Vernon’s Labor Day festival shifts to arts roots

Vernon’s annual Labor Day celebration has a new feel this year — one that harkens back to the event’s origins.

“We decided to go a different direction this year and that direction is taking us back to Vernon’s roots and the festival’s real beginnings,” Vernon Mayor Dan Wright said.

For 57 years, Vernon has hosted a Labor Day festival for Vernon’s residents and the surrounding communities.

Most recently called the Labor Day Homecoming Celebration, Friends of Historic Vernon have renamed the annual event the Vernon Labor Day Festival of the Arts. This year’s activities are set for Saturday and Sept. 3.

Well-known local artist Dalton Bolser was a founder of the first Labor Day festival held in 1960, Wright said. It began as a way to celebrate Vernon’s rich artistic history, which began with famous Hoosier artist T.C. Steele, who came to Vernon to paint in the late 1800s.

Steele was followed into Jennings County by other recognized artists such as William Forsyth, Richard Gruelle, Otto Stark and John Ottis Adams during the late 1800s and early 20th century.

The first festival was so successful that it became an annual event. The early Labor Day festivals were named the Labor Day Antiques and Collectibles Market and were centered around art shows but also featured antique and collectible sales.

“Eventually, the festival became centered more around antiques, then, through the years, the main interest became garage and porch sales, and then, interest waned in that,” Wright said.

“There will still be garage sales down the street and antique and collectible vendors, but we want our main interest to be on the arts, the artists, crafts and the craftsmen. We also want it to be fun for people of all ages, and the members of the Friends of Vernon Committee have worked hard to make that happen,” the mayor added.

Art contests are planned during the weekend to encourage artist participation.

Other events will include a tractor pull, a martial arts demonstration, a glow walk, a walk/run, a color dash, music, a drum circle, food vendors, a car show and live music.

Booths will be available for artists and craftsmen to sell their art and crafts. Fees for the booths will range from $25 to $40 but artists who agree to perform their art or craft during the festival will be given free booth space.

Schedule of events

A schedule of events for Vernon’s Labor Day festival on Saturday and Sept. 3.

Saturday

8-10 a.m.: Vernon Color Dash and a run/walk will be conducted at Muscatatuck Park

10 a.m.-10 p.m.: Activities around the Jennings County Courthouse in Vernon, including live music and beer garden from noon to 10 p.m.

10 a.m.-5 p.m.: Artists demonstrations at booths around the square. Also demonstrations of weaving, wood working, blacksmithing and other crafts

Noon-1 p.m.: Free drum-making class for all ages (materials provided)

1-2 p.m.: Drum circle

2-2:45 p.m.: Martial arts demonstration

3-4 p.m.: Kids tractor pull

4:30 p.m.: Art contest winners announced

9 p.m.: Glow walk at the Courthouse

Sept. 3

10 a.m.-4 p.m. — Activities around the Jennings County Courthouse in Vernon 

1:30-4 p.m.: Live music

10 a.m.-noon: Church services

2-4 p.m. — Crosley Car Show

The Jennings County Historical Society Museum across the street from the courthouse will be open from from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday.