Community News

INDOT Unveils "Hoosier Hoops Highway" for NCAA Tournament

The Indiana Department of Transportation this week began unveiling its "Hoosier Hoops Highway" signs in advance of a busy basketball month in Indiana, with the Big Ten, Horizon League and NCAA tournaments being hosted in the Hoosier State.


Games will be played throughout Indiana in basketball arenas in Indianapolis, Evansville, West Lafayette and Bloomington. 


INDOT is placing temporary signs on highways leading to host cities to commemorate the historic month and help guide fans and teams.


March Madness

Signs will be visible along major routes serving tournaments, such as I-65, I-70, I-465 and I-69 during the month of March.

Follow INDOT on Facebook and Twitter for traffic and road construction updates as you travel to tournament games.

Police conducting 'full-court press' in March to combat impaired, dangerous driving

The Shelby County Traffic Safety Partnership today announced that officers will be cracking down on dangerous and impaired driving in March, as part of a statewide enforcement campaign. From February 26, through March 21, 2021, officers will be conducting high-visibility patrols showing zero tolerance for those driving aggressively, over the speed limit or under the influence.


The overtime patrols are funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) through an Indiana Criminal Justice Institute grant.


“Dangerous and impaired driving continues to be a problem, especially around high-risk events like St. Patrick’s Day and the NCAA Tournament,” said Sheriff Louie Koch.“However, you celebrate this year, do so responsibly. Slow down, buckle up and if you drink, don’t drive. It’s that simple.”


On average, drunk-driving crashes claim more than 10,000 lives per year in the U.S., according to NHTSA. Although 2020 was a unique year due to the pandemic, preliminary data from the federal safety agency shows that while miles traveled had decreased by about 14.5 percent in the first nine months, overall traffic fatalities increased by 4.6 percent nationwide.


In addition, a separate report released from NHTSA revealed that more road users engaged in risky behaviors in 2020 such as speeding or driving under the influence, and that fewer motorists wore seat belts.


Despite having fewer drivers on the road in Indiana, 2020 was the third highest year for traffic fatalities (850) in the past decade, according to ICJI.


“We’re seeing an uptick in dangerous driving during the pandemic, and it’s very concerning,” said Devon McDonald, ICJI Executive Director. “That’s why we’re pulling out all the stops this March to reverse that trend and encourage safe driving behavior. Preventing loss of life is our top priority.”


Dangerous driving includes such factors as speeding, tailgating and disregarding a traffic signal – all of which are against the law in Indiana. Additionally, it is illegal to drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher. Drivers under 21 with a BAC of .02 or higher are subject to fines and a license suspension for up to 1 year.


To avoid the potential for legal fees and criminal charges, the department recommends following these simple steps:


  • Slow down and follow all posted speed limits.
  • Never drive impaired. If you plan on drinking, plan for a safe, sober ride home.
  • Do not tailgate or drive aggressively.
  • Put down the phone and avoid distracted driving.
  • Buckle up – every trip, every time.


USDA temporarily suspends debt collections, foreclosures and other activities on farm loans due to coronavirus

Due to the national public health emergency caused by coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), the U.S. Department of Agriculture today announced the temporary suspension of past-due debt collections and foreclosures for distressed borrowers under the Farm Storage Facility Loan and the Direct Farm Loan programs administered by the Farm Service Agency (FSA). USDA will temporarily suspend non-judicial foreclosures, debt offsets or wage garnishments, and referring foreclosures to the Department of Justice. USDA will work with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to stop judicial foreclosures and evictions on accounts that were previously referred to the Department of Justice. Additionally, USDA has extended deadlines for producers to respond to loan servicing actions, including loan deferral consideration for financially distressed and delinquent borrowers. In addition, for the Guaranteed Loan program, flexibilities have been made available to lenders to assist in servicing their customers.


Today’s announcement by USDA expands previous actions undertaken by the Department to lessen financial hardship. According to USDA data, more than 12,000 borrowers—approximately 10% of all borrowers—are eligible for the relief announced today. Overall, FSA lends to more than 129,000 farmers, ranchers and producers.


“USDA and the Biden Administration are committed to bringing relief and support to farmers, ranchers and producers of all backgrounds and financial status, including by ensuring producers have access to temporary debt relief,” said Robert Bonnie, Deputy Chief of Staff, Office of the Secretary. “Not only is USDA suspending the pipeline of adverse actions that can lead to foreclosure and debt collection, we are also working with the Departments of Justice and Treasury to suspend any actions already referred to the applicable Agency. Additionally, we are evaluating ways to improve and address farm related debt with the intent to keep farmers on their farms earning living expenses, providing for emergency needs, and maintaining cash flow.” 


The temporary suspension is in place until further notice and is expected to continue while the national COVID-19 disaster declaration is in place.


USDA’s Farm Service Agency provides several different loans for producers, which fall under two main categories:


  • Guaranteed loans are made and serviced by commercial lenders, such as banks, the Farm Credit System, credit unions and other non-traditional lenders. FSA guarantees the lender’s loan against loss, up to 95%.
  • Direct loans are made and serviced by FSA using funds from the federal government.


