Christine Keen, left, and Janeane Murphy look over renovation plans for the Ben Hur Life Building during the Stellarbration on Friday. Staff photo by Bob Cox
Christine Keen, left, and Janeane Murphy look over renovation plans for the Ben Hur Life Building during the Stellarbration on Friday. Staff photo by Bob Cox
The city of Crawfordsville and its community members certainly have a reason to celebrate after being named a 2015 Stellar Community. So on Friday, that’s exactly what they did.

A “Stellarbration” was held at the Marie Canine Plaza to give the city a chance to celebrate its accomplishment.

“It’s a great day in Crawfordsville!” said Mayor Todd Barton, as he welcomed everyone in attendance.

“Everybody is fired up in Crawfordsville,” he continued. “Everybody is excited about the possibilities that lie before us, and it’s great to see everybody out today.”

City officials, members of state agencies, representatives from local businesses and community members gathered under a large, air conditioned tent to listen to Mayor Barton and Lt. Governor Sue Ellspermann speak about all that the city has achieved and all that it has to look forward to.

“We are blessed to live in a great community,” said Mayor Barton, “and we have now received an amazing opportunity to make it even better.”

Crawfordsville was named a Stellar community in August at the Indiana State Fair. This was the fourth year that the city went through the process, but Mayor Barton said that each rejection made the city take another look at its proposal and make it better for the citizens of Crawfordsville.

“Each and every time, we listened to the people of Crawfordsville and tried to shape a vision that fit their vision for the future of our community,” he said. “And each year, we were able to continue refining that vision, making it clear and more impactful.”

Mayor Barton thanked the many residents of Crawfordsville for sharing their ideas. He said thousands of people gave their input by attending meetings, voting on online surveys and working on committees.

“Our proposed plan is driven by community input,” he said. “The premise is simple and straightforward: If you want to build a community in which people want to live, work and play, listen to those very people. They will tell you exactly what they want in a great community if you only take time to listen.”

The Stellar designation will have a direct impact on Crawfordsville’s residents and the areas where they live. Many of them wanted to take part in the Stellar proposal because their city and its future mean a great deal to them. 

“We’ve just cared about it from the beginning because we want to live here our whole life,” said Peggy Herzog, one of the five founders of Crawfordsville Main Street. “We could see that it has so many possibilities.”

Larry and Nancy Bennett have lived in Crawfordsville for 20 years. Nancy, a board member for the League of Women Voters, and Larry, a retired Wabash professor, both love the city and have paid close attention to the Stellar process the past four years.

“We knew when the mayor was applying for it the first time and the second time,” Nancy said. “We really wanted to make sure that the town doesn’t die out.”

One of the purposes of the plans Crawfordsville proposed was to keep young professionals in the city. Mayor Barton said that the city’s population dips from ages 22 to 35, and that’s a trend that he wants to change.

“For one thing, it makes sure that there is another generation that’s committed to the town,” Nancy said. “It just makes for a more viable community when you have all ages represented.”

Jon Dantzig, a former president of Crawfordsville Main Street, believes that the resources that the Stellar designation will bring will really give the community a lift.

“There are good things that are going on, but to have a real chunk of money that you can leverage and get a lot of different projects going and funded is really important,” Dantzig said. “Eventually, what we would like to see is more people will come into town and work here and live here. That’s really what it needs--to have some vitality.”

The changes will eventually come, but they are not going to happen overnight. However, Mayor Barton believes that Crawfordsville has a very solid plan that has primed the city for “Stellar” transformation. 

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