Opening Day Ceremony for Ferdinand’s 175th in the Works
FERDINAND (Local Sources) – In comparison with, say, Vienna, Austria (1155) or even Salem, Massachusetts (1626), Ferdinand, Indiana’s birth in 1840 might seem like a blink of an eye ago. But, 175 years have passed since Reverend Joseph Kundek created his idyllic community when the State of Indiana was a mere 24 years old and still covered in primeval forests.
That same year, Queen Victoria of England married Prince Albert of Saxe Coburg-Gotha, William Henry Harrison won the presidency thanks to his “Log Cabin and Hard Cider” campaign, as well as the slogan “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too!” and the first recorded bowling match in Unites States history was held at Knickerbocker Alleys in New York City.
No one was bowling in Ferdinand, however. Still, from day one, two things were of prime importance to the immigrants who peopled the new town. These two things are equally important today — education and entertainment, the latter in the form of music.
Both will figure prominently in opening ceremonies to be held on Thursday, June 18, starting at 5 p.m. at the grandstand in 18th Street Park on Ferdinand’s north side.
A big highlight of the evening will be a salute to all members of Forest Park bands both past and present, whether from Ferdinand or Birdseye or St. Anthony or Kyana or Schnellville or parts in between.
Former band members can and are encouraged to order special t-shirts to wear and show solidarity.
Following a welcome by Town Council President Ken Sicard, some of the most distinguished — and often notorious — residents from the town’s past will make a brief appearance (from Father Kundek himself to saloon keeper Ma Leppert). Ferdinand native Sue Ellspermann, also known as Indiana’s 50th lieutenant governor and a distinguished personage in the present, will then speak to the audience before the introduction of past school administrators and band directors by Gene Keusch, himself a former — and first — Forest Park band director who also served as an administrator in the Southwest Dubois County School Corporation.
“I think anybody who ever put on a Marching Ranger uniform will enjoy this event,” enthused current Forest Park Band Booster vice-president and incoming president Pat Miller, who has been put in charge of this portion of the program. “We are honored that Gene Keusch has agreed to speak. What better way to honor Marching Ranger alumni and the band’s tradition of excellence than by hearing from the man who got it all started and took it to a state championship level?”
That he did, the first state championship garnered in 1981 and repeating the following year. He returned to the state capital for first place honors in 1985 and then again in 1986.
The Marching Rangers have been honored with nine first place state championship trophies in Class D since the band’s inception, taking the title in 2001 under Director Janet Robbins and in 2008, 2012, 2013 and 2014 under current Ranger mentor Chad Gayso. The Marching Rangers have also finished as runners up nine times and have made 37 trips to the State Finals.
Everyone who has ever been involved in any way is invited to attend the kick-off. Following introductions and brief speeches on the right hand side of the ball field, the current Marching Ranger contingent will perform the school song and National Anthem, followed by photo ops in left field. Here, former sax players can pose with the current saxophone section, the flutes with the flute section, tubas with the tuba section, percussion with the percussion section and so on.
Beth McManaway and Brenda Barth are organizing the educational portion of the program and are inviting all past principals from St. Ferdinand, Ferdinand and Forest Park high schools as well as Birdseye High School, Ferdinand Grade School, St. Anthony Grade School and Pine Ridge Elementary and all living Southeast school superintendents.
Finding former band directors and high school band members are Miller’s bailiwick. All three organizers say if anyone knows someone they may not, to please give them a call.
Attendees will also be introduced to former and current Miss Ferdinand queens, Little Miss and Little Mister, the 2015 Grand Marshal and possibly the oldest living resident and longest married couple.
To cap the evening, the multiple award winning Forest Park dance team will perform.
The entire program will last about 45 minutes (except possibly the photos with band members) — in plenty of time to check out the beer garden (opening at 5 p.m.), vote in the Baby Photo contest, watch the Fashions of Olde competition at 6 p.m., take in the Homebrew Contest, starting at 7 p.m. and dancing the rest of the night away to music by Boogie Tunes, performing on the main stage until 11 p.m.
The 175th Heimatfest Queen will be crowned the Sunday prior (June 14) at 6:30 p.m. in the Forest Park High School Auditorium ($5 admission) and the Little Misses and Misters will strut their stuff earlier that day at 2 p.m. in the same spot with the same admission price. The 9:30 a.m. Mass with Bishop Charles Thompson at St. Ferdinand Church will start the day, followed by Lunch with the Bishop in the Community Center for those who purchased tickets (if you haven’t yet, pick them up ASAP at the Spiritual Life Center or Town Hall. There will be no admission without a ticket and no sales at the door).
Also preceding opening ceremonies, on Wednesday, June 17, will be a Homemade Wine Contest in the Ferdinand Community Center at 7 p.m.
The party — 175 years in the making — is almost ready to begin and everyone is invited.