Chelsea Jubilee, one of Indiana’s oldest festivals, turns 150
Douglas and Janice Stanley
worked to keep the event going
CHELSEA, Ind. – (August 2016) When the Chelsea Jubilee in Chelsea, Ind., celebrates its 150th anniversary on Sept. 2-3, it will be a homecoming for many families who have grown up with the festival.
• For more information on the Chelsea Jubilee, call Janice Stanley at (812) 889-2726.
“To me, it is a tradition that needs to be carried on to remember the township, more like a reunion than a festival,’’ explained Janice Stanley, 79, the unofficial historian for the Chelsea Park Jubilee Association.
A graduate of Saluda High School, Stanley returned to teach at the school after graduating from Hanover College. When the high school closed two years later, she accepted a position teaching Social Studies at Southwestern High School in nearby Hanover, Ind., and ended her career teaching World History and Latin at Jefferson High School.
Her husband, Douglas Stanley, organized the event for 40 years, with Janice at his side.
“Doug would take a week vacation from his job at Ford to work on the event,” she said.
They would often pack their children in the car and visit other festivals to recruit vendors and exhibitors for the Jubilee. The children, Edith, 50, Derran, 47, and Marc, 43, learned about the importance of the festival at an early age, mowing grass, picking up sticks, cleaning, doing whatever was asked of them in preparation for the Jubilee.
Janice’s connection to the event goes even further back, since her mother and father met at the event in 1926.
To Eston Smith, 66, manager for the association, his involvement started in 1965 when he and his father organized the first horse show at the Jubilee. Smith, who recently retired after 47 years with Grote Industries, has been involved in the management of the event in some shape or form for 51 years.
“I am proud to be a part of the oldest, continuous celebration in Indiana,” Smith said.
Following in his father’s footstep, Brent Smith, 39, serves as vice president of the association.
“At first, I was involved because my dad, my grandfather and my great-grandfather were involved. As I got older, I became intrigued by the history of the event,” Brent said.
The Jubilee began as a harvest festival sponsored by the Tryus Universalist Church and included plowing contests, demonstrations of new farm machinery, and women’s competitions such as the “Best Tidy” (doilies).
Through the years, the event was moved from location to location. The date was changed from July 4 to the first Friday and Saturday in September, and the focus moved from religious to political to the current celebration of a community.
As the sponsoring organization changed, so did the focus of the event. A mainly religious festival under the direction of the Universalists, political entertainment became more popular under the leaders of the Guards of the American Revolution, The Red Men (a fraternal organization which traces its origins to the Sons of Liberty), and the American Legion.
“One of the most famous speakers at the Jubilee was Dr. Frances Townsend. The author of the Townsend Plan upon which the current Social Security plan was fashioned,” Janice Stanley said.
During the U.S. Bicentennial Celebration, the Library of Congress requested that each Congressional District submit information on a long-standing festival in their area. Baron P. Hill, 9th District Representative, submitted an entry on behalf of the Chelsea Jubilee. It was selected to be included as one of the Library of Congress’ Local Legacies.
“Doug and I were invited to a gala at the Library of Congress to celebrate the Chelsea Jubilee being selected as a Local Legacy. It was so exciting to have our Jubilee included in this distinguished event,” Janice said.
In 1969, the Chelsea Park Jubilee Association was formed. They leased six acres of ground in Chelsea Corner in Saluda Township to provide the festival with a permanent location. In just 90 days the buildings and booths were relocated to their new home. Water, lights and a driveway were installed. In later years, basketball courts and playground equipment were added, and the association deeded the park to the township for $1. They maintained a 99-year lease for the first week in September.
“Jubilee Park was a gift from the association. Proceeds from the Jubilee all go back in to the maintenance and expansion of the park,” Eston Smith explained.
Today, the organization is overseen by the following officers: Charles McNeeley, president; Brent Smith, vice president; Eston Smith, manager; and Dawn Hardy, secretary and treasurer.
The 150th Chelsea Jubilee will begin at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 2, with the Opening Ceremony, followed at 7 p.m. with music from the band Smoke and Cinders. Saturday activities begin at 12:30 p.m. with the antique tractor parade; kids games at 1 p.m.; concerts by local churches at 2 p.m.; gospel bands at 4 p.m. The event wraps up with the Paul Smith Band from 7-10 p.m.
“Although the school and businesses are gone and there is nothing left in the area but houses and farms, this is a joyful tradition. It’s an opportunity to show our loyalty to Saluda and to keep connected,” Janice said. “I appreciate all the people over the 150 years who have kept the Jubilee alive.”
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