The most common loan types are Farm Ownership, Farm Operating and Farm Storage Facility Loans, with Microloans for each: 


  • Farm Ownership: Helps producers purchase or enlarge a farm or ranch, construct a new or improve an existing farm or ranch building, pay closing costs and pay for soil and water conservation and protection.
  • Farm Operating: Helps producers purchase livestock and equipment and pay for minor real estate repairs and annual operating expenses.
  • Farm Storage Facility Loans are made directly to producers for the construction of cold or dry storage and includes handling equipment and mobile storage such as refrigerated trucks.
  • Microloans: Direct Farm Ownership, Operating Loans and Farm Storage Facility Loans have a shortened application process and reduced paperwork designed to meet the needs of smaller, non-traditional and niche-type operations.


Contact FSA

FSA encourages producers to contact their county office to discuss these programs and temporary changes to farm loan deadlines and the loan servicing options available. For Service Center contact information, visit For servicing information, access

Luke Schonfeld's Barnyard Party Pals mobile petting zoo is a growing business

A love of animals combined with an 8th grade Agriculture class and time in FFA has turned into a business endeavor for one Shelby County man. 


Luke Schonfeld has managed to combine all three into Barnyard Party Pals, a mobile petting zoo that features pony and unicorn parties, pony rides, live nativities, educational programs and more. 


"When we started, we started with a couple of goats, one alpaca and a pony. Since then, we have grown tremendously. We have a multitude of species as part of our Critter Crew here at Barnyard Party Pals," Schonfeld tells Giant FM. 



Schonfeld says his love for animals comes from the "best role model I had growing up," his grandfather, Frank Schonfeld, Sr. 


"Growing up, he taught me amazing lessons about raising animals and sharing them with others. He and I would take day trips to amazing places and meet amazing people who had all kinds of animals. One trip to this day I remember was seeing buffalo, ostriches and camels on one trip. That is where I get my love for sharing my animals. I am also a huge fan of Dr. Pol, Steve Irwin, and his son, Robert, all of them are animal lovers as well," Schonfeld told Giant FM. 


Currently, Barnyard Party Pals features alpacas, ducks, donkeys, geese, goats, ponies, turkeys, rabbits, iguanas, bearded dragons, hedgehogs and more, according to Schonfeld. 



As for growing too fast, Schonfeld said he wanted to start his business slowly.


"I am not the person who wants to get crazy, big fast. I want the chance to slowly grow that we can handle the growing pains that come with it. Everything is planned and has to be in order to work with animals," he said. 


Schonfeld said his business initially started out by bringing animals to various nursing homes and doing a few family birthdays, but now they supply the animals for the week of the Shelby County Fair, as well as at the Shelby County Ag Promotion and Farm Bureau Children's Animal Farm and Shelbyville Parks Department events. 


"We are a mobile petting zoo, which is definitely different among the rest. We bring the zoo to you," he said.  


In 2021, Schonfeld said his business will be featuring pony rides, ponies and unicorn parties, as well as animal educational programs.


"We do all kinds of events for all different age groups. Whether you are one or 100, when you see an animal for the first time, I get to see that sparkle in their eyes. It is truly why I do what I do, sharing my animals with people," he said. 


Schonfeld said his thinking of a future changed over time into something he truly loves.


"Honestly, with my love for animals growing up, maybe I would work at a zoo or a vet office, but I must say, I like sharing my animals this way," he said. 


For more information, contact Schonfeld at 317-696-8419 or

Chamber Chat talks with new Shelby County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Donna Christian

Retiring Shelby County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Julie Metz and the new Executive Director Donna Christian appeared on Chamber Chat on Friday, January 15.



The Shelby County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors is pleased to announce that Donna Christian has been named the Executive Director of the Shelby County Chamber of Commerce.


She will be replacing Executive Director Julie Metz who has held the position for 14 years.


Metz is eager to retire but she said, “knowing that Donna shares my passion for the county and the mission of the Chamber makes it easier to move on. Donna has exciting ideas that will continue to meet the needs and expectations of our members and the community.”


Donna Christian has a varied background that is well-suited for the job of Executive Director. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Political Science & Journalism from the University of Indianapolis and has continued her education with certifications from Michigan State University and the University of Notre Dame.


Her background includes serving in positions in Governor Orr’s public relations department, WWWY Radio, Irwin Management Company of Columbus as The Commons Mall and Downtown Main Street marketing director, general manager of Indiana Premium Outlets with Simon Property Group, and operations in the Rotary Club of Indianapolis. She has served on numerous boards and committees. She was appointed by Gov. Evan Bayh to serve on the State Tourism Board, Columbus (IN) Visitors Center, Columbus Chamber of Commerce, Zonta Club, Columbus Jaycees, Columbus Farmers Market, Columbus Area Arts Council, and the Foundation for Youth to name a few. She is a current member of the Rotary Club of Indianapolis.


