How do you show your appreciation to the unsung heroes, the ones who have given their ideas and countless hours of work without one penny of pay nor any real recognition? This was my thought as I drove out of Buffalo Wild Wings after the Shelby County Bicentennial Celebration event on Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019. WOW! What a wonderful day Greg and Priscilla Wilt put together. I am sure that many customers went home with more than just a great meal; every hour several door prizes were given out, not to mention thousands of dollars of raffle prizes. Thank you both for all you have accomplished as the fund raising chairs of the Shelby County Bicentennial Committee.
One of the last members of the Bicentennial Committee to join the party last night was Eric Ditmer. Ditmer for the last two years has been this enthusiastic Shelby County cheerleader. He didn’t care what events where chosen to celebrate the county’s 200th birthday, he just wanted them to highlight the best Shelby County has to offer. His innovative ideas have sparked into some of the most exciting bicentennial events of the year. He conceived the idea that we should build a Traveling Museum that would visit every community in Shelby County. This museum would not only share a timeline of Shelby County’s rich heritage but it would also highlight the history of each community that it visits. He joined with the Wilts and the Shelby County Historical Society to make this dream a reality. All year, Ditmer has moved the Traveling Museum from one community event to the next. Once the museum was set in place, the Wilts would move in to share with visitors Shelby County’s rich history, information on the next Bicentennial event, and sell raffle and 50/50 tickets.
Before the Bicentennial committee even had its first meeting, Ditmer met with me (director of the Shelby County Historical Society) to ask if he could host an event at the Wilson/Lenox house, which is the first brick home built in Shelby County in 1816. Out of this request, almost 700 third graders from across Shelby County were able to tour the home and participate in a day’s worth of activities that were all based on what it would have been like to live in Shelby County in 1819, when the county was formed. Ditmer gave hours preparing the house and the property for this event.
Ditmer also requested that the Shelby County Historical Society create a community event in Hardin to celebrate that it was Shelby County’s first county seat. To the surprise of many on April 27, 2019, Hardin was once again a vibrant community just like it was when the county was founded in 1819.
And if that wasn’t enough, it was also Ditmer’s idea to create a free cell phone app so residents and visitors could learn about Shelby County’s rich heritage by just downloading a free app. This idea became the Legacy Project of the Shelby County Bicentennial. Jane Bailey, curator of the Shelby County Historical Society, and Steve Sommers of the SMS Group created the “Discover Shelby County History” app, which can be downloaded for free in the app market.
In a few weeks, we will try to break the Guinness World record for the number of pop can tabs popped all at the same time. It was Ditmer’s idea to honor Ralph Stolle’s leadership and contribution to the community by popping can tops.
If you have not had the same pleasure as I have of working side by side with any of these three amazing Shelby County citizens, you would have no idea of what a gift they have given to this community over the last two years. It has been my pleasure to help them create and host these community events and activities. I hope they know that the Shelby County Bicentennial Committee respects and admires them for all their contributions to the Bicentennial Celebration. Without all of the countless volunteers and committee members the bicentennial year would not have been as much fun!
The writer is a Bicentennial Committee member and the director of the Shelby County Historical Society.