Monday, December 14, 2015

Return to Metamora, Ind.

Many communities throughout the country use the holidays to dress up their core commercial districts, which instills a sense of local pride and, if done particularly well, draws visitors and business from outside their boundaries.

One such community is Metamora, Ind., which I visited and photographed for the first time six years ago. Metamora uses its Old World charm to attract tourists year-round; it promotes its grist mill, horse-drawn canal boat and carriage rides, and its distinct aqueduct -- which it claims to be the only wooden one in the country.

There are special events such as Strawberry Days, Canal Days and the Labor Day weekend music festival. But the town cranks up the appeal with the annual Christmas Walk, which begins the Saturday before Thanksgiving with the annual tree lighting ceremony. Each weekend thereafter through Christmas, in addition to the holiday lights and decorations, there is live music and caroling, a Currier and Ives scene, and other festive pageantry. Many of the specialty shops dress up their storefronts and windows and display their best holiday goods and crafts.

I revisited Metamora last Saturday, this time spending much more time visiting the shops and observing the outdoor decor and less time photographing. The weather was much more conducive for touring this time; temperatures were in the mid-60s, compared to the low 30s when I visited in 2009.

The town's decorations reflected some change since I was there last. Most notable are the addition of lighted figures near the core intersection -- Main and Columbia streets -- and the absence of a lot of the luminarias I recalled from 2009, as well as the lack of candy canes that had lined a sidewalk leading to the gazebo in a small park alongside the canal and grist mill.

But the essence of the town in the holiday season is the same. I arrived about 2:30 p.m., hoping to catch the town both in daylight and at night. I did not stay nearly as late as I had hoped; I left around 5:45 p.m., not quite late enough to enjoy the after-dark splendor.

The foot traffic seemed strangely light for a prime weekend day when I got there; I had presumed that free parking at the town core would be filled, so I paid $5 to park in a lot near the main highway (U.S. 52). I was surprised that when I got to the core area, there were open parking spots -- not many, but much more than I remember when I came in 2009.

Foot traffic didn't pick up until late in the afternoon -- after 5 p.m. Right around that time, Margie Stoller and Cindy Thompson of Marginal Cinderellas, a duo based in Eaton, Ohio, which is not far from Richmond, Ind., which hugs the Indiana-Ohio state line, were performing on the porch of Luna's Garden on North Main Street. They are pictured in the photo leading off the post.

A full gallery of shots from this visit to Metamora can be found at my online site at

Photo Geek stuff: I shot the entire Dec. 12 visit using my Canon 6D and Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L lens. I hand-held my shots, which I bracketed for exposure (three shots per scene) to process in high-dynamic range (HDR) software in post-processing. I was able to do that with most of my photos.

Above and next two below: Items for sale in Luna's Garden.

Above: A canvas wrap for sale inside one of the shops.

Above: The facade of one of the larger shop buildings along South Main Street.

Above and next four below: Another "change" I noticed Saturday was the new digs of the Smelly Gourmet, which bills itself as a European coffee bar. The bearded gentlemen in top hats were affable sorts and gave the full lowdown on the shop's hulless popcorn, which I sampled -- and enjoyed. I included the last photo in the Smelly Gourmet series -- the one directing shop customers where to go for complaints -- for its levity.

Above and next two below: the dam and waterfall adjacent to the park and grist mill.

Above: The park gazebo and walkway, along which candy canes were lined in my visit in 2009.

Above: A window scene in a shop that appeared to be closed along South Main Street.

Above and next three below: A sampling of the streetside holiday decorations.

Above and next several below: Shots incorporating the canal, which divides North Main Street from South Main Street. At the far end of the canal in the photo above, one can see the wooden aqueduct.

Above: Three closely connected buildings along South Main Street.

Above: Grannie's Cookie Jars and Ice Cream Parlor, where one can find cookie jars in sundry sizes, shapes and styles, as evidenced in the three photos below, which show jars on display in the two storefront display windows and on an interior shelf featuring Coca-Cola bears. Shop Owner Edith Eva Fuchs, aka "Grannie," has a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for possessing the largest collection of cookie jars -- more than 2,000 of which are for sale on the shop's main floor. Many more are in storage upstairs.

Above: The Cat and the Fiddle is a popular play for live entertainment in Metamora.

Above and next three below: A selection of photos of the carriage rides, beginning (above) with one carriage in an interesting juxtaposition with a hot-colored classic car as they cross paths on Clayborn Street.

The pastorals above and below, taken adjacent to the shopping areas, are reminders of the town's proximity to rural life in Franklin County. These animals were behind a wire fence along the southern border of the Duck Creek shopping area of town.