Travis Edington, President of the Shelby County Chamber of Commerce said, “Hiring someone with Donna’s experience and talent is a clear example of the Chamber’s determination to continue the momentum and positive impact for our members’ businesses under Julie’s leadership. The Hiring Committee interviewed outstanding candidates, but Donna stood out for her experience, marketing and ability to develop relationships with members, the media and the county. We found her to be engaging, energetic, and experienced. She certainly has a “can-do” attitude.”


Donna Christian is a life-long resident of Shelby County and a graduate of Southwestern High School.


“I have always wanted to work in my hometown. Shelbyville and the county have always held a special affection. I am always quick to tell others that I’m a resident of Shelby County. The people in the county are authentic and caring – it’s just a great place to live, work and raise a family. I’m excited about the opportunity to be instrumental in adding valuable programs and educational opportunities for our members while promoting business growth in Shelbyville and the surrounding area,” Christian said. “I look forward to fulfilling the needs of our current membership while spearheading a push for new members. I believe passionately in the Chamber and its capacity to enhance the economic and business climate of our area. It’s going to be great to be at home in Shelby County and serving my community.”


“I am anxious to start training with Julie for this job. I know she will get me prepared to take the helm and chart a course for success. Julie is such a seasoned, well-known professional – it will be a challenge to meet her high standards. I know the Directors and members of the Chamber join me in wishing her all the best in her endeavors. She will be sorely missed,” Donna Christian said.

Shelby Materials marks its 70th year in business

First, a few things that happened in 1951:  


Congress passed 22nd Amendment, limiting a President to two terms


The Rosenbergs convicted of passing U.S. nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union


General Douglas MacArthur relieved of command in Korea


Joe DiMaggio announced retirement after the Yankees beat the NY Giants in the World Series


Notable movies included The African Queen and A Streetcar Named Desire.  I Love Lucy began its TV run.


1951 was also the beginning of a business celebrating an anniversary this year.  Shelby Materials is in its 70th year of operation.


Vice President of Operations and Sales Matt Haehl.



Haehl says it’s wonderful to be a part of a successful, growing company.



70 years is something to celebrate.  Haehl hopes they get that chance with Covid still having its impact.



In 1997, the business was renamed Shelby Materials, from Shelby Gravel, Inc., in order to showcase the vast variety of concrete, aggregates and custom blends offered. 



Pride and love of BBQ powering Smokin' Barrel Barbeque

A love of family, community and food are the three principles Mike McFarland and his wife, CJ have built their business, Smokin' Barrel Barbeque, on. 


It has been that way since 2016 when the couple decided to try their hand at bbq full-time after winning several competitions. 


For Mike McFarland, the business is the end result of his goals after attaining a degree from Pennsylvania Culinary School. In 2015, he started smoking meats and competing in various backyard bbq competitions. 



"He and I met 17 years ago working at Smokey Bones. We met when I worked as a waitress through college and he was a kitchen supervisor and restaurant opening trainer. Kids and careers took us a different way, but after winning a few competitions, we decided to try bbq full-time," CJ McFarland told Giant FM.


McFarland said all the food made at Smokin Barrel is keto friendly and the bbq is cooked slow and and smoked low on wood. 


And, it is made with something that a price tag cannot be put on -- pride and love. 


"We love what we do. We love being with our family. We love the communities that surround us and that support us regularly. New Palestine and Warren Township have become our biggest support systems. Our bbq is our family and it is our culture," CJ McFarland said. 


McFarland said there are potential plans for indoor dining and possibly a patio area in the future. 


"We want to be great at what we are currently doing. We are looking to offer breakfast on Saturdays. Catering in the beginning was our main focus. we still cater, but try to limit it to smaller events as our bbq is an art. It takes at least 15 hours for our meats to be prepped and smoked," McFarland said. 


McFarland welcomes anyone who likes bbq to give them a try. She told Giant FM the staff aims to make all customers feel like family. 


"We provide good food and service and make all feel welcome. We provide a safe work environment for young people, and our kids work alongside us. Our faith in God has kept us encouraged and has confirmed more than once that we are doing what we are supposed to be doing. Acts 2:42," McFarland said. 


Smokin' Barrel Barbeque is located at Camp Sertoma, 2316 S German Church Rd, Indianapolis, just outside New Palestine. It is open Thursday and Friday from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. and Saturday 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. 


For more information, call 317-340-4502 or at

Hoosiers age 80 and older can register for Covid-19 vaccine

Gov. Eric J. Holcomb and the Indiana Department of Health today announced that Hoosiers age 80 and older will be eligible to register for a free COVID-19 vaccine beginning Friday, Jan. 8. 


Individuals age 80 and older account for less than 4 percent of the state’s population but represent more than 19 percent of the hospitalizations and more than half of the COVID-19 deaths in the state, according to the Indiana Department of Health.


State Health Commissioner Kris Box, M.D., FACOG, said vaccine supplies are still limited. Indiana has received just over 350,000 doses of vaccine to date and is scheduled to receive about 78,000 vaccines per week at this time.


“By opening vaccine to those who are 80 or older, then adding people in their 70s and 60s when vaccine supplies allow us to expand, we can best protect the populations that account for 93 percent of our COVID-19 deaths,” Box said.


