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Weekend of activities leads to inauguration

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Governor-elect Mike Pence, left, shares a laugh with Tom Ringenberg during the Inaugural Family Fun Day held Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013, at the Dallara IndyCar Factory in Speedway.
Governor-elect Mike Pence, left, shares a laugh with Tom Ringenberg during the Inaugural Family Fun Day held Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013, at the Dallara IndyCar Factory in Speedway.

Before starting the serious job of leading Indiana, Mike Pence wanted to have a little fun.

The 53-year-old Columbus native, who becomes the state’s 50th governor today, invited fellow Hoosiers to enjoy the historic occasion during an inauguration weekend.

Family Fun Day, a free, family-style celebration Saturday at the Dallara IndyCar Factory in Speedway, was the first of several public events leading up to today’s inauguration of Pence.

The two-term Republican member of Congress is scheduled to take the oath of office at 11:32 a.m., replacing Gov. Mitch Daniels. The hour-long inauguration ceremony in Indianapolis begins at 11 a.m. on the west steps of the Indiana Statehouse, 200 W. Washington St., unless inclement weather forces it inside the Rotunda.

While today’s schedule calls for the official business of swearing in a new governor, it was a far more casual environment when inaugural activities began Saturday.

See photo gallery for the latest news and photos of Pence...

During three hours jammed with fun, youngsters got a chance to have their photos taken with an IndyCar, tour the factory with their families to learn how the cars are made and play video games allowing them to pretend to drive race cars. Apart from the car theme, they also could climb around a bounce house — and people of all ages could enjoy live music.

Oh, and there was another attraction.

Families waited in line to shake hands and have their photos taken with Pence and his wife, Karen, as a way to permanently capture a slice of the historic day.

Karen Pence told the crowd the new factory on Main Street in Speedway was a great place to have a family-focused event.

“I love Indy racing,” she said. “I bought my first ticket to an Indy car race when I was in sixth grade, and I’ve been to almost every race since.”

Later in the day, the Pences changed from blue jeans into formal wear for a dinner and ball at the

JW Marriott Hotel in downtown Indianapolis.

Sunday’s inauguration event was an afternoon public praise and worship service at the Indiana Convention Center in downtown Indianapolis.

Melinda Richardson and her mother, Sharon Larmore, both of Indianapolis, came to support their friends, the Pences, and enjoy Saturday’s activities with Richardson’s children, Will, 23 months, and Jack, 4 years.

“I’m just very happy for him,” said Larmore, who remembers Mike Pence working as a clerk in a law firm in Indianapolis where she is employed as a bookkeeper. “He was just so personable and a hard worker.”

Richardson also fondly remembered the family who lived in her Indianapolis neighborhood. She used to babysit for the Pences’ three children when they were young.

Adam and Kristi Brouwer made the two-hour drive from Fort Wayne to attend the event with their children, Bowen, 4, and Annabelle, 19 months.

“We’re supportive of his conservative values,” said Adam Brouwer, who first met Mike Pence at a campaign stop in Fort Wayne.

Most others attending Saturday’s event didn’t personally know the Pences, but took the opportunity anyway to enjoy Family Fun Day.

Pete and Sherry Manzelli of Indianapolis brought their 19-month-old son, P.J., and snapped photos of him sitting in an IndyCar.

“This is great,” Sherry Manzelli said. “We’ve been wanting to come out and see the factory for awhile. And I like that they have places from across the state helping.”

One of the food vendors, for example, was the Schnitzelbank restaurant from Jasper that served bratwurst, saurerkraut and potato salad. The restaurant is in Dubois County, where Lt. Gov.-elect Sue Ellspermann resides.

Sampling one of those bratwurst was 6-year-old Matthew Hellinga of Greenwood, who smiled broadly as he sat at a table in the window-lined entryway of the factory while listening to a live band play a Johnny Cash song.

“I liked seeing the cars and listening to the music and getting my picture taken in the car,” Matthew said. {div}In the spirit of the family theme, additional food vendors provided pizza, chicken, grilled cheese sandwiches and cookies. Meanwhile, face-painters kept busy with a long line of children.{/div} The Dallara factory, which opened last year, made room for hundreds of parents and children who wandered through the factory with the assistance of volunteers and Dallara workers ready to answer their questions.

Gary Raikes, a member of Speedway’s town council, was thrilled that the Pences selected the factory for the event so the community could showcase its redevelopment efforts.

Along with the Dallara factory, Indy race car owner Sarah Fisher is building a racing facility next door, and the city has invested in new sidewalks, bike trails and other improvements to its downtown.

“It’s great any time the governor of Indiana comes to your town,” Raikes said.

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