 he hired me as his first intern. My job was to draw the squares and rectangles on art board so Max could fill them with his cartoons and captions. I used an ancient ruling pen that had a screw that adjusts the width of the line by moving the two shaped metal tips closer or further apart. India ink was dripped in between the two points, then flowed across the page at a defined rate; or so the book says. With my meager junior high left handed drafting skills gleaned from Dave McGrew, I was humbled every time the ink smeared under the triangle and T-square, which was nearly a 50/50 proposition. Although I was not relieved by Max, who just kept smiling and encouraging me, Max was relieved when, giving up my drafting dreams, I took a job laying carpet for my father using right handed tools where my rate of mis-cut wasted carpet equaled the percent of unusable art board I left in my wake.

With his gap toothed smile, Wrigley’s Spearmint chewing gum, (he could chew gum faster than a chain smoker could light a Camel), signature laugh and nod of the head, Max was an irresistible, endearing and lifelong influence on this Type A personality.

I never saw anyone happier at his work than Max, smiling out over the corn field, breathing life into those little inked squares.

After my return from college in 1965, Max and I collaborated in an advertising campaign for Pletcher Furniture where I confined myself to the written word and left the drawing to Max. This series of ads was named one of the top 15 campaigns in the country by the National Newspaper Advertising Association.

Max was inducted into Amish Acres Arts & Crafts Festival’s Hall of Fame in 2013 for his humor, common sense, influence and inspiration on young people.

This summer I acquired Max’s drafting table and donated it to the Evelyn Lehman Culp Heritage Collection in The Nappanee Center with the stipulation that a plaque read “Donated by Richard Pletcher, Max Gwin’s first and worst intern.” Luckily for Max I was followed by a prestigious cadre of apprentices including Fred Hunsberger, Jerry Ganshorn and Jim Clouse.

In the 1970s, my photograph was on the cover of “Prairie Farmer” for preserving the historic Stahly-Nissley-Kuhns farm that has become Amish Acres. A farmer acquaintance of mine said, “What the hell is he doing on there? He don't know nothing about farming!” I have never heard Max laugh louder or longer, still music to my ears.

I returned to Max’s “filling station” throughout his life, to rub shoulders with his serenity, modesty, and humility.

Betty noted in her recent Christmas card to us, that she and Max had been looking through some of his early cartoons they found in the attic and Max said, “I was better than I thought I was.” We knew that all along.

I struggle, as I expect most of us do, with many of the attributes that made Max a servant of God in this building and beyond; so I carry his belting leather briefcase with me, his name embossed on the front, as a daily reminder of this gentle man. Amen.

Nappanee’s Cartoonists
From “They Called It Nappanee: A History 1874 - 1974”
By James Weygand

First, in 1915 came Merrill Blosser who created “Freckles and his Friends”. It became the only comic strip in history to reach its Golden Anniversary under the personal direction of its original writer-cartoonist. His great nephew, Brock Blosser, was a fraternity brother of mine.
He lives on an island in Canada without electricity carving Black Forest gnomes. The artistic gene runs deep.

Henry Maust worked as a cartoonist for the “Cleveland Plain Dealer” along with Merrill Blosser, but switched to painting and commercial art where he made his mark. He created ads for Libbys, Swift, General Mills and Kraft, receiving in 1923 the Gold Medal for the best advertising painting of the year. His work was published in the “Saturday Evening Post” and “Womens Home Campanion.”

Francis (Mike) Parkes, studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Chicago, joined the “Cleveland Press,” ending up at the “San Francisco Call-Bulletin.” Copies of his editorial cartoons were requested by Winston Churchill, Harry Truman, J. Edgar Hoover and Richard Nixon.

Fred Neher in the 1920’s created “Us Moderns”, a humorous look at hospital babies for “American Magazine” and “Life’s Like That” appeared in 265 newspapers.

Bill Holman was hired in 1935 by the Chicago Tribune-New York News Syndicate to distribute his “Smokey Stover and the Smoke Eaters” strip. His Foo-car is the mascot of the Nappanee Fire Department and a full-sized replica of the two wheeled chief’s car is in the Evelyn Lehman Culp Heritage Collection in The Nappanee Center.

Max Gwin, the youngest of Nappanee’s school of cartoonists. While he modestly protests he has never hit the big league, as did the others, the facts appear to indicate otherwise. His regular comic strip “Slim and Spud,” which he drew from 1956 through 1996, appeared regularly in “Prairie Farmer,” the prestigious journal in its field. In addition to still another regular comic strip, his cartoons have appeared in two hundred ninety magazines, including many.


