NEW POINT — A long-standing tradition in New Point, the celebration of “Crackaway Daze II” returns Sept. 21 and 22.
Usually scheduled for the third weekend in September, Crackaway Daze II is a two day festival of flea markets, live entertainment, presentations of local fame and honor, antique cars, a parade, and the staple of any good festival: delicious home-cooked food.
It’s a big deal for the town of about 330, which has played host to the festival since the early ‘90s. Festival chairperson Jeff Elsner said the event could attract as many as 800 people to New Point over the course of the weekend.
Sharing the fun with people from outside the small town is part of the goal, and every year’s effort is focused on keeping many of the time-honored traditions of the festival in place while also looking toward the future.
Festivals are often the signature and watermark of small burgs like New Point. Filled with an eclectic collection of amusements only locals might understand, each festival carries with it an appropriate amount of excited anticipation before, and newly made memories after.
And for New Point, first settled as “Crackaway” in 1840, Crackaway Daze is indeed a celebration of all things New Point.
“Some say the name “Crackaway Daze” is in memory of a sound of the whip the horsemen and cattlemen used in the beginning days of New Point’s history,” said Elsner.
Regardless of the reasons for its name, it is a festival that has survived serious organizational and financial issues in the past and which has grown and thrived with every passing year.
“We’d prefer not to talk about it, but some organizers in the past weren’t always acting for the good of the festival. The important thing is that Crackaway Daze is stronger than those problems, and we just keep getting bigger and bigger every year,” Elsner said.
Any true Hoosier loves a good bargain, and true dyed-in-the-wool natives of Southeastern Indiana love finding those bargains at rummage, garage and yard sales. It’s a local art, a sport, and an important part of the Hoosier pedigree.
Both days of the festival’s run feature ongoing flea markets that tout fresh produce, handmade goods and numerous collectibles. Townspeople get in on the act as well, setting up rummage sales at their homes near the festival.
Face painting, ice cream, a bounce house and other activities for kids punctuate the typical Crackaway Daze lineup, which Elsner said is part of the festival’s push to appeal to people of all ages.
“We always try to find things for kids to do,” Elsner said. “There’s just something for everyone.”
The original founders, locals Debbie Thomas and Mary Taylor, started Crackaway Daze 25 years ago.
Every small town celebrates their particular brand of local festival, but Thomas and Taylor simply were interested in “something to do.”
After that, married couple Paul and Sharon Walterman carried the ball for 19 years. During its early years, the event was staged at the Salt Creek Township Fire Department. When it outgrew that location, it was moved to the park, just a few blocks further east toward neighboring Batesville.
Inarguably the one thing that draws people to southeastern Indiana year round is the abundance of different recipes at the local restaurants specializing in the guilty pleasure of fried chicken.
The fried chicken served at Crackaway Daze is a delicious shining example of another of the joys of being a Hoosier.
With volunteer fire departments, service organizations and famous local restaurants like Kochs in Greensburg, the Fireside Inn in Enochsburg, and Wagners in Oldenburg all trying to top each other in the “guilty fried pleasure” department, the folks frying chicken at Crackaway Daze have mastered it effortlessly.
The distinct pleasure derived from sitting at Crackway Daze, enjoying cool and slight September breezes (only one Crackaway Daze has suffered inclement weather thus far), listening to local musicians pickin’ and munching on fried chicken is not to be discounted as anything less than heavenly.
But all this fun and fried chicken is not just for frivolity.
Donors to Crackaway Daze festivals have helped create and add to New Point’s infrastructure. Courtesy of generous festival goers and donors to Crackaway Daze, the New Point Community Center took on a sleeker appearance, the Salt Creek Township Volunteer Fire Department became a much needed reality, and improvements and a complete facelift for Salt Creek Township Park are currently in the planning stages.
And, as is customary during all Hoosier festivals, local royalty must be honored and paraded through the streets at some point during the event.
Longtime New Point residents Pauline Napier and Vernon Cornett wore the crowns of Queen and King, regaling the Crackaway crowd with a bit of royalty in the event’s 19th rendition. Riding behind them in the 2012 parade were Vernon and Doris Koenigkramer, royalty from 2011.
Norbert and Jean Huber, Batesville residents, donned the crowns to officiate over 2014’s festival.
And of course, the Daze’s longest standing organizers, Paul and Sharon Waltermann, rode as royalty in the Crackaway Daze parade after stepping down from their roles as organizers in 2016.
Whatever the reason people are drawn to small public festivals like this, be it for food, amusement, or simply curiosity, a day spent in the town of New Point during Crackaway Daze II is always pleasant, just like going home.
“It takes a lot of people to pull an event like this together, and I’d like to thank them all, too many to name, but I appreciate their help, and I’m especially thankful to the Decatur County Visitors Bureau,” Elsner said.