Hoosiers age 80 and older can register beginning at 9 a.m. Friday by going to, searching for a nearby vaccine clinic and selecting an appointment time. Appointments may also be made by calling 211. A caregiver or loved one may make an appointment on behalf of an eligible senior.


At least one vaccine clinic will be located in each Indiana county.


Appointments for the second dose will be made at the clinic when the first dose is administered.

Additional groups, such as those based on underlying health conditions, will be added as vaccine becomes available. Updates will be posted at

Conservation Reserve Program general signup began January 4 and ends February 12

Agricultural producers and private landowners interested in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) can sign up for the popular program Jan. 4, 2021, until Feb. 12, 2021. The competitive program, administered by USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA), provides annual rental payments for land devoted to conservation purposes.


“This signup for the Conservation Reserve Program gives producers and landowners an opportunity to enroll for the first time or continue their participation for another term,” Steven Brown said. “This program encourages conservation on sensitive lands or low-yielding acres, which provides tremendous benefits for stewardship of our natural resources and wildlife.”


Through CRP, farmers and ranchers establish long-term, resource-conserving plant species, such as approved grasses or trees, to control soil erosion, improve water quality and enhance wildlife habitat on cropland. Farmers and ranchers who participate in CRP help provide numerous benefits to their local region and the nation’s environment and economy. CRP general signup is held annuallyand is competitive; general signup includes increased opportunities for wildlife habitat enrollment through the State Acres For Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) initiative.


New cropland offeredin the program must have been planted for four out of six crop years from 2012 to 2017. Additionally, producers with land already enrolled but expiring on Sept. 30, 2021, can re-enroll this year. The acreage offered by producers and landowners is evaluated competitively;accepted offers will begin Oct. 1, 2021.


Signed into law in 1985, CRP is one of the largest private-lands conservation programs in the United States. The program marked its 35-year anniversaryin December 2020. Program successes include:


  • Preventing more than 9 billion tons of soil from eroding, which is enough soil to fill 600 million dump trucks.
  • Reducing nitrogen and phosphorous runoff relative to annually tilled cropland by 95% and 85%, respectively.
  • Sequestering an annual average of 49 million tons of greenhouse gases, equal to taking 9 million cars off the road.
  • Creating more than 3 million acres of restored wetlands while protecting more than 175,000 stream miles with riparian forest and grass buffers, which is enough to go around the world seven times.
  • Benefiting bees and other pollinators and increasing populations of ducks, pheasants, turkey, bobwhite quail, prairie chickens, grasshopper sparrows, and many other birds.


All USDA Service Centers are open for business, including those that restrict in-person visits or require appointments. All Service Center visitors wishing to conduct business with FSA, Natural Resources Conservation Service or any other Service Center agency should call ahead and schedule an appointment. Service Centers that are open for appointments will pre-screen visitors based on health concerns or recent travel, and visitors must adhere to social distancing guidelines. Visitors are also required to wear a face covering during their appointment. Our program delivery staff will continue to work with our producers by phone, email, and using online tools. More information can be found at



Successful recovery of bald eagle marks big win for conservation

The Natural Resources Commission (NRC) recently removed the bald eagle from Indiana’s list of state endangered and special concern species due to evidence of successful recovery.

The recovery of the bald eagle is one of the greatest conservation success stories in Indiana. Habitat loss, the hat-making trade, and persecution once caused dramatic declines in eagle numbers, leading to the last eagle nest being found in Indiana in 1897. Nationwide, bald eagle populations continued to decline throughout the 1950s and 60s because pesticides, like DDT, interfered with their ability to reproduce.

A combination of legislative changes and conservation efforts put bald eagles on the road to recovery. The U.S. Congress passed the Bald Eagle Protection Act in 1940 to prevent the killing of bald eagles. DDT was banned nationwide in 1972. In 1973, bald eagles were one of the first species listed as federally endangered under the Endangered Species Act. State agencies began restoration efforts to meet conservation goals for eagles as a result of this listing.

Indiana DNR reintroduced bald eagles to the state from 1985–1989. During this time, 73 eaglets from Wisconsin and Alaska were raised and released at Monroe Lake to restore a breeding population in Indiana. The first successful nesting occurred in 1991.

By 2007, the U.S. national symbol was declared recovered and removed from the federal endangered species list. Indiana followed suit in 2008, upgrading the bald eagle from a state-endangered species to a species of special concern after reaching a goal of 50 nesting pairs. This was a significant achievement—no eagles were known to have nested in the state from around 1900–1988.

In just 35 years, the bald eagle went from extirpated in Indiana to a thriving population statewide. This year, biologists estimated Indiana supported about 300 nesting pairs across 84 counties. In the last five years, at least one bald eagle nest has been documented in 88 of Indiana’s 92 counties. Chick production was also up by 11% from 2019 to 2020.

The bald eagle reintroduction program was the first endangered species restoration project in Indiana. This project and ongoing research would not be possible without donations to the Indiana Nongame Wildlife Fund, the main funding source of all nongame and endangered species research and management. You can donate to this fund online at

Although bald eagles are no longer listed as an endangered species, they remain protected by other state and federal laws, including the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. If you see bald eagles in Indiana, observe the birds, their nests, and roosts from a distance of 330 feet, which is roughly the length of a football field. Photography enthusiasts should take photos of eagles with a telephoto lens instead of getting close to them. All should foster a climate of respect for wildlife by sharing these guidelines with friends.

