VALPARAISO | It's a chance for area residents to boost Orville Redenbacher's reputation as the state's top innovator all time as the state's Bicentennial Train visits this week.
It's the first time in five years that the Indiana Historical Society train will be making stops around the state, parking in Valparaiso from Thursday through Saturday. On its last visit, attendance set a record that still stands for the train, with more than 4,400 people checking out the variety of free exhibits and activities.
The theme of this year's tour by the three refurbished Amtrak freight cars is "The Next Indiana." The exhibits in the first of the 65-foot cars cover the state's history up to 1900, and the second car deals with 20th century Hoosier history. The third car looks at the state as it is today and could be in the future.
In addition to the train exhibits, three tents will be set up where visitors can create their own community flag, design their own park, participate in an Indiana railroad map game highlighting some of the state's railways from its first 100 years and vote on the state's top innovator.
Redenbacher and his popcorn are competing for top honor with automobile pioneer Elwood Haynes, Madam C. J. Walker, who created hair care products for African-Americans, Ralph Teetor, inventor of cruise control, and voice mail inventor Scott Jones.
One of the state's historical figures, Daniel Morgan Cook, will be present by proxy. Kevin Stonerock will portray the man who, according to accounts, spent much of his life working on and around trains and traveled around the state on trains during Indiana's centennial celebration. He will recount his adventures and the people he met.
The Bicentennial Train is sponsored by the Indiana Rail Road Company and Norfolk Southern Corporation in partnership with the Indiana Bicentennial Commission and Indiana Humanities in preparation for the state's 200th anniversary of admission to the union in 2016.
The train and all its accompanying activities will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day free of charge, and every visitor will get a complimentary pass to the Indiana Historical Society's Indiana Experience at the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center in Indianapolis.
The society is seeking volunteers for the train's visit here to help with crowd control, school groups, parking and more. Three time slots are needed for each day, and volunteers can sign up for a three-hour time slot or for all day. For information or to register to volunteer, visit www.indianahistory.org/train or call (317) 232-1882.
For more information about the Bicentennial Train or other IHS programs, go to www.indianahistory.org.