The 360-plus people attending a ball at Celebrations in Seymour on New Year’s Eve had plenty of things to celebrate.

Besides ringing in the New Year at midnight, the purpose of the event was to celebrate the 200th birthday of Jackson County and kick start a beehive of activities for this year as Brownstown and the state also celebrate 200th birthdays.

Many of those who showed up, however, were there for simpler reasons.

Natasha Wichman of Seymour said her mother, Madge Warren, is a member of the Bicentennial Planning Committee of Jackson County, and that’s why she and her husband, Brent Wichman, decided to attend and bring along their friends, Mike and Sarah Bumbleburg, also of Seymour. The committee organized the celebration.

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“We’re all parents with younger children and it is hard to get out,” Wichman said.

Brent Wichman said the ball was something different.

“It’s something local and it’s close to home,” he said.

Bumbleburg said she couldn’t remember the last time she and her husband had been out. The others agreed.

“I think it’s a great way to kick off the bicentennial,” she said.

One of the event’s organizers, Sean Hildreth of Seymour said there’s nothing wrong with people attending the event just to have fun.

“There were a lot of things we could have done tonight,” Hildreth said. “We thought we would have something a little more formal. Something fun and something to have a good time. It’s New Year’s Eve.”

He said a ball just sounded like a great event, and the main goal was to raise money for other bicentennial celebrations throughout the year.

James and Sherry Pray of Crothersville were joined by their daughter, Tamara Barger, and her husband, Benny Barger, of Scottsburg.

“We were looking for something different to do and thought this would be nice,” Sherry Pray said.

She said she’s not a big history buff.

James Pray, who grew up in the Freetown area, said the county has some interesting history.

“Starting with the train robbery,” he said in reference to the Oct. 6, 1866, robbery of the Ohio and Mississippi Railway train by the Reno Gang. The robbery of the train as it was leaving the city was a first.

“And then there’s the covered bridges,” James Pray said.

He said he thinks the bicentennial celebrations are going to be interesting.

The Bargers both said the weren’t too interested in history either.

“We came up to hang out with her mom,” he said. “I think we wanted to dress up and see if we still look good in a suit and dress.”

The Bargers have two kids, one 12 and the other seven.

“This is the first year we’ve been away from our kids,” Benny Barger said.

Tamara Barger, a Jackson County native, said she did find one interesting item in the program.

“I was reading that land was $8 an acre back in the 1860s,” she said.

You sure can’t buy it for that price now, Tamara Barger said.

Benny Barger said it might be nice to have a time machine to go back and buy some land at that time.

Cliff Sommers, president of the bicentennial planning committee, said he was just glad the big night had finally arrived.

Sommers said it took the better part of 2015 to get everything ready for that ball.

“It’s almost going better than I thought it would,” he said.

Sommers said the next event being planned will occur in February.

“We’re throwing a “Leap Year Party” for the people with birthdays on Feb. 29,” he said. “It’s not going to be real anything big.”

Organizer Ray Bachmann has begun putting together a list of people with Feb. 29 birthdays, Sommers said.

“It’s a pretty big list,” he added. The committee plans to promote the event in the hopes of making sure that no one with a Feb. 29 birthday is missed.

There’s also celebrations planned for April 8 and 9 (Brownstown’s 200th birthday is April 8); in October to celebrate the county’s birthday with a variety of events; and Dec. 11 when the state celebrates its 200th birthday.

Arann Banks, executive director of the Jackson County Visitors Center and a member of the bicentennial planning committee, said the state is encouraging each county to put their own touch on events to celebrate the state’s 200th birthday.

She said tourism bureaus from around the state are encouraging Hoosiers to attend as many events as possible and go to those outside their own county.

“Check off the counties you’ve never been to,” she said. “Look at events across the state. Find out about your own county. I find out things every day about this county that I didn’t know. There’s a lot of opportunities.”

She said because of bicentennial events, organizers are starting to notice a lot of interest among school children in the county’s history.

“What happened here in the past 200 years, and what have we done and where our families have come from,” she said. “That’s been a lot of fun. We look forward to working with the schools.”

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Aubrey Woods is editor of The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at or 812-523-7051.