Learn more about bald eagles at

Happy Birthday Indiana

Today is Indiana's 204th birthday.


On December 11, 1816, President James Madison made Indiana the 19th state.


Corydon was the first state capital for nearly the first decade of Indiana's existence, until Indianapolis became the capital in 1825.

Virtual pesticide / outlook meeting for farmers December 14

The Rush Co. Extension Office will be hosting a virtual pesticide/outlook meeting for farmers on December 14t The program will start at 9:30 with the PARP ending at 11:30 and the outlook meeting following.


All fees for private applicators will be covered by sponsors—First Financial Bank and Halderman Farm Management & Real Estate.


All participants must be registered by 4 p.m. on Thursday, December 10 with their license number and email address if they want credit for their license. Anyone wanting to join for their personal enrichment is welcome but must also register by 4 p.m. on December 10 with their email address.


Registration can be done through the Rush County Extension Office: 765 932 5974 or You can also register at Registration is limited, please reserve your space as soon as possible.


“Agronomy and IPM Tips That Save You Time And Money”

                              Scott Gabbard  - Shelby County – ANR

                              Jeff Hermesh – Decatur County – ANR


“Storing Micronutrients On The Farm”

                              Fred Whitford, PHD – Purdue Pesticide Programs


“Ag Outlook Presentation”

                              Pat Karst – VP Halderman Companies


Indiana State Police remind drivers to Buckle Up and designate a sober driver

Thanksgiving is normally one of the busiest travel times of the year. While the pandemic may have impacted plans with family this year, the Indiana State Police wants to remind motorists who do use the road to buckle up and drive sober this holiday season.


“Due to the pandemic, we anticipate fewer vehicles on the road, but precautions still need to be taken, like wearing a seat belt and designating a sober driver,” said District Lieutenant Josh Watson. “Let’s work together to make sure everyone gets to their planned destination safely.”


Many traffic deaths and injuries could be prevented by wearing a seat belt. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), from 1975 to 2017, seat belts have saved an estimated 374,196 lives. While Indiana’s seat belt usage rate is above 90 percent, more than half of the people who were killed in motor vehicle crashes last year were not buckled up.


Drinking and driving is also deadly and completely preventable. Every day, almost 30 people in the U.S. die in drunk driving crashes, NHTSA data shows. That’s approximately one person every 50 minutes.


In Indiana, there were 106 people killed in alcohol-impaired collisions in 2019, representing 13 percent of the state’s traffic fatalities.


“In a year when miles traveled are down, traffic fatalities are up 9 percent from this time last year,” said Rob Duckworth, Indiana Criminal Justice Institute Traffic Safety Director. “Slower speeds and wearing seat belts are two of the best ways to prevent further fatalities, along with driving sober.”


Further, vehicle crashes continue to be a leading cause of death for kids between the ages of 8 and 15. For families with children, it’s important to have a properly installed child safety seat or booster seat for each child.


Parents can visit for a list of locations and a toll-free phone number to speak with experts about the proper installation of child safety seats.

Shelbyville's PMC - 90 years and growing

Shelbyville manufacturer PMC SMART Solutions recently celebrated its 90th year in business.


President / CEO Lisa Jennings, Executive Vice-President Mark Delaney and Sales Account Manager Michael Parks appeared on Chamber Chat with details of the PMC history and its future.



Jockeys donate toys to local children's event at Indiana Grand Racing & Casino

The jockey colony at Indiana Grand is very generous each year at the end of the season. The group pulls together to donate toys to the local “Breakfast with Santa” event set for Saturday, Dec. 12. With a tough year leading up to the holidays, the jockeys have stepped up even more this season, donating a total of 61 toys, a new record for the annual toy drive.


“I have three kids myself and we are fortunate enough to provide toys for them,” said Manny Esquivel. “I come from a very poor place in Mexico, and just thinking about it, it’s hard to think about kids not getting toys for Christmas. I used to play with a stick and make wheels to put on it, and I had fun. But just imaging the kids getting toys, it’s something special. I just wish I was there to see their faces when they get them.”


Last year, the jockeys collected 56 toys for “Breakfast with Santa” held through Shelby Parks and Recreation. The event includes two sessions with breakfast catered by Denny’s, a visit with Santa, and now thanks to the jockeys, kids will go home with a toy.


“This is great thing we do each year, and I look forward to it,” said DeShawn Parker, current leading rider at Indiana Grand. “And, because of Covid, I’m sure there are many more families this year that will struggle to get toys for their kids. Hopefully, this will help out and provide a little better Christmas for some kids this year.”


Jockeys included in the photo for the toy donation, from left, include Marcelino Pedroza Jr., Tommy Pompell, Fernando De La Cruz, DeShawn Parker, Geena Lucille, Kendall Sterritt, Angel Reyes, Emmanuel Esquivel, Chris Creel, clerk of scales, Alex Achard and Sammy Bermudez (kneeling).