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Groups Today Selects Amish Acres as a Top Attraction in the Midwest

Groups Today, a respected tourism industry publication designed for group tour planners, presents Readers' Choice Awards each year as voted on by its subscribers. The 2013 winners were recently announced in the November issue of the trade publication.

The voting is broken down into categories that include top national and regional destinations, attractions, hotels, restaurants, and cruise lines for group travel.

Amish Acres in Nappanee, Indiana received honorable mention in the Midwest Attraction Awards category and was the only Indiana property selected within any of the categories. Midwest Attractions were headed by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. In addition to Amish Acres, honorable mentions went to Navy Pier, Cedar Point, and the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library & Museum.

The Midwest Destination Marketing Organization winner was Explore Branson followed by Circle Michigan, visit Milwaukee, Circle Wisconsin, and Real Racine.

Shopping Mall of America lead the shopping destinations over Navy Pier, Woodfield, Illinois, Lodi Station Outlets, Ohio, and Bayshore Town Center, Wisconsin.

Chicago lead all Midwest Destinations with honorable mention going to South Dakota, Holland, Michigan, Door County and Racine, Wisconsin.

Southern attractions were lead by Biltmore Estate, Graceland, Magnolia Plantation, Crystal Bridges Museum, and Natchez Pilgrimage. Western Glacier National Park, Grand Canyon, Universal Studios Hollywood, Albuquerque Balloon fiesta, and the Cody Stampede Rodeo represented the Western group destinations.

Broadway, the Statue of Liberty, Gettysburg, the Newseum, and Cog Railway highlighted Eastern attractions of interest to the group tour market.

"We are honored to represent Indiana in Groups Today's annual Readers' Choice Awards for 2013," said Richard Pletcher, Founder/CEO, of the historic farm and heritage resort," It encourages us to know we are appreciated by those who choose to travel across the country by motor coach," said. The 130 year old Amish farmstead has been under the ownership of Amish Acres and the Pletcher family since 1968. All of the original buildings have been preserved and restored for the purpose of interpreting Amish society through education, enlightenment and entertainment.

The farm's Round Barn Theatre has presented the 1955 Broadway musical Plain & Fancy for twenty seven years and become the show's national home. The theatre has produced over 100 additional Broadway musicals over the last decade and a half. The centerpiece of the attraction is the original farmstead that has been lived on by three generations of the same Amish family. Guided tours, documentary films, family style meals, and domestic crafts and shops surround the farmstead. Two country inns make Amish Acres a destination for those touring northern Indiana and the Midwest.

For more information on Amish Acres contact JanisLogsdon@AmishAcres.com.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

This is a First!

After sitting in this chair responding to customers complaints and compliments for four and a half decades, I thought I had seen it all. I was wrong. Read on.
8/5/13
Dear Amish Acres Restaurant,
My husband and I attended your Amish Acres Festival yesterday.  I was so disappointed after driving for 2 ½ hours to find that the cost of the Thresher Dinner is 19.95!!  
Come on now.. seriously… who can eat $19.95 worth of fried chicken/taters / etc??        
I realize that the price of food keeps going up .. but that price is ridiculous.  Gas prices are outrageous enough, then to find out the food prices are extreme also......what a disappointment. 
We drove from Indy and the family style fried chicken restaurants around here charge only 16.95 to 18.95 for the same kind of meal.  I realize this is only a few bucks.. but it is enough to make me not buy your over-priced meal.  Why charge a person so much for something they cannot even consume?
Why not lower your price a little to make this an affordable meal???   I don’t pay that much for a steak dinner at an exclusive restaurant.   We did not eat at your restaurant-- but most assuredly would have had the price been more reasonable and more affordable for the average family.
8/6/13
Dear Confused
My goodness! In all my forty five years owning Amish Acres I have never had anyone scream at me before about the price of our Threshers Dinner without having eaten it or know what is included in the price or not have the price right: It is $18.95.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

9 to 5, What a Way to Make a Living

We received a number of complaints about the uncomfortable story of 1980's chauvinism of Dolly Parton's 9 to 5: The Musical. It was ironic the show was running during the sex scandal involving San Diego Mayor Bob Filner who was voted out of office by a 7-0 vote by the City Council for alleged inappropriate behavior around at least 17 women. So Dolly's observations in the 1980's still hold true some 30 years later. If the role of certain live theatre shows is not to face injustice and make its audiences uncomfortable, then we're not doing our job.

It, therefore, was refreshing to receive this letter from a patron which made our entire cast feel that their hard work was not in vain.

