Heritage Days 2012 - Unlocking the Canal
Posted: Thursday, January 19, 2012
The Heritage Days Steering Committee has named the theme for the 2012 Heritage Days festivities as Unlocking the Canal. Festivities celebrating Huntington’s heritage will be held at locations throughout the community Wednesday, June 20 through Sunday, June 24.
This year’s theme will allow participants in the annual Heritage Days Parade and other activities to depict the Wabash and Erie Canal, which was a part of Huntington from 1835 to 1873, as their float or activity theme. This part of Huntington’s history will give Heritage Days participants the opportunity to get to know a little more about the building of the canal and the settlers it brought to the area. The theme is part of an ongoing effort to “explore” Huntington’s heritage.
Elias Murray, nephew of Samuel Huntington (a congressman from Connecticut, who signed the United States Constitution and who Huntington is named for), dug the first shovelful of dirt for the Wabash and Erie Canal on February 22, 1832. George Washington’s Birthday was chosen for the event as he was seen as the foremost promoter of American canals in that day.
The first twenty-five mile section of the Wabash and Erie Canal to be completed ran from Fort Wayne to Huntington. The first canal boat, Indiana, docked in Huntington at Burke’s Lock on July 3, 1835 and transported passengers to Fort Wayne and back. The next day, on July 4, the canal was officially open for traffic.
Many more canal boats were constructed and the canal opened the Huntington area for settlement by those from all over the country. Canal properties were maintained, crops and goods were transported and travelers taken care of. The town of Roanoke became a prominent shipping point and was the principal trading place between Fort Wayne and Wabash. The Wabash and Erie Canal eventually connected the area to the Great Lakes region on one end and Evansville on the other. From the Great Lakes region canals connected our area to the east coast.
As the canal opened the Huntington area to settlement by whites, it also ended the era of Miami Indian domination. Traveling on packets of the Indiana Canal Company, and escorted by soldiers, the Miami tribe was moved west in 1846. Only a few families remained in the area.
By 1856 the railroad was becoming a presence the canal could not compete with. The railroad path followed the Wabash River and the canal route. Because it was more efficient and could haul a greater amount of product at a higher speed, the canal was abandoned in 1873.
The route of the canal in Huntington County ran alongside U.S. Highway 24 and through downtown Huntington to Wabash and beyond. As the longest man-made waterway in America at 459 miles long, the Wabash and Erie Canal helped to create our community as we know it today.
The Heritage Days Parade will be held Saturday, June 23 beginning at 10 a.m. Participants in this year’s parade will be asked for a $25 fee per entry. Groups are considered as one entry. This fee along with a certificate of liability insurance must be submitted along with the parade registration form.
Activities that will be a part of this year’s Heritage Days festivities include an ice cream social on Wednesday evening and the annual Rotary Strawberry Feed on Thursday evening, both at Hier’s Park. A traditional Chief of the Flint Springs Tribe breakfast at LaFontaine Golf Club will take place on Thursday morning. The car show will be held in downtown Huntington on Friday evening, the parade will take place on Saturday and a hot air balloon festival will continue through the weekend with a balloon glow on Saturday evening at Huntington North High School.
Goods and services will be available from vendors at The Marketplace in downtown Huntington through Saturday evening. A new improved children’s area known as the Fun Zone, bed races, tours at the Historic Forks of the Wabash and exhibits at the Huntington Historical Museum will also be a part of Saturday’s festivities. JeFFFest will take place on Sunday evening in the center block of downtown completing the Heritage Days festivities.
As a new addition to downtown activities, the Chamber is inviting local businesses and not-for-profit organizations to participate in The Marketplace by setting up booths in designated areas downtown to sell their products and services. There will be no charge for not-for-profits displaying their goods in this area. For more information about this activity contact the Chamber office.
Poor Jack’s Amusements will once again be the carnival of choice for 2012. Rides and activities will be located on Warren Street from Wednesday, June 20 through Sunday, June 24. Streets involved with the carnival will close on Monday, June 18 at 5 p.m. to allow for set-up. Poor Jack’s has been a part of the Bluffton Street Fair for 38 years and Old Settlers Days in Columbia City for over 21 years.
Heritage Days are coordinated by a Steering Committee of the Huntington County Chamber of Commerce. For more information contact the Chamber at 356-5300 or visit the website at www.huntingtoncountychamber.com.