The abbreviated 2020 racing season comes to a close Thursday, Nov. 19 after completing 96 days of racing. Racing dates for 2021 will be approved and announced by the Indiana Horse Racing Commission in December.

DNR offering veterans and active-duty military free admission ON wEDNESDAY

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources is offering veterans and active-duty military free admission to state parks, reservoirs, state forests, and state off-road vehicle riding areas on Wednesday, Nov. 11.


“We appreciate the sacrifices and service of our veterans and active-duty military and look forward to recognizing them with a day to explore some of the best outdoor places in our state,” said Terry Coleman, director of Indiana State Parks.


Veterans and military personnel should present ID or evidence of military service at the entrance gate.


For proof of military status, gate attendants will accept:


DD 214 discharge papers

Veteran license plates (Ex-POW, Purple Heart, Disabled Hoosier Veteran, Navy Veteran, etc.)

U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs Disability Award Letter

Veterans hunting and fishing license

Documents showing veterans benefits with veteran's name on document

Any other certificate or verification letter or form that establishes past or present military service


Blue River Community Foundation Winter Application Cycle

Blue River Community Foundation’s (BRCF) winter scholarship application is now open on the BRCF website: The deadline to apply is January 15, 2021.

High school graduating seniors planning to pursue vocational or undergraduate studies, current college students, graduate students, and adults pursuing or finishing a college degree may submit an application. One unique feature to BRCF’s application process is that applicants complete one application to qualify for all scholarship opportunities for which they are eligible. Specific criteria, requirements, and instructions for applying, as well as a list of scholarships available through the application process, are listed in the BRCF Scholarship Resource Guide for Students located on the Foundation’s website under the Scholarships tab.

Since 1994, BRCF has invested over $5.9 million in students pursuing post-secondary education. This amount represents over $2 .1 million which has been awarded to Shelby County’s 39 Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship recipients and is made possible by Lilly Endowment Inc., as well as, $3.8 million awarded to students from BRCF Scholarship Funds. In fact, last spring 168 scholarships totaling $297,900 were awarded to 132 recipients from 85 active scholarship funds administered by BRCF. These scholarship funds are made possible through the generosity of our donors who recognize the tremendous need for assistance in meeting the costs of higher education.


For more information on BRCF’s scholarship application process, please contact Julie Alvis
at 317.392.7955 ext. 102 or

2021 state park passes and permits now available

The 2021 Indiana state park passes, lake permits, off-road cycling permits, and horse tags are now available at property offices and front gates, and online at

A resident annual entrance pass costs $50. A non-resident annual entrance pass for visitors who live outside the state costs $70. Annual entrance passes are not valid for entrance to the Indiana State Museum, State Historic Sites, or Falls of the Ohio Interpretive Center. 

Golden Hoosier Passports cost $25 and are available to all Hoosier residents 65 and older. There’s also a Golden Hoosier Passport for disabled Hoosier veterans (DHV) who qualify to purchase a DHV license plate. To quality, the veteran must be 50% service-connected disabled as determined by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Anyone who has been issued a Prisoner of War license plate may receive a passport for free. SSDI Golden Hoosier Passports may be used by an Indiana resident receiving or eligible to receive Social Security Disability Income under 42 U.S. code 423 as described by the Social Security Administration.

Lake permits are available for motorized watercraft for $25 and non-motorized watercraft for $5. These permits are required for all private watercraft using state park, reservoir, and state forest lakes, and all watercraft moored at marinas, private docks, or bank ties on those lakes. The 2020 lake permits also remain available for the rest of this year.

Off-road cycling permits are available for $20 and are required for each bicycle user for off-road bicycle access and use of DNR properties where off-road cycling is allowed. These permits are not an entrance permit and do not cover special user charges for services and facilities within the property. These permits are required only for trails identified as Intermediate, Advanced, and Expert. They are not required for trails identified as Beginner.

Horse tags cost $20 and are required for each horse brought to designated DNR properties where horse use is allowed. A horse tag is not an entrance permit and does not cover special user charges for services and facilities within the property. This year’s 2020 horse tags and lake permits remain available to purchase for use for the rest of 2020.

None of the 2021 permits will be valid until Jan. 1, 2021.

State park annual permits are also available as part of Holiday Gift Packs. Gift packs also include a one-year subscription to Outdoor Indiana and a gift card for state park inns or campgrounds. Holiday gift packs are available for $100, or $150 for a higher gift card amount, at

BRCF offers Fundraising Gap mini-grant

In recognition of National Community Foundation Week celebrated from November 12 - 18, Blue River Community Foundation is opening a mini-grant cycle to Shelby County nonprofits. 


As nonprofits continue to work their way through Covid-19 effects, BRCF has recognized that there is an ongoing need for relief funding to our local organizations.  This mini-grant is intended to help those organizations who continued on with fundraising efforts through the pandemic, but still fell short of budgeted goals. 


Awarded grants will be announced by the end of Community Foundation Week.  


