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.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Is There a Musical Less Original Than Godspell?

Is there a musical that is less original than Godspell? Some of the lyrics are taken verbatim out of the same hymnals church members already have in their pews! A lot of the dialog is taken straight from the Gospel of Matthew. And many people have seen so many productions they can sing the songs and recite the lines before they're sung or spoken.

Even the title is nothing new -- it's just the Old English word for Good News -- God Spell -- which is of course the root for our word gospel!

Yet since its opening off-Broadway in 1971 Godspell, (Book by John Michael Tebelak, Music and Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz) always manages to sound fresh and new.
Maybe that's what the whole idea of Incarnation is all about -- words are made flesh and dwell among us! Or as it says in the Good Book, "Behold, I make all things new!"Making old things new is the reason Artistic Director Jeremy Littlejohn is excited about bring a week's worth of Godspell to the Second Stage at the Locke Township Meeting Hall as part of the Round Barn Theatre season at Amish Acres.

“My rule is not to repeat a show unless I can do it as good or even better than the earlier production,” Littlejohn said. He thought long and hard about reviving Godspell, because the 1996 Round Barn production, set in  a Hoosier cornfield was, in his words “...a very well executed production.”

However Littlejohn is excited about the concept for this season’s production, taking advantage of the combination of young actors and seasoned veterans.

“I’ve got this Breakfast Club kind of thing,” Littlejohn said. Jesus (Travis Smith) and Judas (T.J. Besler) are both adults. The rest of the company are teenagers. They will represent the different kinds of groups you find in high school: jocks, band people, goths. Also, the Second Stage is a super intimate space. With ten people and an orchestra, we’ve never done a musical this large in the Locke ever.”

One of the show's elements that insures each production is unique is the way each cast brings its own personality into the show. While two actors play specific roles (Jesus and John the Baptist/Judas) the rest are identified by a single name that is not drawn directly from the gospels.

Together they tell the good news beginning with the baptism of Jesus and continuing through the crucifixion and beyond.

Songs include "Prepare Ye The Way of the Lord," "Day by Day," "All Good Gifts," "O Bless the Lord," "All for the Best," "By the Willows," among many others.

While each year's company for the Round Barn Theatre is drawn from actors across the country, this particular production will feature many local actors from the immediate area, places like Nappanee, Wakarusa, and Milford, including several who took part in the Young Actors Studio camps sponsored by Amish Acres.

Song writer Stephen Schwartz once said that the musical is as much about the community of faith owning and retelling the story of Jesus as it is about Jesus himself. Most audience members certainly carry on with that tradition by singing the music as they leave the theater. This is a musical that is memorable, and sticks to your ribs.

The cast includes the Round Barn's Music Director Travis Smith as Jesus, T.J. Besler as John the Baptist/Judas, along with Sara Bowling, Kellie MacGowan, Ricky Iniesta, Aria Skaggs, Joelle Rassi, Christian Elias, Bradley M. Waelbroeck, and Milchelle Miller. The orchastra will include David Brennan, Tom Slavey, and Brian Bell. Round Barn Artistic Director Jeremy Littlejohn is directing the show, and Amber Burgess is in charge of costumes.

Godspell, Book by John Michael Tebelak, Music and Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, will be performed at the Locke Township Meeting Hall at Amish Acres, August 31 & September 1 @ 7:00 PM, September 6 & 7 at 2:00 PM and 7:00 PM. For reservations call 800-800-4942.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Indiana State Parks Provide Farm Focus

My Indiana Home magazine
May 19, 2015

Lincoln’s Boyhood Home in Lincoln City, Indiana.
Amish Acres was recently featured along with Conner Prairie in an article titled "Indiana State Parks Provide Farm Focus," by Rachel Bertone. She began, "When visiting one of the 24 state parks across Indiana, you might expect towering trees, challenging hiking trails, scenic campgrounds and water activities ranging from fishing to canoeing. But at several Indiana parks, you can immerse yourself in centuries-old farm life, discover a water-powered gristmill, visit with heirloom livestock, and explore fascinating history – all focused on agriculture."

The State Parks that have a focus on agricultural history included Life of Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial, Lincoln City, Spring Mill State Park, Mitchell, Prophetstown, Indiana's newest state park, in Battle Ground , and O'Bannon Woods State Park in Corydon.

Amish Acres in Nappanee and Conner Prairie in Fishers are among the few additional historical farms in Indiana not located in a state park with Amish Acres being the only one privately operated.

Lincoln's Living Historical Farm depicts typical activities of the 1820s Lincoln farm, and is complete with a cabin, outbuildings, split rail fences, farm animals, vegetable and herb gardens, and field crops.

Spring Mill contains 20 historic buildings to explore, including the majestic centerpiece – a three-story limestone gristmill from 1817 that still grinds cornmeal today. In addition, guests can explore a historic leather shop, saw mill, distillery, gardens and blacksmith shop on the grounds.

