Civil Discourse Now

Where the far left and far right overlap for fun and enlightenment

New Ross, Indiana: A place so very good.

   A town loses its high school and over the next 40 years sees people move away. Residents take action and do very cool things to rejuvenate the place. Civil Discourse Now streamed from such a place yesterday.

   In 1971 New Ross High School was consolidated with other schools to form Southmont High School. New Ross is located about ten miles southeast of Crawfordsville on U.S. 136. Wikipedia gives the town's population, from the 2010 census, as 367. Several years ago, residents became concerned the town was dying. Buildings had been torn down. People moved away. We drove northwest on I-74 and got off at exit 52 for Jamestown. We drove a little over a mile south to U.S. 136 (in Jamestown), then right. A few miles later, we turned right onto Main Street and parked in the lot next to the fire station. As we set up, a few of the local folks watched and said, in a humorous way, they hoped there weren't comments made about small towns during The Show.

   A few years ago, as New Ross residents realized their town was in a slow demise, a spirit of survival took root. One manifestation of that spirit is the annual play staged by the New Ross Players. Usually an annual play put on by a town has some sort of religious overtones (e.g., passion plays in the spring) or plots specific to the history of the place.

   Two years ago, people in New Ross decided to stage a play. Beth Binch works as a volunteer in the town's library. (Yes, the town has a library as well as its own zip code and post office). Her father taught English and history at the high school before it closed. He also was the faculty sponsor for plays at the high school. When someone came by with a script the high school had staged decades before, an idea was formed. The fire department offered its station as a venue for performances of the play. Actors---i.e., townspeople with little experience on the stage---were rounded up. A local farmer offered his barn as a place for rehearsals. After all, the fire station had made its building available for a couple of dress rehearsals and the two nights of performances. A local farmer offered his barn for rehearsals.

   Both nights of the play's run, the New Ross Players had a packed house. There was no charge for tickets. Donations, to benefit a nature park for the town, were requested. The next year, another play, previously staged at the high school, was produced. Again, the house was packed both nights. Local merchants and residents pitched in to pay costs of lights and other items. One cast member had appeared in the play put on last year when originally it was staged at the high school years before.

   One gauge of community support and spirit of altruism can be understood if one is familiar with harvest time in Indiana. This is the time when farmers are under the gun to combine beans and corn before there are rains. Rain gets crops wet and either delays the harvest or requires expenditures for the drying of the crops. That is why farmers work 24/7 during harvest to get in the crops. One cloud burst can cost a lot of money. A couple of hours' delay at the grain elevator can be critical. New Ross's grain elevator is next to the fire station. The grain elevator's owner shuts down the elevator when the play is on, this year from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

   The New Ross Players have about 37 people who have participated in the annual production. That is one person over ten percent of New Ross's population. New Ross also has a Christmas party, a Valentine's Day dance, and a bike ride in June.

   So I shall make a comment now about this small town in particular: how extremely cool! And the town has a steak house (The New Ross Steak House) that serves porterhouse steaks, and two cuts (each) of sirloin, T-bone and New York Strip. This is one really cool small town. People should take an afternoon and go there. They might make the decision to stay. If they do, they should be ready either to act or work as a member of the stage crew. The folks there are serious about their annual play.       

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