Fundraising Gap Mini-Grant DEADLINE: November 9, 2020

Apply Here:

For additional information contact:  Jordan England or 317.392.7955

USDA approves Indiana hemp plan

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved the Indiana State Hemp Plan for commercially growing and processing hemp. In Indiana, hemp processing and production are regulated through the Office of the Indiana State Chemist (OISC).


The approved hemp plan takes OISC’s pilot hemp program and transitions it to a commercial hemp production program. Previously, hemp growers needed a research proposal and to be associated with a university researcher to apply for a license. Under this newly approved plan, farmers will not need a research component to be licensed.


For the 2021 growing season, applications will open in November 2020. Applications will be available online utilizing the OISC’s new licensing application software.


“This plan approval is a huge accomplishment for both farmers and our team,” said Don Robison, seed administrator for the Office of the Indiana State Chemist. “We are looking forward to growing this program and offering more efficient licensing for Hoosier farmers and processing companies.”


Indiana is one of 29 states with approved hemp plans, 12 states are currently negotiating with USDA on their plans and nine states are continuing with the USDA hemp production rules.


The Indiana State Department of Agriculture (ISDA) is responsible for helping promote hemp growers and processors in Indiana and ISDA Director Bruce Kettler co-chairs the Hemp Advisory Committee.


“We are very appreciative of USDA for acting on our request and approving our Indiana State Hemp Plan,” Kettler said. “The approval of the plan will allow the Office of the Indiana State Chemist regulatory authority and clearly define the rules and regulations around hemp production and processing in Indiana.”


Kettler and Robert Waltz, former Indiana state chemist and seed commissioner, were the co-signers of the submitted plan in December 2019. 

Indiana Grand provides donation to kickstart Festival of Lights with Shelby Parks and Recreation

Indiana Grand Racing & Casino recognizes the vast amount of activities either canceled or postponed for the community this year due to COVID-19 restrictions. As a result, the company has made a $10,000 donation to Shelby Parks and Recreation to kickstart a new holiday tradition. “Festival of Lights” will soon be coming to Shelbyville’s Blue River Memorial Park in cooperation with the City of Shelbyville, who also matched the funds for the light display.


A total of 17 light fixtures will be on display on the inner circle of Blue River Memorial Park beginning with the kick-off of the annual Holiday Parade at 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 4. The parade will extend from Walmart to Blue River Memorial Park, featuring the new “Holiday of Lights” near the end of the route. The light display will then be available nightly from 5 until 9:30 p.m. through Christmas Eve. The light display will be free to those driving through, and those wishing to make a donation may do so at the end of the display.


“We are really excited, and the Mayor is really excited too about this donation,” said Karen Martin, Parks Department Director. “Because of COVID-19, people haven’t been able to get out and our programs are just now starting up. We’ve been wanting to do something like this for a long time, we just couldn’t get the buy-in to get it started. Hopefully, it will grow each year.”


The donation is part of the ongoing operational plan from Indiana Grand Racing & Casino’s Community Outreach program for 2020. The committee was searching for a way to support an event in the community when the “Festival of Lights” concept came into focus.


“It’s been a very tough year for a lot of folks, and we wanted to do something special for the community,” said Mike Rich, senior vice president and general manager at Indiana Grand. “We believe supporting an event such as the light display will provide the entire area with a new way to celebrate the holiday season. We are always proud to partner with the City of Shelbyville on events such as this one.”


Along with the Parks Department and the City of Shelbyville, the Shelby County Tourism and Visitor’s Bureau is also getting involved to enhance the holiday parade and “Festival of Lights” experience.


“It should be a great way to kick off our holiday season here in Shelby County,” added Martin. “We hope those driving through will consider a donation so we can expand and add to the display in the future.”


Racing is held Monday through Thursday until Thursday, Nov. 19. All-Quarter Horse racing is set for Saturday, Oct. 3 and Saturday, Oct. 24. For more information, go to

Blue River Community Foundation announces Community Leadership Grant thru Lilly Endowment, Inc.

Blue River Community Foundation (BRCF) has received a Community Leadership Grant of $100,000 as part of the seventh phase of Lilly Endowment Inc.’s Giving Indiana Funds for Tomorrow (GIFTVII) initiative. With the grant, BRCF will continue in their mission to attract new residents and retain current residents who contribute positively to the community through engagement, skills, talent, and commonly held desires for educational excellence, opportunities and a better quality of life. 


Through recent data analysis, visioning meetings and community engagement work, BRCF focused on realizing Shelby County’s greatest growth opportunities that are also factors thatthe organization has the capability of influencing. Issues rising to the top of the list that the Foundation will tackle with this opportunity are: negative perceptions; lack of arts, culture and recreational opportunities; social connections; and diversity.


BRCF is one of 84 foundations in Indiana receiving grants through this round of GIFT VII grantmaking. Lilly Endowment created GIFT in 1990 to help local communities in Indiana develop the philanthropic capacity to identify local needs and challenges. It launched GIFT VII in 2018 and made available a total of $125 million to helpfoundations strengthen their leadership capacities in the towns, cities and counties they serve. Lilly Endowment expects to make additional GIFT VII grants in the coming months.


