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A Day Out In New Harmony

In the latest edition of our "Day Out" broadcasts, on Friday, May 23, WNIN-FM spent the entire day in New Harmony, Indiana.  The undercurrents and eddies of change that are evident in the town in 2014 are apt metaphors for this historic utopian community situated on the banks of the Wabash River in southwest Indiana.

We chose to showcase that day of all the days in New Harmony's bicentennial year for several reasons. On May 23, New Harmony was host to some big names in the theater, in town for their annual play development workshop. We were able to treat our listeners to a sneak listen of a scene from a play that will likely become a major theatrical production next year. Also in town were researchers conducting their ongoing task of cataloging some 100,000 natural history and geological specimens that have captivated researchers worldwide for the past 22 years. The collection, at the Working Men's Institute, has yielded many specimens of rare and extinct species.

Last, but certainly not least, Friday was the kickoff of the annual reunion weekend for the New Harmony School, which is still a big draw even though the school has been closed for several years. We shared a bit of that loyalty and friendship with our listeners during the live broadcast of an Under the Beams concert Friday evening to cap off our Day Out. 

But we're getting ahead of the story.


From left, New Harmony Town Councilman Andrew Wilson, Zach Guenzel and John Gibson
Credit Catherine Cotrupi

   We started bright and early at Sara's Harmony Way, settling into the booth by the front door, with lots of folks stopping by for coffee and conversation with WNIN personalities. You can hear the everyday sounds of Sara's in the background of our broadcast. Perhaps the most interesting visitors were the ROMEO's, which stands for "Retired Old Men Eating Out", at Sara's for their weekly get together.

Beginning with Morning Edition, hosts Zach Guenzel and John Gibson talked with New Harmony town council members, historic preservation experts and local business owners. They chatted about economic development, tourism and the challenges facing the town, such as the closing of the school and bridge.

We learned the latest challenge may be newly released federal flood plain maps that could limit where development can take place in New Harmony.

John Gibson interviews New Harmony Town Council member Andrew Wilson on economic development and the challenges facing the town.
John Gibson interviews Connie Weinzapfel, director of Historic New Harmony, and town council member Linda Warrum on Morning Edition.
Part Two of John's interview with Connie Weinzapfel and Linda Warrum on Morning Edition.
John Gibson interviews two local business owners about the business climate and future of New Harmony.
Part two of John's interview with Jim Spann of the New Harmony Soap Company and Cindy Smotherman, owner of Firehouse Antiques.

Following Morning Edition and breakfast at Sara's, we moved to the patio of the Red Geranium Restaurant on a gorgeous, warm day.

John Gibson and Cass Herrington getting ready for The Trend on the patio at the Red Geranium Restaurant.
Credit Steve Burger

For The Trend, we took audio tours of the Working Men's Institute, including the current research project underway. We learned about William Maclure, the original researcher and founder of over 150 WMI locations, considered by many to be the father of American geology.

Co-hosts John Gibson and Cass Herrington also talked with local folks about the spirit of New Harmony and what makes it unique. They talked with long-time town guide Mary Griggs, who related the "aura" that many people say envelopes New Harmony, washing away the cares and worries of all who come to the town.

Take an audio tour of the Working Men's Institute, hear about this year's natural history research there, and learn more about New Harmony from a town guide.

From left, Shawn Gowen, Ryan Rokicki, Cass Herrington and Clem Rose
Credit Steve Burger

We stayed on the patio for All Things Considered. Host Cass Herrington interviewed local historians about the early days of New Harmony and more recent history of the town. The first hour was subtitled "Sex, Beer and Religion". We learned that there is some history that doesn't get recorded, and that's almost always the most interesting!

Cass also talked with them about a darker period in New Harmony's history, when the town joined many others in passing a "Sundown" law. We heard Clem Penrose's recollection of the sign that notified visitors of the law.

Cass Herrington interviews Ryan Rokicki, executive director of the Working Men's Institute and Clem Penrose, local historian and musician.
Part Two of Cass' interview with Ryan Rokicki and Clem Penrose.

During the second hour, Cass interviewed playwrights with the New Harmony Project, who were in town for the annual development conference, and we heard a sneak preview of a scene that will likely be included in a major theater production next year. 

Cass Herrington interviews several members of this year's New Harmony Project, and we get a listen to a scene from one of the plays under development.

We finished All Things Considered talking with Christopher Layer, founder of the New Harmony Music Festival and School, and what we can expect at their annual school in July.

Cass Herrington interviews Chris Layer, founder of the New Harmony Music Festival and School on what to expect at this year's festival.

Credit Steve Burger
The set list from Swan Dive's concert Friday evening

Part of the essence of New Harmony can be found in the many house parties on reunion weekend when friends gather and become reacquainted. There was no bigger reunion weekend house party than the live program hosted by WNIN's Cass Herrington. We closed out our day in New Harmony at Murphy Auditorium for the live broadcast of an Under the Beams concert by Swan Dive.

Hear the opening of our live broadcast to close our Day Out in New Harmony!

As the area's community licensed public media outlet, WNIN is dedicated to turning outward to conversations of our rich history and culture. We really enjoy getting out of the studio and talking with our listeners in person! If you would like WNIN to come to your town, let us know.