Rentown Old Fashion Days draws crowd of 3,000

Julia Baratta, Freelance Writer
The children anticipated the tug of war between themselves and the team of draft horses, Belle and Brenda.

RENTOWN, IN — Many Amish schools have fundraisers, bringing in money in order to keep their facilities open and the teachers free to teach lessons from the Bible along with the basics of education. These can range from simple bake sales to a multi-faceted event including food, auctions, and activities. One community in Indiana puts on a two-day Old Fashion Days celebration with many opportunities to support them as well as learn about ways to have fun that doesn’t include electronics or batteries.

Between Nappanee and Bremen, IN, is the small town of Rentown that boasts the Rentown Country Store which “put us on the map” according to Jason Helmuth, a committee member for the event. The parents of Rolling Meadow parochial school students decided to put on this family-friendly moneymaker in order to support their school and community. Though the last several years have not been the nicest weather-wise, the 2017 Rentown Old Fashion Days was blessed with a literally ‘perfect’ day.

Attendees were greeted by the sign that proclaimed the opening of the Rentown Old Fashion Days.

“We had our seventh annual and it was a record breaker,” Committee member Phineas Wickey said. Around 3000 attended the show and the committee felt that many came because of the pleasant weather.

As the attendees entered the grounds, they were led through a small woods that contained many of the over 50 vendors set up to sell their wares. Antiques, local produce and other food products, handmade rugs, quilts, and other harvest-themed items were available to purchase. Demonstrations were presented throughout the weekend such as weaving, grain grinding, small engines performing special jobs, and painting. Organizations were also there promoting their missions and events. One group was the Indiana State Corn Huskers and they were encouraging people to participate in their annual state corn husking contest held in early October.

The ‘Whip Guy’, Chris Camp, shared his skill with bull whips and a little history about the units he used. The performance was one of the popular draws to the two day event.

Farther along in the forest was an area specifically for the children with a petting zoo, pony and camel rides, and a child-sized train offered trips on tracks that wound through the trees.

In the clearing beyond the wooded area, various demonstrations were conducted using antique machinery while a tractor display was available for people to look over and appreciate. Both days of the event featured a full schedule of old time work and how it was accomplished. A cider press, saw mill and buzz saw, threshing machine, hay press, corn husker, and chopper were used and exhibited. In addition, corn was ground on site for the homemade cornbread offered at the food stands.

The air was full of steam and smoke when the parade went through the grounds on Saturday of the Rentown Old Fashion Days.

Another demonstration presented was the ‘Whip Guy’, also known as Chris Camp. He is a performer who works with different sized whips and does all the cracks and snaps for the audience. Camp shares a lot of information about his equipment, the history of the whip, and where he gets his whips today.

“The ones I use are specially made,” he said. “Does anyone know what whips are made of today?” After several guesses, Camp revealed that his were made of kangaroo hides. The ‘Whip Guy’ does shows throughout the United States.

The ‘chuck wagons’ offered sandwiches, homemade bean soup “cooked over a fire” along with the aforementioned cornbread, fried pies, and beverages including apple cider, served either hot or cold. Other booths sold homemade ice cream, flavored popcorn, and a bake sale with gallons of fresh apple cider.

One woman demonstrated the art of painting while selling some 
of her 
masterpieces during the Rentown Old Fashion Days.

While an enjoyable time was had, the real purpose of the event was not nearly as obvious. The Amish schools function without government funding and that is on purpose. The community’s intention for the educating of their children is to pass on the morals, values, and everyday life lessons that they will need to use in the future.

“We are preserving a school that our children can attend that fits what we believe in,” Helmuth said. “We are teaching them to live a spiritual life everyday.”

The 2018 Rentown Old Fashion Days is being planned for the weekend after Labor Day with more enjoyable activities and opportunities to support a school and community.