I love living history farms and discovery museums, they make me feel like a big kid. When on my press trip to Hamilton County Indiana, I had a chance to visit the wonderful Conner Prairie Museum where I saw agriculture, history, and learned some fun facts about wind! Connor Prairie stewards the largest tract of undeveloped land in Hamilton county and they offer fun and educational activities as a way to connect to nature.
Since I was a girl I have loved the sound of wind whooshing through the trees, screaming over the rooftops, and shaking the shingles as it rattles its way across the prairie so I was already predisposed to enjoy the cool wind mill and wind power exhibit at the Discovery portion of the museum. My favorite aspect though was the story about the small pump driven windmill that was discovered beneath a manure pile and restored by Keith Thomas Conner Prairie’s Historic Maintenance Technician.
Besides the windmills, the 1859 Balloon Voyage was another wind related fascinating story about the first ever attempted air mail via the hot air balloon named Jupiter. This happened in Lafayette, Indiana in 1859. According to the fact sheet that Social Media and Communications Specialist, Hannah Kiefer provided, “In 1859, 20,000 people gathered in Lafayette, Indiana to witness a once in a lifetime event – the launch of a manned balloon that would demonstrate the viability of air transportation to the East Coast and carry the first air mail delivered by the U.S. Postal Service. The voyage involved a giant, gas-filled balloon bound for New York City and a scientific genius named John Wise. When winds blew the wrong direction, however, the mammoth balloon was stranded near Crawfordsville, Ind. the mail was ultimately delivered to New York city by train and the U.S. Postal Service deemed the venture a success. One-hundred years later, the U.S. Post Office commemorated the event with a special stamp and an anniversary celebration.”
At Conner Prairie, they offer a tethered balloon that visitors can ride to commemorate this piece of Indiana aeronautical history. There is also a place to have your picture taken like you are on a balloon ride. My mom, who was along on this trip, and I took advantage of the fun photo op! While this story of the Jupiter, is historic, it is quirky and the balloon ride would be just plain fun!
My third wind experience at Connor Prairie was at the top of the Treetop Outpost. In summer 2016, Conner Prairie opened this amazing wood and metal structure with four floors for adventurous climbers to explore. The 6,000 square foot treehouse is a great way from kids and grandmas like me to feel like a kid again. The area surrounding the treehouse in the woods offers a dig in a recreated archaeology site and more, but most of all, it offers a perch, a lookout to feel the wind ripple through your hair and dream of days gone by on the Midwest Prairie.
Conner Prairie is Indiana’s first Smithsonian-affiliated museum and their mission is to inspire curiosity and foster learning about Indiana’s past by providing engaging, individualized and unique experiences. This is a huge museum with nearly 1,000 wooded acres, they pull in nearly 400,000 visitors of all ages annually. The website states, “Outdoor, historically themed destinations and indoor experiential learning spaces combine history with science, technology, engineering and math and offer an authentic look into history that shapes society today. Founded by Eli Lilly in 1934, Conner Prairie combines history with science, technology, engineering and math and encourages visitors to explore Indiana’s natural and cultural heritage through hands-on, immersive and interactive experiences. Inspiring visitors of all ages to discover more about the events, discoveries and forces that shaped the American Midwest, Conner Prairie offers various historically themed, indoor and outdoor experience areas.”
If you get a chance, visit Connor Prairie and have your very own “wind experience!” For more information, log onto www.ConnorPrairie.org.