Spectacle of lights: Torch relay finds way to Jackson County


The Indiana Bicentennial Torch Relay spent less than three hours in Jackson County on Thursday, including about two minutes in downtown Seymour.

That didn’t stop the organizers of the visit to the city from throwing a four-hour block party that included a chance to learn something about the state’s past, pick up free foam torches and listen to some music at the same time.

At about 11 a.m., Seymour resident Jill McIntosh King sang “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Shortly after that, Tonja Couch of Seymour delivered the nearly 2-foot-tall torch to a makeshift podium, where Mayor Craig Luedeman welcomed it to the city.

Couch, executive director of Jackson County United Way, carried the torch a few yards and handed it to former Seymour Mayor John Burkhart so its journey could continue in an antique automobile.

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The torch relay commemorates the state’s bicentennial, which is being celebrated this year. This year also marks the bicentennials of Jackson County and Brownstown.

Chuck Seybold of Seymour took it all in and said he decided to attend Thursday’s ceremony in the city because it was historic, and he just wanted to witness it.

Rachel Towriss of Seymour brought her children for the same reasons.

“I home-school them,” she said. “It’s historical and a special event for our state.”

Towriss said there aren’t many opportunities to celebrate the history of the community.

“You have to take advantage of them,” she said. “I just wanted to see the bicentennial torch relay. We knew several people carrying the torch.”

The celebration on Chestnut Street in downtown Seymour didn’t draw a large crowd, but Luedeman said organizers knew that coming into the day.

“But throughout the route, it will be packed,” he said.

That was especially true at the Jackson County Courthouse in Brownstown, where students from several schools gathered as the torch began its journey at about 10 a.m.

A variety of activities were planned surrounding the torch’s passage through downtown Seymour.

The Indiana Bicentennial Experience, a high-tech museum featuring information and artifacts, spent the morning and an early part of the afternoon there.

Towriss said she found the Indiana Bicentennial Experience housed in a semitrailer nice.

“They had some neat digital touchscreens where you could find information and learn more about the history of Indiana,” she said.

There also were performances by Frisky Business featuring King and Mike Gerth, the Seymour High School band, Joe Persinger and Jim Prentice.

Luedeman also issued a proclamation, but he limited his involvement to doing that and welcoming the torch.

“In my opinion, I get to do enough,” he said.

That didn’t mean he wasn’t excited about the torch’s visit.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” he said. “It’s just unbelievable. I’m so excited for all of the torchbearers and all of the history and the community involvement.”

Burkhart said he thought it was a huge honor being able to represent Seymour and his generation that grew up here.

“… and being one of 2,000 torchbearers from throughout the state of Indiana and one of 26 in Jackson County,” he said.

After the lighting ceremony on the front steps of the Jackson County Courthouse in Brownstown, the torch made its way to Seymour, going through Freeman Field and by Seymour-Jackson Elementary School, Immanuel Lutheran School and Schneck Medical Center.

Once it left downtown, the torch’s route went past Emerson Elementary School and Seymour High School.

The torch then made its way back to Brownstown before heading west on U.S. 50 to State Road 135. It then traveled south through Vallonia before turning onto State Road 235 toward the Medora Covered Bridge.

Morris Tippin of Medora carried the torch across the historic covered bridge early Thursday afternoon.

It was then driven by torchbearer Theresa Rouse of Freetown from the bridge to near the Jackson County line with Washington County, where Charles Moman of Seymour was the final county resident to carry the torch.

The torch’s 3,200-mile journey to each of the state’s 92 counties will take five weeks. The torch is on the road six days of each week with Monday being a day of rest. The relay will end Oct. 15 with a grand celebration on the grounds of the Statehouse in Indianapolis.

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