A once-in-a-lifetime event is how Rochester
Mayor Ted Denton described the statue torch relay at the opening ceremony at
the Fulton County Courthouse.
"This torch represents passing on our
history, our present and our thoughts and dreams for the future," said
Fourth-graders from three schools
attend the kickoff, along with many residents of the city. After the
choir sang and a high school band performed, former Circuit Judge Doug Morton
started the leg of the relay.
Students gathered at Rochester High School to
cheer on Cross Country runner and torchbearer, Adrianna Dague, Charles Schwenk,
a teacher, and Jana Vance the superintendent.
Students from Columbia Elementary were bussed
to the location where their principal, Jason Snyder carried the torch. He then
drove an antique car for Fellow torchbearer Shirley Willard.
There were 14 relay members who will carry it
through Rochester to U.S. 31 where it will make its way to Miami County.
In Miami County, the torch made its way to the Nickel Plate Trail, where the first of 20
torchbearers either rode or walked with the torch along the trail, which
encompasses an old railroad line.
The torch was carried to Peru where the Peru
High School Tigers marching band entertained the crowd at the courthouse square
by playing the state song.
One torchbearer was Dr. Dan Roberts. He was
honored to represent Brigadier General Hiram Iddings Bearss. He served in the
U.S. Marine Corps during the Spanish American War and received the Medal of
Mark Weaver flew in from Connecticut to be a
torchbearer in honor of his dad, Robert Weaver. Weaver was an artist and one of
the founders of the Peru Amateur Circus and Circus City Festival.
“It had to be done,” said Mark. “It was such an
honor to do this for him in the city he loved.”
Mark handed the torch off to Miami County
Prosecutor Bruce Embrey, who rode in an antique circus wagon from the International Circus Hall of Fame.
Brian Buchanan, Chief of the Miami Nation of
Indiana was a torchbearer. He grew up in Speedway.
"The torch to myself, and I believe I
speak for many Miami, is a form of unity for the state and the relationship to
the tribe, said Chief Buchanan. “It helps to solidify that relationship."
Mike Kuepper, President of the Nickel Plate
Trail ran the torch back to the trail.
Kamon Blong, a circus performer rode a unicycle
on the trail then handed the torch off to his grandfather Miles Straley, who is
retired from Grissom Airforce Base.
One of the final torchbearers was Kori Brown.
Kori was diagnosed with a blood disease as a child and saw firsthand the
financial and emotional stress put on families as they sought treatment for
their child. She founded the irok Foundation in 2009. The irok
Foundation often helps pay a family’s bills after their child has been given a
The torch entered Howard County via the Nickel
Plate Trail. Bob Gollner and Jeff Griffin took the torch for the first leg of
the relay in a 1922 Haynes Tourister. Elwood Haynes invented America’s first
commercial gas-powered automobile. Howard County is known for making
automobiles, General Motors and Chrysler both have plants. State Rep. Mike
Karickhoff rode in a 2016 Dodge Ram by the Kokomo Automotive Museum. He carried the torch
in honor of Monroe Seiberling. Another State Rep. carried the torch. Heath VanNatter
was a substitute torchbearer for George Kingston.
People gathered on both sides of the street
near Wallace Elementary School for fifth-grader Jack Double, who carried the
torch in honor of Elwood Haynes.
"We are excited for him," said
Charley Hinkle, Jack's principal and nominator. "This is a great
Hinkle also said he nominated Jack because he's
active at school. He plays the violin, piano and he's in the choir.
Jack's mom walked on the sidewalk next to him
as he passed the flame to David Emry.
Northwestern Elementary School Noah Knights
carried the torch for Norman Birdwell, the creator of Clifford the Big
Red Dog series.
More crowds gathered as the torch made its way
in front of the Seiberling Mansion, Kokomo Senior Center and
the Elwood Haynes Museum.
At Highland Park, Kokomo firefighter Tiffany
Massey dedicated her run/walk to fallen Howard County Sheriff Deputy Carl Koontz.
About 200 students congregated at Indiana
University Kokomo to cheer on Susan Sciame-Giesecke, the university’s
chancellor. Kingston Cougar, the school’s mascot walked next to her.
“It’s an honor for the torch to come to the
university,” said Sciame-Giesecke. “For the torch to come through campus it
reaffirms the commitment to higher education.”
She handed off to Kokomo City Councilman Robert
Hayes. He was a substitute torchbearer for Henry Waggoner, who was the first
African-American on the Kokomo Police Department. Hayes told stories of
Waggoner while waiting for his turn to take the torch.
Torchbearer Gradyn Rogers was unable to take
part in today’s relay. After 10 years in remission, Gradyn is back in the hospital
undergoing chemotherapy. Organizers said he’s proudly wearing his torchbearer
hat and that’s giving him hope.
The celebration was underway at the Kokomo
Courthouse Square when the torch arrived.
Charlie Sparks, who serves as president of the
Greater Kokomo Economic Development Alliance said, “We care a lot
about our past and future. I'm reminded how lucky I am to call Indiana and
Howard County my home. The torch shines a light on each county as
it passes through.”
All the Howard County torchbearers were honored