Abe Martin Picnic
September 10, 2005

by Bill Weaver

One year ago Eric Trommater had an idea. He’d noticed how people’s feeling of community had eroded through the years. Folks didn’t even know each other much less spend time together. “When I was growing up it wasn’t uncommon at all to be out in the back yard, talking to each other, having an impromptu cook out,” he says, adding, “I don’t see it anymore. That’s where this idea came from. It kind of expanded from there.”

That idea is called Abe Martin’s County Picnic. It takes place on the first Saturday after Labor Day, September 10, and Trommater wants everybody to know that they’re invited. There will be live music, activities for the kids such as storytelling and facepainting, wandering clowns, a slide show of old photographs at the Gazebo, a hog roast, grill raffle, and an outhouse race. It all happens on the Village Green in downtown Nashville.

“Bring along your lawn chair or blanket,” Eric says, “and sit around like it’s a neighborhood picnic.”

The event was named for Kin Hubbard’s famed crackerbarrel philosopher. “To give it that Brown County home town feel,” Eric says. “Abe Martin is a well known Brown County figure.” He sees it an opportunity for caring people to get together and build community.

The opening ceremony will kick things off at 11:30 with bluegrass from the band Hickory Wind beginning at noon. Four blocks will be cordoned off for the event centering on the Village Green at the intersection of Franklin and Jefferson Streets. 1:30 will see local jazz band Mel Chance and the Notables onstage. By 2:00 the hog roast should be commencing with chips on the side and plenty of lemonade.

The food is free but everyone will be asked to give a donation to help feed and shelter those in need. “I’ve got faith in people to give a fair amount,” Eric says. Donations are tax deductable. Local businesses and individuals have stepped forward to help underwrite expenses. “There’s a lot of needs out there,” he continues. “Food and shelter are about as basic as it gets. I can’t see where anybody would have an issue with that.”

To distribute money collected at the event Trommeter and his friends have founded the “We Care Gang.” Working through the Brown County Community Foundation they raise and distribute funds for the communities’ neediest members. A board, comprised of members of We Care Gang and citizens in the the community, will decide which cases to pursue. He hopes in this way to be able to react quickly to people’s needs while retaining the flexibility for the biggest and best impact.

“We want people to be able to feed their kids and keep their dignity,” he says quietly.

At 3:00 the much anticipated outhouse racing will begin. “It’s something to laugh about,” Eric grins at the thought. “Quite a few places do outhouse racing and they have quite a bit of fun doing it.”

Outhouse teams will be awarded for creativity in design and decoration, as well as a best team award. Of course, the fastest outhouse will be celebrated and a “People’s Choice” award will allow the public to decide its favorite team. At one dollar a vote, all proceeds will go into the We Care Gang fund.

The afternoon will continue when the Wright Sisters grace the stage with bluegrass and bluegrass-gospel. From Avon, the three talented young musicians, who debuted at the Bill Monroe Bluegrass Festival, have been featured on the television program Across Indiana. “They put on quite a show.”

At 5:55 a propane grill will be raffled, the proceeds once again going to feed the needy. Then Elvis hits the stage to close the show, featuring Mike Massa and his popular impersonation of the King. Massa has performed at hundreds of events including in Branson, and Paris (Illinois).

All musicians are donating their performances for the event.

“If you just want to sit in your lawn chair, eat and watch people walk by, that’s fine,” Eric says. “If you want to participate and do some fun things, that’s good too.

“I wants people to say, ‘That’s a lot of fun. I want to come again next year.’ It’s all for family and for fun. Whether you’re from in or out of town you’re part of the community. Everyone should feel welcome.”

So come on down, have a good time, eat some hog, meet your neighbors, listen to great music, support a good cause, and most of all …

“Watch out for racing outhouses!”