Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Metamora – It’s Not For Everyone

If you crave 24-hour drive-through McDonald’s, or having a shopping mall or Wal-Mart just minutes away on the freeway, then Metamora Indiana may not be the kind of place for you. The nearest McDonald’s is in Brookville, nine miles away, and the closest Wal-Mart is either Connersville or Greensburg- both a half-hour or more away. Traffic on Main Street in the evenings is minimal- mostly local residents taking their trucks to the firehouse to get a load of water for their wells.

If you are in Metamora, full-fledged museums and zoos require a longer drive, though our area does have a fair amount of smaller historic homes, buildings and wildlife habitats open to the public a few days a week- you just have to check their schedules to catch them open. They are loaded with fascinating historic details. Most of these places don't make any money and are staffed by volunteers. In the village of Metamora itself, if you can’t find a local history buff to talk to you about the town, you can get a flavor of the history by walking the streets and reading the historic plaques on the sides of the buildings.

Nightlife in Metamora? Well, after Grannie's Ice Cream closes in the evening, there isn't much, except on the final Friday of each month when there is an open mic night in town (either at Tom's Cabana, or at the music stage on the east end of town, depending on the weather.) And then, Max has been organizing a cruise-in on Friday nights that has been bringing in some interesting cars on Fridays. So far up to six or eight cars. If that isn't your idea of nightlife, you could go out to the Hearthstone Restaurant on the outer edge of town- they have a full bar and pretty good buffet. Beyond that, you’re going to have to settle for a nice evening walk and/or conversation alongside the 170 year old canal with a good friend or loved one.

We’ve got a local bluegrass band and we practice most Wednesday evenings about 6:00, often outside on the street. One evening we were playing on the street when some tourists spending the night in a local B&B walked up and enjoyed the music. We got to talking afterwards, and one of the tourists asked about the nightlife in Metamora. We all chuckled, and I apologized to our guests saying that we pretty much rolled up the streets at five or five thirty. The response from the visitors was “don't apologize- that's why we LIKE it here so much.” Turns out those folks were from Chicago, where they said the city never shuts down, so they like to get away to our peaceful and quiet village.

Some of us with a shop in the village would like to figure out how to draw a few more visitors to town-there's not quite enough business to pay the light and grocery bills for a full time store without some other means of support. That's why a lot of the businesses are only open on weekends.

But, to draw visitors to town, one has to describe the attraction of the village. Now those of us that live here, and the many tens of thousands of visitors that come to visit the village throughout the year, certainly are attracted by something about the place. But describing that attraction in words? That's where things start to get tough.

It’s easy to name the water-wheel-powered Grist Mill, the Ben Franklin III canal boat, and the only working wooden aqueduct in the United States. But that doesn’t come close to describing the addictive qualities in the air.

Many of us who live here refer to our attachment to Metamora and the Whitewater Valley of southeast Indiana as a 'disease'. We're 'infected' by a love for this pre-civil-war canal boat town that is hard to explain. In an attempt to find words that will describe the wonders of our valley and village to potential tourists outside the area, we did a little research by looking at some tourist magazines. It seems that most of the articles and ads trying to draw tourist to their towns focus on the Arts, Food, and Music.

Well, Metamora doesn't rank very high in any of those categories. Yet seventy-something percent of our visitors are repeat visitors, many have been coming back all their lives for a day or weekend, according to a poll done for us a few years ago by a University in Indy. Those visitors, like us residents, have difficulty describing exactly what it is that brings them back.

Last night, as my bride and I were walking back home near dusk from getting our ice cream from Grannies, we came upon and talked with a couple from Indianapolis who were spending the weekend at one of our local B&B's. They were walking down the center of Main Street, holding hands, barefoot and carrying their shoes with them, clearly enjoying the evening. One of the things we talked about was this very problem of describing the magic in the village.

The woman told us that she didn't quite understand it, but just knew how much she loved it here. She said she had a real nice, new home in Indy which she loved, but a new home lacks a depth of character. Metamora is full of character with the amazing architecture of the past. Getting away to Metamora is a perfect retreat. She said she certainly didn't come for the pristine and manicured appearance you find in many tourist towns (which is a good thing because we don't have much of that here!); She said she just really appreciates the peacefulness, natural beauty, fascinating interesting appearance of the town's buildings. She repeated that everyone is so friendly. The people who run the grist mill, the volunteers who operate the historic Whitewater Valley Railroad here in town, and all the shopkeepers.

