Bicentennial relay through Bartholomew County puts heritage into gear

Planes, trains — make that tractors — and automobiles will carry Indiana’s bicentennial flame through 52 miles of Bartholomew County roads and streets today.

The county’s 31 special torch bearers will hand the flame from one person to the next from late this afternoon to early evening as part of the relay celebrating the state’s heart and heritage.

For example, Hope’s Don Strietelmeier will carry the torch aboard his 1935 John Deere tractor.

The variety of vehicles serve as more than promotional pieces of the local leg of the historic, 92-county, 3,200-mile journey to mark the 200th Hoosier birthday, county relay coordinator Lynn Lucas said.

“That’s part of the way we are telling the story of Bartholomew County and Columbus and the surrounding area,” Lucas said. “Where else are you going to see vehicles like the antique (1941) Coca-Cola delivery truck? There’s a specific reason these vehicles have been chosen.”

In fact, that bright yellow truck carrying Beth Newman, daughter of longtime local historian Susanna Jones, will serve as a symbol of the local Coca-Cola Bottling Co. plant that once bottled, and still distributes, the famous soft drink.

About two thirds of the torch bearers, ages 10 to 93, will be in vehicles of some sort — and for a practical reason.

“We have an awful lot of territory to cover in (about) two hours,” she said. “So we don’t have a lot of time for all of these people to walk or run.”

The one mode of transportation most known for speed would be the 2016 Camaro Indianapolis 500 pacecar carrying 2016 500 Festival princess Brittany Young, a Hope native, through a portion of that community along County Road 500 North. Initially, because of her background as a farm girl and her work with Future Farmers of America, Young thought maybe she would carry the torch on a tractor.

But she loves the idea of climbing in a pacecar, just as she did at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on race day.

“It’s awesome for me to get to experience this and to help represent Hope and Bartholomew County,” Young said.

Columbus veteran radio broadcaster and community volunteer John Foster will anchor one of the more unusual legs of the relay when he holds the torch within an airplane tug pulling a single-engine Cessna along Arnold Street and Middle Road near the Columbus Municipal Airport. Foster pulled planes with tugs in 1970 and 1971 in Alabama at an air training command wing when he served in the U.S. Air Force.

“So this really just tickles me,” said Foster, who, like other torch bearers, said he was humbled and honored. “It will be kind of a deja vu moment and extra special for me.”

Don and Dody Harvey, longtime volunteers with the Bartholomew County Historical Society, will place the torch in a special holder outside the window of their restored 1933 Plymouth as they travel south for a few blocks down the north end of Washington Street. The vehicle has been in Don Harvey’s family since 1948, and he drove it back and forth to college decades ago.

“It’s an interesting piece of American history,” Don Harvey said.

And the same can be said for the relay itself.

Bartholomew County's 31 torch bearers

*Nominee deceased, others selected to participate in their honor and memory

Paul Ashbrook, founder of long-running Hope Ride fundraiser

Susan Baute, Smith Elementary School teacher covering Indiana history

Rick Caldwell, deputy commander for Indiana AmVets

Sarah Cannon, Columbus Redevelopment Commission president

Merrill Clouse, Hope business and community leader

Fred Darling, former minister in Azalia

John Foster, WCSI radio broadcaster and community volunteer

Eugene Gurthet, former longtime leader at Foundation for Youth

Siddha Hall, launched free-bike program for youngsters in need

Solomon Hall, launched free-bike program for youngsters in need

Juanita Harden, first female county commissioner

Carrie Harris, Hauser Junior-Senior High School teacher

Lucy “Dody” Harvey, local tour guide and volunteer with the Bartholomew County Historical Society

Don Harvey, volunteer with SCORE, Bartholomew County Historical Society

Jason Hatton, director of the Bartholomew County Public Library

* Susanna Jones, local historian and the first local Woman of the Year (Beth Newman, her daughter)

* Vickie Lowney, Columbus Regional Hospital staff member praised for kindness to patients and role during 2008 flood (Jim Lowney, her husband)

John Martoccia, Bartholomew County Sherifff’s deputy

Cierra McCauley, cancer survivor and spokesperson for children with cancer

Mary McGuire, Hartsville community leader

Gregory Pence, local business leader

Larry Perkinson, Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. administrator and author

Ilya Schwartzman, local doctor and Columbus East High School girls soccer coach

Sam Simmermaker, WCSI radio sports broadcaster

* Larry Simpson, leader of Heritage of Hope and publisher of the Hope Star-Journal (Bud Herron, Hope native and Star-Journal advocate)

* Robert Stewart, former Columbus mayor (Peter King, Columbus Rotary)

Don Strietelmeier, local and statewide agricultural leader

William Stultz, band director, Columbus North High School

Chuck Wells, Republic publisher

April Williams, Columbus Park Foundation

Brittany Young, former state FFA president and Indianapolis 500 princess

Today's bicentennial events

Hartsville Town Square


11 a.m.: Fish fry begins and history booths open

11:30 a.m.: Possum Glory Band.

Noon: Crafts, toys and games. Balloon man, make-a-torch activity and mini-relay for kids, re-enactors.

12:45 and 1:30 p.m.: Costumed Civil War surgery re-enactment program.

1:30 to 3:30 p.m.: Hartsville tours via horse-drawn carriages, and Hauser Junior-Senior High School students portraying historic characters from the area.

2 p.m.: First Baptist presentation.

4 p.m.: Introducing torch bearers.

4:45 p.m.: Brass quintet.

5:15 p.m.: Estimated time for Bicentennial torch arrival from Decatur County. The procession will not stop for the celebration, but pause only briefly for a torch change-over and then leave the square at about 5:20 p.m.

Where: State Road 46.

Simmons Winery/450 North Brewing Company

2 to 5:30 p.m.: Food and beverages, pizza and bluegrass and folk tunes from the Banister Family Band, and children’s crafts.

5:45 p.m.: Bicentennial Torch is expected to pass by.

Where: 8111 E. County Road 450N between Columbus and Hope.

Bartholomew County Public Library Plaza

2 to 6 p.m.: Food and family oriented vendor booths open.

2 to 8 p.m.: Steps Through Time history exhibit and Bart the Bicentennial Bison on display.

4 to 8 p.m.: Indiana’s Bicentennial Experience (Mobile Visitors Center) on Lafayette Street.

4:30 to 5:15 p.m.: Columbus City Band performance in front of First Christian Church on Fifth Street.

6 to 7 p.m. or longer if torch is delayed: Tim Grimm Family Band performance at library plaza.

7 p.m. or slightly later if torch is delayed:

  • Acceptance of Torch: Larry Kleinhenz, Bartholomew County commissioner
  • City Proclamation: Mayor Jim Lienhoop
  • Introduction of Bartholomew County’s torch bearers: Emcee and Republic columnist Harry McCawley.
  • Local DAR Chapter Children’s Choir performance
  • Cupcakes and balloons

Where: 536 Fifth St. in Columbus.

Information: Lynn Lucas at

Author photo
Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at or 812-379-5672.