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Before you hate me, yes, I know I write about travel, parenting, and family and this doesn’t seem like it fits the bill for “things to do in Indiana,” but I want to tell you that it does. So much so, that if you only had 1 thing you could do in Indiana, it should be this. No, it’s not your typical “fun” and it’s not a day at the beach. Hear me out though, you won’t regret it.
Why Should You Get Thrown into the Past?
Not everyone is interested in history, and even fewer are willing to subject themselves to museums with murals, automated recordings, and lectures. It’s understandable. Sometimes history seems so inaccessible and too far in the past.
We often say we’re “not like those people,” but maybe we are, and even if we aren’t we should step outside our comfort zone in order to understand the mistakes of our past. Slavery is a derisive issue that continues to leave its lasting mark on our society. It’s a glaring reminder of how much hate and ignorance we had and as a country still retain.
Step Outside Your Comfort Zone
Watching a TV show or visiting a museum provides none of the breathtaking realism of an interactive experience. As you step off the tram on Conner Prairie, you are instantly thrust into the past. In the dark and cold, feeling abandoned by the driver, you’re waiting but for what?
The shouting begins. What are you good at? How many children can you have? Keep your eyes. Don’t look at anything besides the ground and the feet in front of you. Instantly, your individuality and your pride sink. You know the experience isn’t real, your captors are just actors but it’s easy to forget.
The stories are poignant, real, and raw. In turns, they make you angry, sad, and distraught.
When you start your journey, you are a hopeful, happy person. As you get passed from one family, one home, to the next you start to feel unwanted and hopeless. No matter how many times someone risks their life and opens their door to you, you’re not welcome. It’s too dangerous they tell you. Getting caught is too big a risk for them, for their families. They risk arrest, fines, and maybe even more, their freedom, to help you escape bondage. Yet still, you KNOW you have no place. You don’t belong anywhere.
I felt so many emotions, I’m still not sure I’ve sorted them all out. I took away something I couldn’t from a history book or museum – a true sense of understanding. Reading history books made me upset, but I still really didn’t get it. Being a part of Follow the North Star sickened me, made me appalled. I wanted to actively challenge racism and other people’s views. I wanted to encourage other people to try Follow the North Star so their views, opinions, and ideas would be challenged too.
So, What is Conner Prairie and Follow the North Star?
Okay, so I made you wait until the end to tell you about what Conner Prairie and Follow the North Star actually are. I did it for a reason. I didn’t want you to be able to dismiss the value of them, If I casually told you about this thing you should try, you might have blown it off. I felt like it would have been like telling someone who was afraid of heights to jump out of an airplane.
Follow the North Star is an interactive theatrical experience on Conner Prairie. It allows you to step into the life of a slave in Indiana during the year 1836. While Indiana was a “free state,” that didn’t mean much for those trying to escape slavery. You get to experience the prevailing view in Indiana (and in most states) at the time. Through firsthand experiences you live a second in history.
If you’re looking for something memorable to do, try Follow the North Star while you’re in Hamilton County. You won’t be disappointed!
NOTE: Children under 12 are not allowed to participate in Follow the North Star due to its intense nature.
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