Grace Faculty Involved in Winona Lake’s Centennial Celebration

Several members of the Winona Lake Centennial Planning Committee display Winona Lake history-themed products that will be available at the Centennial booth at this weekend's Juried Art Fair in Winona Lake. Members shown include, from left: Terry White, Jared Burkholder, Ellen Swaim, Pete OConnell, Holly Hummitch, and Al Disbro. Winona Lake was incorporated as a town on June 2, 1913. (Sharon White photo)

A  Centennial Celebration booth/tent at the Juried Art Fair in Winona Lake this weekend will introduce a number of new products and will kick off a series of events planned to celebrate the Centennial of the Town of Winona Lake, which was incorporated June 2, 1913.

An informal task force chaired by town coordinator Craig Allebach (chief of Campus Safety and part-time instructor of Behavioral Science at Grace College) has been working for a number of months to coordinate products and events that begin this weekend and conclude with the annual Community Appreciation Dinner at the Westminster Hall on Thursday, November 14.

New products introduced for sale at the Art Fair this weekend in the Village at Winona include the new definitive 350-page history of the town, “Winona at 100: Third Wave Rising,” authored by local resident Terry White (part-time instructor of Journalism at Grace College) with collaboration from Steve Grill (dean of the School of Adult and Community Education at Grace College). The book’s 20 chapters detail the history of the town from Indian days through the First Wave, which included the Beyer Brothers’ Spring Fountain Park and the purchase of the entire property by Dr. Solomon Dickey and the Presbyterian Church.

The second wave—when Winona was known worldwide as the “world’s largest Bible conference–includes history surrounding town residents Billy Sunday and Homer Rodeheaver, the founding of Youth For Christ, and the launching of Billy Graham’s evangelistic ministry from an all-night prayer meeting in the Westminster.

Other chapters detail the history of sacred music at Winona through the Rodeheaver Hall-Mack company, the dozens of ministries and organizations that began here and now are spread throughout the world, the history of the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches and Grace College and Seminary, and a chapter entitled “Crimes and Tragedies” that details much of the folklore and actual events that add color and poignancy to the town’s history.

The Third Wave, which includes the takeover of all assets and liabilities of the Christian Assembly by Grace College and Seminary in 1968 and the founding of Winona Restoration Partners in 1994, brings the reader up to date with the founding of the Village at Winona and the contributions of Dr. Dane and Mary Louise Miller that have once again brought prominence to the little village, including the annual summer MasterWorks classical music festival. The book concludes with a walking tour of notable event locations and architecture of many of the town’s structures.

Also for sale this weekend will be a special Centennial commemorative coffee mug designed and created by local artist/photographer/potter Gary Nieter, and a specially-designed Centennial Mudlove bracelet. Al Disbro’s book of historical photos will be for sale, as will Jane Cook and Paula Heckman’s coffeetable book on summers at Winona, along with the self-published autobiography of Dr. Dane Miller. Previous Art Fair posters will also be for sale. Festive Centennial banners will be hung from many of the town’s light poles.

A flatscreen TV in the booth will have a continuous-loop showing of 558 historical photos of the town, captured and reproduced by Al Disbro. The photos include an extensive postcard collection that pictures many of the now-gone structures and attractions from Winona’s earlier days.

Both houses of the Indiana state legislature this spring passed a commemorative resolution celebrating Winona Lake’s centennial. Local state representative Dave Wolkins will be presenting the original for display in the town hall.

In addition to the Art Fair, a number of events with a Centennial theme are planned for the summer and fall. Products will again be available during the Fourth of July park events on Friday, July 5, leading up to the 8:30 p.m. Hillside patriotic pops concert and the fireworks display. On Saturday, July 6, a group of local watercraft owners are planning to re-create the popular “Venetian Nights” evening flotilla which featured lighted and decorated watercraft encircling McDonald Island.  Dr. Patrick Kavanaugh and the MasterWorks Festival staff are planning to incorporate history and centennial celebrations wherever possible throughout the MasterWorks Festival which is June 14-July 13 in Winona Lake.

Later in the summer, the Kosciusko County Historical Society is hoping to have an all-Winona historical homes tour. A special “Heritage Forum” will be held on Tuesday, September 10 under the direction of Dr. Jared Burkholder and Dr. Mark Norris of the Grace College history department. Presentations will be made that tie together the town’s 100-year history and the 75-year history of Grace College and Seminary, and a visiting scholar from Bluffton College will present a response.

Centennial artifacts will be available at various Village events throughout the fall, including the Village Fall Fest on October 5, and the culmination will be the annual Community Appreciation Dinner and the awarding of the Bill Reneker Community Service Award by Reneker’s widow, Judy, on Thursday, November 14.

Members of the task force who have worked on the celebrations, in addition to Allebach, include Holly Hummitch, Ryan Burger, Terry White, Jared Burkholder, Ellen Swaim, Al Disbro, and Carol Forbes.

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