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.

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.


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