August 30, 2013
Please forward this e-mail to the Cast/Amber Burgess/etc.

This was, in a way, a trip back to the past for many of us who lived through those years. I never was in an office quite like this one, however I knew this sort of thing went on daily for many in the work-a-day world. I cringed at it back then as I did when you presented the show. It is good to "go back" and be reminded of how stupid people were/are.You did a very good job presenting this musical.

Timothy Leonard is so expressive when the "camera" is not on him. His face really tells a story as he goes to and fro. The choreography is so fun in this production, especially the use of hands to present a visual effect.

The Round Barn productions have almost always have casts who are very expressive when they are not the focal point. (perhaps that is a special class?) Oh, and thanks Amber for taking time to talk with us Wednesday Night after the show. I know it is time to thank the cast, but we have been looking for a chance to say Hi now that you are back in Nappanee.

Thanks for the picture we can put in our album of Round Barn favorites. We now simply have to sign up for next year! This will be year 8 or 9 for us (after 60 you tend to forget things).

As Mr. Grace always says (Are You Being Served) "You've All Done

Very Well"!....response: "Thank You Mr. Grace"!

See you in 4 1/2 weeks.

Mike and Kathy

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Good Deed

Amish Acres 51st Arts & Crafts Festival always provides plenty of opportunities to be nice to people. After all over 300 of our vendors, who come from 35 states, are away from home; not a good feeling when troubles arise. We received this letter from an outside observer.

Good morning Jenny,

It is Saturday morning and I don't want to wait a moment longer to let you know about a good deed That I witnessed last evening.

I went back to my tent after supper and as I walked along the drive from the Inn there was a huge motor home and equally huge trailer mired in the mud.

Two crafters, a husband-and-wife, I don't know their names, were attempting to help the driver move his motor home out of the mud onto the pavement. They had detached the trailer from it. I watched a few minutes and then walked on to my booth.

By the time I got back someone on your staff had arrived and the motor home had been pulled out. But the trailer remained and was not at a good angle with the road.

Having nothing else to do, I stayed and watched the rest of the activity. One of your guys used a forklift to lift the hitch area and was able to move the trailer enough so that Another man could back one of your pickup trucks to it and get it hitched.

And then success! When thanked they said that without that it would have been just any other event. All three of them appeared to enjoy the challenge of figuring out the best way to get it done.

I wish that I could tell you their names. Two were wearing your peacock blue shirts.

For that man and his wife they were truly angels in disguise. The crafter told me that they Are not in the show, just stopped to come in and see it.

Bonnie Oliver

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Amish Acres Arts & Crafts Festival Named A TOP 10 Event in Indiana



America’s Tour and Travel website, www.Americathebeautiful.com , has named the Amish Acres Arts & Crafts Festival a TOP 10 Event in Indiana. The goal of the website is to encourage travel across these United States and encourage visitors from around the world to explore all that America has to offer. The Festival is also named a Top 100 Event in the United States by the American Bus Association (ABA) for 2013; the fifth time in the last eight years. Paul F. Smith, president of AmericaTheBeautiful.com, goes on to say, “Out of the hundreds of events that happen each year across Indiana—we have selected yours as one of the TOP 10 that represents your state very well. “

The Arts and Crafts Festival, among others, joins the Indianapolis 500 Festival, Fort Wayne’s Three Rivers Festival, Jasper Strassenfest, Indiana State Fair, Madison Chautauqua Festival of Art, and Parke County Covered Bridge Festival in Indiana’s Top 10 Events.

Amish Acres Arts & Crafts Festival begins its next half century celebrating 51 years on August 1st and continues through August 4th. Over 300 artists and crafters from across the country will ply their trade and sell their wares around the historic farm’s pond. Farm wagon rides, marionettes and magic shows, famous family style Threshers Dinner in the century old barn restaurant, and guided house and farm tours intertwine the festival’s and farm’s attractions. Continuous free entertainment throughout the four days along with festive food concoctions including kettle corn, pulled pork sandwiches, and breaded Hoosier tenderloins bring a distinctive flavor to the annual event. Smith further states, “The event Amish Acres hosts every year is a vital part of the amazing culture that we maintain here in America and we are proud of all that you do.”

The America Companies created www.AmericaTheBeautiful.com as The United States Destination Marketing Agency to promote travel within the 50 States of this union, the District of Columbia and the U.S. territories in the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean. This agency works to encourage domestic travel and international visitation in the tourism and convention industry while promoting the patriotic spirit of the American culture.

For more information about Amish Acres Arts & Crafts Festival call 800-800-4942 or visit the website at AmishAcres.com.