Conner Prairie is one of the most-visited outdoor museums in the country, with exhibits including 1836 Prairietown, where visitors can experience 19th-century life, and Animal Encounters, which features world-class, rare animal breeds such as English Longhorn cattle, Ossabaw Island hogs and Leicester sheep. 

The Farm at Prophetstown, which serves as a world-class training farm for low input, horse-powered agriculture. Staff at the 125-acre farm is dedicated to showing, sharing and teaching about horse-powered farming, as well as modern farming techniques, including genetics and machinery.

O'Bannon Woods State Park in Corydon features a uniquely restored, working haypress barn and holds events such as Living Pioneer Farmstead days on Aug. 1.

Amish Acres in
Nappanee is a real working farm with barnyard hens, livestock, gardens, an apple orchard and agricultural demonstrations. The farm's family, according to Professor James Landing, was the first Amish to settle in Indiana. In addition to the historic farm, Amish Acres features live musical theatre in The Round BarnTheatre.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Radio to the Rescue

The United Nations has declared today World Radio Day in celebration of radio's unique status as a "simple and inexpensive"technology with the power to reach even the most remote, marginalized communities. We don't quite fit into that category, even though we can't get USA Today in Nappanee any longer.

It is fitting that last night we wisely chose to forgo driving in the cold to Elkhart Northside Gym to see NorthWood High School's boys' basketball team play Elkhart Memorial in the final conference game of the year. So in the warmth of our television room with its 55 inch TV hooked up to Netfix, armed with two laptops, our Ipad, Kindle and two smart phones, we set out to watch the game on But no matter which device or method of maneuvering the website, we could not connect with the broadcast. Finally we brought the alarm clock radio from the bedroom, with its single wire antenna, to join our electronics store of devices and attempted to dial in 1340 AM.

It was all static and only two stations came in, both Christian stations, the only ones who any longer invest in signal strength. Susie suggested we try the built-in "stereo" receiver we haven't depended on for years. Finally we made contact, not the clear signal we expect today, but the one that vacillates between intelligible and non. We were able to discern our team was down 13 points heading into the fourth quarter. With only one conference loss and a chance to tie for the league title, this was not good news. Within half of the final quarter NW had pulled within 5 points. The announcer were so excited they nearly blew out the microphone with every ensuing every basket.

A minute to go, down two junior point guard Braxton Linville hit a three pointer from the left wing, to take the lead only to lose it on the next possession, then regained it again on another Linville three pointer from the right wing only to lose the lead on the answer bucket. 4.8 seconds to go, down two, Braxton sees two seconds on the game clock, lets fly from the top of the key, hitting his third three point shot in a row in less than a minute. Game over. So? We realized it was more exiting on the radio than if we were there, more exciting that watching it streaming through our computer. Through our imagination we have a more vivid memory of this outstanding effort than if we had been there. We've seen most of the games this year and this was the best one we heard. Radio still has its place and should be required listening.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Creative Blogging

Andrew Sullivan, well known long term blogger, whose blog was once owned by TIME has quit posting out of sheer exhaustion. One wonders if this drudgery has become obsolete? Facebook posting is so easy, you don't even have to write sentences and no one cares. Express yourself on Twitter and you are cut off at 140 characters, saving your readers from boredom with your well thought out monologue.

But, every time you think the world is ending someone new comes around the corner who has just taken out the garbage and thinks the world is just beginning. So be it with blogging. Case in point: Motovo Insider. Motovo is an online real estate broker whose blog has in the past two years grown from 2,000 visits per month to over 18 million, making it the most popular real estate blog in the world. The Insider makes hip lists of attributes of states and communities across the nation. They recently blogged "All About Indiana: Indiana State Guide". The Insider - Understand Articles: Love Where You Live include "10 Things Only People From Dallas Understand," "Ten Words That Mean Something Different In New Jersey," and "30 Things That No One Tells You About Leaving Colorado."

The team has published more than 2,000 posts about communities in the U.S. to date, 150 of which have broken 100,000 views. 80 percent of all incoming traffic comes from Facebook, which is where the team sees many of its articles go viral with an average of over 5,000 interactions per article from the social media site alone.

As a marketing tool it is a savvy ploy. Many entering the workforce today or in the early stages of their careers chose where they want to live, then find a suitable job. My generation, several ago, was sent into the world looking for a job, no matter where it took us. The new way seems more fulfilling. The freer we get, the happier we seem to be. This is by now obvious lead into one of the latest blogs titled "All About Indiana", 28 Things People From Indiana Have To Explain To Out-Of-Towners." Number One and Two, of course, are When It Comes To Basketball, You Must Pick a Side and The Film Hoosiers Is Totally Accurate. Further down the list that covers Pork Tenderloin Sandwiches, Sugar Cream Pie, and Michael Jackson at Number 25 is "The Best Comfort Food Is Amish Comfort Food", with the caption Most Hoosiers aren't about to give up their iPhones anytime soon, but that doesn't mean they don't enjoy a little Amish home cooking at Amish Acres. Read them all at the Motovo Insider

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)
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