Third annual KilnFest coming up in Medora

MEDORA — Free admission is the biggest change to this year’s KilnFest.

For the third annual event Sept. 17, the Medora Brick Plant and Historical Sites Inc. committee decided to go away from selling $10 bracelets to get into the grounds, where music, food and vendors fill the historical site at 8202 E. County Road 425S, Medora.

“Everything else seems to be coming together and getting better every year, but we’re lacking a crowd,” committee President Tim Reynolds said. “For it to be a thing, we need people, and I’ve not been real pleased with the crowd yet. That’s part of it, and the other part is because we got the bands free. We can allow them to do that. We couldn’t bring in near as much last year in ticket sales as we did what we paid out for the music and sound guy.”

Not having to pay the music acts this year is thanks to John Chastain. He is a member of one of the bands that played at last year’s KilnFest, and after that, he approached the committee.

“He said, ‘Hey, if you’ll let me, I’ll take care of all of the entertainment next year and I’ll bring my sound equipment, and I’ll do it for free. I’ve got enough buddies in the music deal that I can get all of the bands for free,’” Reynolds said. “We said, ‘Sure.’”

The lineup includes Jared Kearschner from 1 to 3 p.m., Forrest Turner from 3 to 5 p.m., Nanny and the Old Goats from 6 to 8 p.m. and Gravel Dogs from 9 p.m. to midnight.

There also will be an acoustic jam session by the bonfire from 8 to 9 p.m., giving people an opportunity to bring an instrument and perform.

KilnFest also will feature children’s games, including a balloon pop dartboard and a duck pond, from noon to 3 p.m.

The Brick Plant Grill will sell hamburgers, hot dogs and barbecue throughout the day, Jackie Wheeler will have funnel cakes and more available for purchase and Gypsy Tavern will sell drinks.

There also will be vendors onsite selling crafts, baked goods and more, and the brick plant committee will sell KilnFest T-shirts for $15 and brick plant merchandise.

“Everything is shaping up to be the best year,” Reynolds said. “We’ve got 10 vendors now. I think the most we’ve had is six. And we have an alcohol vendor, and we have one new ice cream vendor. … It’s really shaping up to be a really, really good year this year.”

Proceeds from the Brick Plant Grill, shirt sales, brick plant merchandise, vendor fees and live auction will go toward the ongoing restoration of the brick plant, which opened in 1904 as the Medora Shale Brick Co. and closed in 1992.

In 2016, a coalition between the Jackson County Visitor Center, Indiana Landmarks and what was then called Save the Medora Brick Plant was formed. Troy Darkis, who used to work at the plant, was interested in giving the property to a local nonprofit historical group.

Reynolds said the site was all grown up, and the kilns couldn’t be seen from the road.

Save the Medora Brick Plant met monthly and had regular cleanup days. The group had an Environmental Protection Agency study done and had the property appraised, which came in at $350,000.

In late 2016, the group became a 501(c)(3) organization and became known as Medora Brick Plant and Historical Sites Inc.

Since then, the brick plant office has been restored thanks to a $6,000 grant from the Owen-Carr Township Community Fund through the Community Foundation of Jackson County.

Water and electricity have been hooked up, too. Local business Pete’s Trenching donated the labor and materials for the water, while electricity was restored with support from a $5,000 Impact grant from RAB Lighting thanks to All Phase Electric Supply Co. in Seymour.

In 2020, a stage was built through another $6,000 grant from Owen-Carr, and that has been used by the musicians at KilnFest ever since.

Also that year, the horse barn that’s used as a maintenance building received a new roof.

“It will be a museum when we can afford to put a metal building back there in the back somewhere,” Reynolds said. “Right now, we’re using the office for an office and a museum. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

In early 2021, another Owen-Carr grant allowed for the engine room to get a new roof, and a separate grant resulted in new doors and windows on the building.

This year, yet another grant led to electric being wired for the kitchen and new lighting and industrial fans in the dining hall.

The plan is for the building to serve as a meeting space that nonprofits can use for free and people can rent for events.

“Soon, we’re going to have to look at getting septic,” Reynolds said. “We’re going to have to have septic and running water before we’ll be able to actually make a kitchen out of that, and we’ll chip away with grants and get kitchen equipment and such, and we’ll be able to think about our own bathrooms instead of using portapots all the time.”

Since 2017, Reynolds said the committee has been awarded nearly $50,000 in local grants.

“I’m really proud of that,” he said. “We’ve been able to do that with $6,000, $7,000 grants at a time, even some $1,000 grants. I’m super proud of the support we’ve gotten from different people and the dedication that we’ve had from the core group (the committee). … With the improvements and every historical brick has got a dollar amount on it, I would say it’s a half-million dollar nonprofit corporation at this point, and I’m proud of that, too.”

The big project is to get the 11 dome-shaped kilns and six smokestacks on the 6-acre property restored to make the site a destination. The kilns need attention on the interior and exterior, and the smokestacks are in a crumbling state.

Fleeta Arthur of Freetown continues to volunteer her time to gather information for getting the brick plant on the National Register of Historic Places.

“The point is we want to get on the registry, and KilnFest is to help build a bank account so we’ll be able to get the matching grants to do the real work and what’s the most important. That’s keep the kilns and smokestacks from falling,” Reynolds said. “We’re still trying to save the Medora Brick Plant.”

All along, the committee’s goal has been to raise $5,000 a year on KilnFest. To date, they have yet to top $3,000 in a year.

“We wanted to get there within three to five years, and this is our third year,” Reynolds said. “I think we’ve got a chance this year. I really do.”

If you go 

What: Third annual KilnFest

When: Noon to midnight Sept. 17

Where: Medora Brick Plant, 8202 E. County Road 425S, Medora

Who: Live music by Jared Kearschner from 1 to 3 p.m., Forrest Turner from 3 to 5 p.m., Nanny and the Old Goats from 6 to 8 p.m. and Gravel Dogs from 9 p.m. to midnight; there also will be an acoustic jam session by the bonfire from 8 to 9 p.m. (bring an instrument)

Cost: Free admission; bring money for the food and drink booths, vendors, live auction, KilnFest T-shirts and brick plant merchandise

Proceeds: Ongoing restoration of the brick plant site

Join the effort 

The Medora Brick Plant and Historical Sites Inc. committee meets at 7 p.m. on the last Monday of each month at the Medora Senior Citizens Center, 52 W. Main St.

Anyone interested in joining the committee can do so at the meetings, which are open to the public.

For information, join the Medora Brick Plant and Historical Sites Inc. group on Facebook.