Fall is in the air. The sky’s crispness is momentarily distracted by falling leaves colored in the season’s best shades and the autumn breeze is coated with scents of kettle corn and caramel twirled around apples. The season of fall festivals is alive and well in Indiana.
It all kicks off with this weekend’s Atlanta Earth Festival. This weekend will be my first time attending the event that spans four days and transforms a seemingly quiet small town into an unrecognizable display of festivities.
Besides the bonfire-tinged autumn air, my favorite thing about the season is it’s Small Town, Indiana’s time to shine. Tourists travel from all over to stroll the streets during their favorite annual adventure, visiting tiny towns that rest quietly — with their even tinier populations — except that one weekend in fall.
Fairmount fits this description. When my fiancé and I visited the small town, obviously stopping at James Dean’s grave along the way, the town’s life was its few locals — which I believe we met half of in the tiny dive bar, Giant Bar and Grill. As we walked through the bar’s makeshift doors, we were gently eyed by the people who filled the seats in their home away from home.
The décor of the place had all the touches I love in a dive bar: A sign that read “The rules of the bar. Rule 1: The bartender is always right. Rule 2: If the bartender is not right, read rule 1” and the menu’s misspellings like “Tator tots” and a few others I didn’t write down in my memory. But, as the establishment’s regulars bonded with us through matching cheers during the Colts game, they invited us into their lives. Then, they wanted to share the pride of their hometown.
They brought us over a pamphlet for the James Dean Festival, they asked us where we were from, they spun around in their stools and welcomed us to the simple world that was theirs. This weekend that small town will be something as big as the 24-year-old man who starred in a small string of major motion pictures after being in Hollywood for just 16 months. The town will travel back in time when sipping a Coke from a glass bottle and knowing your neighbors were the simplest, but most fulfilling, pleasures you could find. The people of Fairmount still know their neighbors and that a sip from a glass bottle is the best social hour you could ask for at Giant Bar and Grill.
It may be fall, but more importantly, it’s the best time to love Indiana’s small towns.
[friday] editor/ Small-town scavenger