Cabin fever. Winter doldrums. Snow fatigue. Whatever you prefer to call it, it’s the dead of winter and folks are tired of staying indoors. No sooner does the sun come out and the temperatures warm up a little (and by warm I mean the 30s or 40s), than my hopes of an early spring are quickly dashed by another onslaught of snow and ice.
So what’s a person to do until spring? Indoor activities such as seeing a movie, going bowling, or watching football (sorry about the Colts!) are likely weekend diversions, but what about the kids? Little ones crave physical exercise and mental stimulation, and building yet another snowman isn’t likely to divert them for long.
Here’s what you can do: Bundle up the family and bring them to Conner Prairie. We have indoor activities designed to entertain the children and give mom and dad a needed respite. Visit Discovery Station
where the children can engage in meaningful hands-on play with an historic theme. Stop by Craft Corner
, watch the video, look at the indoor historic exhibits, take a picture of the kids next to the cannon in the Great Hall, or shop in The Museum Store
. All this winter fun is free for members and only $5 for non-members, with limited weekend hours during the remainder of the winter months. Call us in Guest Services for details.
Don’t spend another weekend in front of the TV. Come on over to Conner Prairie and stretch your legs as well as your mind!
With the Conner Prairie 1859 Balloon Voyage regular season now being over, it is appropriate to explain the answer to one of our most common questions out at the balloon, “What do you do with the balloon during the winter?”
One common misconception is that we deflate our balloon at the end of each season; however, this is not true. We leave the balloon inflated year-round for a number of reasons, but most importantly is the fact that it would cost somewhere around $60,000 in helium alone to re-fill in the spring. Not to mention a crew of about 50 people working somewhere close to 16 hours in addition to the filling of 400 sandbags, weighing 50 pounds each. Needless to say, it would be a rather labor-intensive process.
How does the balloon survive through the brutal Indiana winter climate? Believe it or not, the balloon is least likely to be damaged due to weather during the winter months due to a lack of strong wind storms and severe weather. The biggest threat, as you can probably guess, is snow. Snow typically accumulates on the top third of the balloon, which is roughly 6,000 square feet worth of space that needs snow removed. 6,000 square feet would be like shoveling an average width, 600 foot long driveway. You can imagine the amount of weight and stress this puts on the balloon, which is why it is important that we remove snow from the top of the balloon whenever it exceeds one inch of accumulation, as soon as possible.
How do we get the snow off the top of the balloon? It is a relatively simple, yet complex process. We have climbing gear which allows us to climb and traverse the balloon when needed for routine maintenance and repairs. We climb the balloon’s netting, like that of a rope ladder as we are connected to a series of climbing ropes. Once we reach the top of the balloon, we permanently anchor ourselves with a strong, thicker, stationary rope which we attached to a steel ring on the North Pole of the balloon. This allows us to move freely around the balloon without the fear of falling or ropes/climbing gear failing. To remove the snow we use a push broom or a shovel, and carefully push the snow off the side. An average, 4-6 inch snowfall will take somewhere between 2-4 hours to remove all of the snow.
You can learn more about our snow removal process and winter upkeep by watching a short YouTube clip we created last winter: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D8XvORNqIRY
In Lenape Camp buildings and Prairietown homes,
there’s no insulation in the attics and walls like we have in our modern homes, and all the heat is provided by burning wood, either in fireplaces or cast iron stoves. The further you get from the fire, the colder you are. While we know that people in the past had to accept being cold in winter and hot in summer, there are some differences between their lives and Conner Prairie. We have a lot more people moving in and out of our buildings than would be normal then; their fireplaces didn’t have to heat nearly as much cold air as ours do.
In the past, people wore more wool during cold weather. Because the grounds are closed from November through March, most of our staff don’t have wool dresses, trousers and waistcoats. How do they stay warm? They use a combination of thermal underwear and historic outer garments to be able to share the 19th-century life with our guests.
Historic Clothing provides garments to keep staff and youth volunteers as warm as possible. For men and boys, we have knit hats, scarves, overshirts, waistcoats and coats, all in nice, warm wool. Many men wore two waistcoats for warmth in the 19th-century. For women and girls, there are shoulder capes called tippets, knitted zephyrines to tie over the ears, and a few stuffed bonnets that look like the hood of a down parka, as well as shawls and cloaks, all made of wool. Women often added wool petticoats under their dresses. All our costumed staff can borrow muffatees, fingerless gloves like cuffs with holes for the thumbs, which keep their fingers free for work. Adding wool stockings helps keep the feet warm, but don’t ruin your shoes by holding your feet up to the fire.
Doesn’t a visit to Conner Prairie make you thankful for modern heating systems?