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From Left Field

September 14, 2011

By BOB SHRALUKA
    Somewhere out there in an area known as Decatur, Indiana  — or perhaps its nearby regions — lives a person whose knowledge of history and desire to pose a question brought this city an unbelievable amount of fun and frolic — some of which is destined to carry into the future — and ignited a sense of civic pride and togetherness rarely seen.
    Decatur's celebration of its 175th anniversary is over, and its memories will remain warm and fuzzy for a long, long time. The idea of such an event was tossed out and everything just grew from there ... and grew and grew and grew.
    A committee or 10 or 12 or so people led the drive, with co-chairmen Larry Isch and Max Miller no doubt devoting far more time than they had ever dreamed to the project. And it continued to grow. One group decided to add an event; these individuals agreed they would add something else; that couple joined in with their idea. The participation was, in a word, overwhelming.
    So now that it's all over, Mayor John Schultz, just who did come up with the fantastic idea to celebrate the city's 175th birthday?
    "You know, I have no idea, really; I couldn't tell you," he replied with a chuckle.
    "I was at a Chamber (of Commerce) meeting in September of 2010 and someone  — I don't remember who — asked me what we would be doing for the city's 175th anniversary; what our plan was. I have to admit I didn't even know it was coming up," he chuckled again. "I thought about it and in November at another Chamber meeting I opened it up, asked for ideas on what we should do. We decided to look at the sesquicentennial stuff and see what was done then for some ideas. Herb (Myers) at the museum got me some newspapers from that time and we went from there."
    So, in your wildest imagination, did you ever think it would become so big?
    "Oh, no; never. Never, ever. We started having some planning meetings in January and it just went on. But i never dreamed there would be so many events and they would be so well attended," Schultz continued.
    " I went to the ceremony at the cemetery (for Revolutionary War soldier Thomas Archbold) and there must have been 200 people there. I couldn't believe it. The cemetery is not that easy to find. And I thought, this (the entire celebration) is going to be good. Then I went to the Jim Compton's tent meeting And there were lots of people there, too. Then I really began to think this was going to be big.
    "There were so many people who got involved. Just for an example, the Caspers, who went around to the schools. They were just one example." (The Caspers, Mike and Roxy, recreated city founder Samuel Rugg and one of his three wives, Susannah, and made historical presentations to third graders in city schools.)
    
Co-guys' key roles
    Many people played key roles in helping make the celebration a huge success, none more so than Miller and Isch, who co-chaired the committee formed to guide the festival. They not only jumped in with both feet, but added both arms as well. The retired Isch poured unimaginable hours into the project and while Miller's hours may have been fewer, they may have been even more remarkable since he used his "spare" time to go to his job at the GM plant.
    So why these two, Mr. Mayor?
    "Well, Larry was on our comprehensive plan commitee and seemed to have a lot of energy and time. Max had been our contact person when we tried to attract some GM workers (coming to work at the Fort Wayne plant) to Decatur. That didn't work out, but he seemed to be well organized and did good work for us then.
    "Larry came up with some fundraising ideas that really, really helped."
    Helped is a bit of an understatement since those fundraisers not only insured that no one lost any money, but they put the festival enjoyed by so many in the black to the tune of $16,000. An amazing accomplishment.
    "You know, I told Brenda (his wife), I am just so happy to have been mayor for this," Schultz said. "Most (mayors) never have an opportunity do something like this. Like Fred (Isch), he never did in all his years."

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