LAPORTE — Two south county residents have been recognized by the governor for longstanding service to their respective communities.
Gene Shurte, 86, and Patricia Spiess, a librarian for 54 years in LaCrosse until recently retiring, were presented with the Circle of Corydon Award.
Republican State Rep. Jim Pressel, of Rolling Prairie, said the new award is the second-highest honor an Indiana resident can receive, behind the long-established Sagamore of the Wabash, issued by the governor for major contributions to the betterment of the state.
"When somebody notices what you are doing downstate, it makes you feel good," said Shurte, who started the annual Scarecrow Festival in Wanatah 20 years ago.
In recent years, Shurte has scaled back his community involvement but still volunteers for the festival and other groups like the LaPorte County Convention & Visitors Bureau, American Legion Post 403 and Cass Township Advisory Board.
Shurte, who farmed for several decades, was commander of the local American Legion post for four terms. He’s also a former LaPorte County Highway Department superintendent and general manager of the LaPorte County Fair.
"An award from the governor is something to really cherish. It makes all of the volunteer hours you put in all worthwhile," Shurte said.
Jane Daley, community relations manager for the LCCVB, said at least 10,000 people attend the festival in Wanatah each year and under Shurte’s direction the fairgrounds began hosting nationally known performers and other forms of major entertainment at other times during the year.
"Through his leadership, he as extended the life of the fairgrounds from just one week out of the year to a year-round attraction and event facility," Daley said.
Pressel said Spiess played a major role in securing funding to pay for a new library in 2009 at LaCrosse.
He went to Gov. Eric Holcomb with the nominations at the request of community members.
"They’re well-deserving of these awards," Pressel said.
Corydon, near the Ohio River, was capital when Indiana became a state in 1816 until 1825, when state government relocated to Indianapolis. Corydon, with just more than 3,000 residents, also was home to the only Civil War battle in Indiana.