Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

December 25, 2012

Byway and barbecue will bolster tourism

Debbie Blank
The Herald-Tribune

— The Ripley County Convention, Visitors and Tourism Commission, which oversees the Ripley County Tourism Bureau, will support one new event and help build up two others in 2013.

A fresh weekend developed after a coincidence occurred. Executive director Katherine Taul reported at the Dec. 11 monthly meeting a man who professionally hosts barbecue contests said he’s like to do one here.

Three days later, Dan Goris of the Versailles Kiwanis Club suggested that they organize a Taste of Summer with a barbecue theme. “I got the two of them together actually two hours later.”

Member Doug Bessler, Batesville, said, “Boy, did that fall into place.”

Attendees at the spring event, perhaps held at South Ripley Elementary School, may view booths containing grills, outdoor cooking accessories and furniture and taste various barbecued meats. Classes about outdoor cooking techniques and preparations will be offered, too. A contest may happen in future years.

To draw attention to and help fund a third annual art show, now named the Batesville Regional Fine Art Fair,  artists will paint Adirondack chairs, which will be displayed in Batesville and eventually throughout the county, then sold to support the next event. Taul successfully applied for a $4,601 grant from the Rising Sun Regional Foundation  to purchase the chairs.

The fair is Friday-Sunday, March 8-10, 2013, at RomWeber Marketplace.

Of the National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association Lore of the Laughery, Taul admitted, “It’s been a real struggle to make this event as popular as it should be.” The 1750-1812 historical re-enactment and trade fair takes place May 4-5, 2013, at the Friendship NMLRA site. The commission voted to sponsor it for $1,000.

According to member Don Karbowski, Batesville, the weekend boasts fife and drum corps music and candlemaking. RCCVTC President Marianne Wiggers said, “It’s amazing to see. It’s beautiful” and draws area students.

Taul proposed organizing a $1,600 mock shootout between media in Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Louisville. Bessler recommended that Lore of the Laughery organizers and not the commission pay the consultant’s fee. Wiggers concluded, “We like the idea, we don’t like the cost .... The whole idea of our advertising is to get people to stay overnight” and she doubted many would do that near Friendship.

The president added, “These are some goals our board feels are important for 2013”: continue to work on bringing new events and activities to the county that would have a positive impact on overnight stays; keep looking at ways to use technology to promote the county and find the best ways to use very limited marketing dollars; continue to work with existing event leaders and innkeepers to develop Ripley County as a destination.

Two attractions will be in the spotlight next year. Travelers can drive on the recently-designated Historic Michigan Road Byway from Madison to Michigan City. “A lot of people travel historic byways,” the director observed. In the county, the route splits. Tourists can either meander on Old Michigan Road through New Marion and Dabney to Napoleon or take the quicker way on U.S. 421 through Versailles to Napoleon.

Signs costing $35-$45 each will be produced. The byway association asked Taul how many signs are needed in the county and to find funding.

A grand re-opening of an expanded Milan ’54 Museum will be in March around basketball tourney time, according to Wiggers. “We are so close to having that project completed,” she said after attending a Dec. 15 board meeting there. A handicapped entrance replaces steep front steps. Bessler noted, “It’s getting a lot of good ... buzz.” The president added Tim Molinari “has done a really good job” on fundraising.  

Taul reported the state won’t invest in overnight accommodations at Versailles State Park because officials believe it’s located too close to Clifty Falls State Park, Madison. “I don’t think there’s been a state hotel built in a park since 1937,” according to Karbowski.

The director said a Versailles man who wants to construct an inn near the park is seeking $3,000-$5,000 for a feasibility study required by a lender. Taul suggested, “If we pay for it, even if it doesn’t go through for him, we still have that feasibility study and we can court other people.”

Bessler felt the Ripley County Economic Development Corp. should pay for the study.

“It’s money that we really don’t have”, said Wiggers who pointed out going after a grant was not possible because the company would not have nonprofit status. The director reminded the group, “We have to spend money to make money.”

Wiggers agreed an inn near the park “is just so needed.” Taul will invite the potential developer to the next meeting.



• The 2012 budget was estimated at $95,000 with $50,000 coming from innkeepers’ taxes and $45,000 from the county. However, the taxes actually totalled $38,901, $9,143 less than last year. Taul attributed the decline to the closing of Batesville’s Stone Bridge Inn. Over the past seven years, the highest amount collected was $53,411 in 2009 and the lowest was this year.

• Pete and Linda Doll, Sunman, will continue to restock, straighten out and re-order brochures at the I-74 welcome centers east of Batesville up to three hours weekly. They will be paid by Ripley, Franklin and Dearborn tourism commissions.

• The Ripley County Tourism Bureau office, located at 220 E. U.S. 50, Versailles, is open weekdays from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Brochures from throughout Indiana and hand-crafted items and art are also available Saturday from 9 a.m.-noon when the next door Designs by Davison Floral and Gift Shop is open. The full-time director is assisted by a part-time employee, Kea Foreman, Friendship.

• Info: 888-47-5394; 812-689-7431;, which offers information, plus some tweets and a video about winter mountain biking at Versailles State Park.