Plans begin in torch relay

Indiana Bicentennial Commission recently announced a signature event requiring hundreds of Hoosiers to carry a torch for the state’s 200th birthday.

The Indiana Bicentennial Torch Relay will start in September 2016 in Corydon, the first state capital, and end with a celebration in October on the grounds of the Statehouse in Indianapolis.

The relay will go through each of Indiana’s 92 counties, including Jackson County, during the 2,300-mile, six-week journey. The route through Jackson County will pass through Vallonia, Brownstown, Seymour and Medora.

John Burkhart has been appointed volunteer coordinator for Jackson County. He will serve as liaison between the state and the county and will work with people selected to carry the torch during its journey throughout the county and help coordinate activities and events along the local route.

“The whole idea is to get people to turn out and see the torch,” Burkhart said.

The relay is patterned after the Olympic Torch Relay and is designed to connect Hoosiers across the state and nation during the bicentennial year.

Torchbearers will be Hoosiers who have been nominated by their peers through the Indiana Bicentennial Torch Relay website. To make a nomination, visit

Indiana2016.org/torchrelay. They will be accepted beginning in March.

Burkhart said the Indiana Department of Tourism, which developed the torch relay, is asking local tourism directors to be volunteer coordinators, and that’s how he wound up with the job. Jackson County commissioners also supported that move, he said.

Burkhart is the director of the Jackson County Visitors Center and the former mayor of Seymour.

The torch relay route was charted by a committee of representatives from multiple state agencies and the private sector. The route showcases locations of natural beauty, local interest and/or historic significance to the state.

The torch itself is being designed by engineering faculty and students at Purdue University. It will be transported primarily by people, passing the flame from torchbearer to torchbearer.

The relay, however, also will employ other modes of conveyance symbolic of the history and heritage of Indiana, including watercraft, farm equipment, a racecar, horse and wagon, antique automobile and others.

A mobile visitor center serving as an interactive museum that highlights important milestones during Indiana’s first 200 years will accompany the torch.

“The Indiana Bicentennial Torch Relay will give generations of Hoosiers the opportunity to honor our past while also looking with optimism toward Indiana’s future,” Gov. Mike Pence said when he announced the event during Statehood Day.

Mark Newman, executive director of the Indiana Office of Tourism Development, said the torch is the centerpiece of the state flag — representing liberty, enlightenment and Indiana’s far-reaching influence.

“The Indiana Bicentennial Torch Relay is a terrific opportunity to celebrate Indiana achievements, influence and heritage while also symbolically ‘passing the torch’ to future generations of Hoosiers,” he said.

Hoosiers interested in volunteering with the event can sign up at the Indiana Bicentennial Torch Relay website.

On the Web

To nominate a torchbearer or learn more about the event, visit Indiana2016.org/torchrelay.

Author photo
Aubrey Woods is editor of The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at awoods@tribtown.com or 812-523-7051.