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Bicentennial Voices: Westfield celebrates states 200th birthday with historical tours

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By Anna Skinner

Municipalities across the state have hosted celebrations themed for Indiana’s bicentennial, and come September, Westfield residents will get a chance to celebrate in their own way.

Although Voices from the Past has been a staple in the city for six years, this year the Westfield Parks and Recreation Dept. will organize the event a little differently.

“This year’s theme is (Westfield’s) Founding Fathers, so everybody who was here to pretty much lay the beginning of Westfield,” Community Event Manager Kelley Wells said.

Tour guides will begin at the east entrance of Asa Bales Park and lead groups on a walking expedition to the anti-slavery cemetery, where the groups will watch three 10-minute vignettes highlighting founding fathers Asa Bales, Simon Moon, Ambrose Osborne and Nathan Park. The tour guide will then lead groups through downtown Westfield and point out certain buildings and houses that held trap doors for slaves as part of the Underground Railroad. The last part of the tour will take groups to Old Friends Cemetery for three more vignettes before finishing back at Asa Bales Park.

“So with this being the bicentennial year we really wanted to focus on Westfield’s beginnings, and this event gives people the opportunity to appreciate our city’s humble beginnings,” Wells said. “Previous years (Voices from the Past) was a mix of all different decades and generations, and we had heard from a couple of people it was confusing to jump from one period to the next. This year we wanted to focus on one time period so the attendees could follow along and it’s not jumping around.”

Westfield was founded in 1834. The date serves as the beginning of the tour. The vignettes and tour guides will take groups from 1834 to 1872.

The tour guides are mainly from Westfield, and the actors are supplied by Westfield Playhouse. It is a 100 percent volunteer operation.

Communications Specialist Zach Burton served as a tour guide in 2014 because of his passion for history.

“I had just moved to Westfield that year and thought it would be a good way to learn about the local history here in town and a good way to get to know people,” he said. “You just learn about all the buildings and what their history was.”

“It’s a lot of volunteer work for these people, but it’s a testament to how much they appreciate the arts and continuing to show the citizens the history of Westfield,” Wells said.

Tours will take place every 15 minutes from 6 to 6:30 p.m. Sept. 9 and 1 to 5 p.m. Sept. 10. Tours will begin at the east entrance of Asa Bales Park, 211 N. Union St.

Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for students ages 13 to 18. Kids 12 and under are free. For more, visit enjoywestfieldevents.com.

Second Grade Tour

In addition to providing multiple tours through Asa Bales Park and other historical locations in Westfield, Voices from the Past also will provide second grade tours for four of the elementary schools during the day on Sept. 9.

The second grade tours have been conducted the past few years of Voices from the Past, and Community Event Manager Kelley Wells said the are something the kids remember for years to come.

“The schools do kind of an abbreviated version of the public tour. As soon as I reach out to them, a lot of the schools jump on board and say they tie this into part of the curriculum,” Wells said. “The kids really enjoy it, and they always interact with the actors. We had a boy last year so excited about the school tour that he went home to tell his parents, and they ended up coming that same day. It’s cool to see this has an impact on these children.”


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