So, to experience the “Arts”, you’ll have to satisfy yourself with Pat Ramos’s hand-cut silhouettes, or stop in the Post Office building and enjoy a number of paintings by local artists Dorothy Humbarger and a few others. For "Food", you’ll have to satisfy yourself with one of the gourmet hot dogs at the Cat and Fiddle B&B in Duck Creek Crossing or one of nearly a dozen varieties of grilled cheese Panini sandwiches at the Smelly Gourmet. And for "Music", there’s the local Baggy Bottom Boys and other acoustic music on the Final Friday open mic night.

And while all of that doesn’t seem to rise to the level of most of those ads for other larger towns in the tourist magazines, it’s only the tip of the indescribable iceberg that is the wonder and magic of being in Metamora. It’s not for everyone. But it’s our little piece of America that is very satisfying.


  1. Metamora is one of my favorite places to go when I need to breathe a little deeper. It's like stepping into another time and place where everyone has a smile or a kind word to share, sometimes something as simple as a genuine smile and greeting can completely change the day.

    It's a place that still exists because a few people care too much to let it slip away and that in itself creates atmosphere that can't be found just anywhere. People live in cities amid chaos and noise because their jobs are there or the location is convenient. People visit and set up shop in Metamora because they truly love it and people like me visit and are immediately hooked. I'm a repeat visitor and am so happy to have discovered the magic of Metamora.

    No one there knew this but a few years ago my son was battling cancer and just before he went into remission my mom was diagnosed with late stage cancer. It had been a very difficult couple of years and I can't begin to describe the emotional pain I was in. My family and I had visited Metamora one day on the weekend for some quiet relaxing togetherness. I purchased a duck for the ducky regatta and was wonderfully shocked when my duck won first place! I didn't expect to win but that's part of the magic of this wonderful little town. It's a treasure and I would be writing this with just as much love for the place had I not won the ducky regatta.

    I don't know words to fully describe Metamora or the magic of the place, all I know is that there is something very special about it, maybe it's something very personal for each individual. I highly recommend a visit to this gem of a place.

  2. I am a Metamora lover as well! I try to make it there atleast once a week, but sometimes more. Recently I found out that I have to do an observation piece about a place, person, but something that I can be descriptive about and show passion about what it is, but have factual or historical content. Something I can find newspaper articles on as well. So what better place than Metamora! It is a place that, well, I go simply to observe just because it is soothing for the soul. I get a sense of warmth just thinking about walking under the towns tree that specially formed itself for the children to climb on it. Only in Metamora would you find a tree that is even part of the encouraging sense of family you get when walking through this town. A tree that welcomes you with open arms, so much that it wants you to climb it's extended arm. A town where you feel more comfortable with your shoes off than on. Simplicity is the only word I can think of when I think of Metamora that would sum it up best. So when I heard about this assignment I instantly knew right where I was going to observe, I do it every week just to keep myself grounded, and the town just simply has healing powers. I always walk away happier and someday- someday when the right thing comes along I would love to raise my children there. Ages two and three, but it is that sense of family that runs through the town, a place that is like where I grew up but 30 years ago, what Metamora has, doesn't exist in the subcultures of today's society. I also am being asked to have some actual interviewing. Not reporter style just casual friendly yet factual input from the place I pick. If anyone would be interested in helping me out my web address is Sarahs29nzen@yahoo.com Also I will be in the town paper and pen in hand this week several times throughout the afternoon and evening. It shouldn't be to hard to find a girl walking with a notebook towards evening hours. Sittin at benches, the gazebo, and writing down facts off of the placks. Any brochuers, newpaper pieces, historical input, anything would be greatly appriciated. Also if emailed I can give a number to reach me as well. I jsut would love nothing more than to observe the place I love to observe, and it can even be added to this webpage if at all interested. I hope to capture the true essence of the town I love and cherish each moment that I am there. I hold great pride in the town. Spending countless nights walking the streets after renting a room at Betty's Bed and Breakfast. I want to capture this town in a way that the towns people are, and want to make sure I honor it the proper way. The only way I feel I can truly do this is to talk to the people who love it the most. So any feedback would be so much welcomed, and like I said I will be the girl walking through town with notebook in hand, as many nights this week as I can. I am also going to aim for the music on friday. I figured it would be a good time to corral a few Metamora lovers!!

  3. I am very intrigued by your quaint little town and am wondering what may be available for New Year's Eve? Will the restaurants/shops be open? We'd like to get away somewhere quiet and your town looks like it might have what we are looking for. Any information is appreciated.

  4. I was there last year for Canal Days with Mark's Foods at the Sirloin Tips joint. Loved it. Trapper John was an excellent host.