“During a time when so many organizations have been forced to put exciting, innovative plans on hold, Lilly Endowment is allowing our community to continue with our plans to improve the quality of life in Shelby County.  Because of this opportunity, our community will be able to not only survive these unprecedented times but to thrive.”- Jennifer Jones, Executive Director.


As part of GIFT VII, the Foundationwas awarded a planning grant of $50,000 in 2019 to convene local stakeholders to identify, prioritize and assessopportunities and challenges in Shelby County.  In March 2020, the Blue River Community Foundationwas invited to apply for a GIFT VII Community Leadership Grant to implement strategies and activities identified during the planning period.


“Prior to the GIFT VII Community Leadership Grant opportunity, BRCF was in the process of addressing the role that our organization could play in bringing new residents to Shelby County.  The GIFT VII opportunity allowed us the means to dig deeper into this undertaking and to bring other local leaders, stakeholders and community partners to the table in order to be certain we had community consensus.  Our planning work resulted in a new mission statement for our foundation, a direction and plan to achieve our goals, and a closer relationship with our community allowing us to address their wants and needs.”-Jennifer Jones, Executive Director. 


Based on the information we received from our community conversations, the Foundation will be taking on several initiatives over the next 4 years to help make our community more desirable for new residents and to improve the quality of life for all those residing in Shelby County.


1) The civic group, Backyard Shelby, has already started efforts to build relationships with local realtors to entice homebuyers to choose Shelby County. The group is also working to increase the number of participants in local events and has plans of providing new, unique activities of their own in the future. 


2) BRCF has partnered with Girls Inc. to convene and lead conversations in the community around diversity, equity and inclusion. They will do this by providing a series of workshops to local professionals.


3)BRCF will partner with other local leaders to activate public spaces.  Work has already been started thanks to a QUIP grant from Indiana Arts Commission and a donation from Indiana Grand to activate an alley on E. Washington St. GIFT VII funding will allow additional items and ultimately completion of this project.  We will also be partnering with local artists to complete public art on 12 more traffic cabinet boxes throughout the community.  Additional public art and cultural elements will be activated in our downtown and within the trail system with the development of a linear park behind the Historic Porter Center. The park will serve as a gateway to the west side of the trail system.


“It is great that in a time of uncertainty with COVID-19 we are able to continue projects that are engaging our community, beautifying our downtown spaces, and overall enhancing our community.  We can’t thank Lilly Endowment enough for what they do for all of our communities.”-Brent Thoman, BRCF Board President.


Blue River Community Foundation is a catalyst for igniting action that improves the quality of life in Shelby County. Our vision is to encourage philanthropy and inspire action that improves all lives and builds stronger communities in Shelby County.


Lilly Endowment an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by J.K. Lilly, Sr. and his sons Eli and J.K. Jr. through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and Company. Although the gifts of stock remain a financial bedrock of the Endowment, it is a separate entity from the company, with a distinct governing board, staff and location. In keeping with the founders’ wishes, the Endowment supports the causes of community developmenteducation and religion. The Endowment funds significant programs throughout the United States, especially in the field of religion. However, it maintains a special commitment to its founders’ hometown, Indianapolis, and home state, Indiana.

Boys Club, Girls Inc. receive donations From Indiana Grand Racing & Casino

Indiana Grand Racing & Casino continued its multi-year commitment to The J. Kenneth Self Shelbyville Boys and Girls Club and Girls, Inc. of Shelbyville & Shelby County with an annual donation Monday, Sept. 28. Both entities received a check for $25,000 during the presentation.


Lindsay Fish, director of sales and business development, made the presentation during the afternoon racing program to John Hartnett, executive director of the Boys Club, and Amy Dillon, president and CEO of Girls, Inc. Both organizations are vital to the community, serving numerous children through before and after school care, sports programs, educational support and general activities.



“In 2019, we had 3,319 girls in our program at Girls, Inc.,” said Dillon. “Because of this continued support from Indiana Grand, we were able to add on to our facility, which was needed to serve the children we have in our programs. This donation has really assisted in our general growth in the community and we will use this capital campaign.”


Girls, Inc. shares a parking lot with the Boys and Girls Club, and notable improvements have been noted at their facility as well. Hartnett noted in 2019, they had 2,000 kids enrolled in their programs, showing the vast number of children in Shelby County that both organizations are touching. The Boys Club also has a location in Morristown.


“This donation has assisted with a wide variety of projects in our facility, including new doors, new floors, a new security system, new computers, and a whole host of other renovations,” noted Hartnett. “We have a big sports program including basketball, football, and shooting sports and now have 20 computers in our center to assist with educational needs.”


The dual donations were part of a five-year pledge by Indiana Grand with the final installment delivered in 2020. Due to COVID-19 shutdowns earlier in the year, donations are now being allotted to fulfill commitments to various causes.


“Being able to assist both Girls, Inc and the Boys and Girls Club is a very key component of what our mission is with our Community Outreach program,” said Fish, who oversees the committee. “Seeing how the funding has changed and upgraded both facilities over the past few years is amazing, and we are glad we had a small part in making this happen for both organizations.”