Artist Q&A Etheridge

STEVE Etheridge

Every spring, more than 100,000 people descend on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the most Hoosier of traditions.

The Indianapolis 500 is known as the “greatest spectacle in racing.” But without the vision of the eccentric and brilliant Carl Fisher, one of sports most well-known events might have never been born.

Fisher is the subject of a recent project commissioned by the Storytelling Arts of Indiana and the Indiana Historical Society. “The Incredible Vision of a Half Blind Man: Carl Fisher” will explore the history and drive of the man who would establish the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and transform Indianapolis forever.

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The story will be told by Steve Etheridge, a Kendallville resident who has participated in storytelling events in the past, such as Ghost Stories at Pokagan State Park and last heard in Indianapolis at Ghost Stories at Crown Hill Cemetery.

The performance will be 8 p.m. Friday at the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center, 450 W. Ohio Street, Indianapolis. Tickets are $10 in advance or $15 at the door.

How did you get involved with this project?

The project is called “Sharing Hoosier History Through Stories,” and I have been a storyteller for 25 years. I was invited to take part. They had chosen Carl Fisher as the subject of the project.

How did you go about putting this together?

I met with one of the archivist of the Indiana Historical Society, and they told me upfront that they had very little in the form of primary sources. Most of it was secondary, including books written that included bits about him. I went to the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum, and looked through the index of Automobile Quarterly for any mention of him. I called the archivist at the (Indianapolis Motor) Speedway. A lot of it is just in my head, trying to figure it out.

What was your approach to getting this story together?

I was not familiar with him at all. If you had asked me who Carl Fisher was, I would not have known how to answer. But he had so much influence, not just with the safety and operation of the automobile itself, but with the highway system that we have now. He really promoted that and put up a lot of his own money.

Why is Fisher a figure worth learning more about?

Carl had some unique qualities. He was a showman, but his approach to publicity was that it shouldn’t make the news, it should be the news. But he didn’t like the spotlight, he was very shy. Throughout his life, his life started hard and ended hard. He rose to national prominence, but when he fell, he was forgotten almost immediately. When he died in 1939, he had not lived in Indiana for 20 years. He was all but forgotten.

How do you take the history of this man and turn it into an entertaining story?

I’m not too sure yet. The way I am approaching it is through the attorney Walter Myers. I’m using that character as a means to provide a recollection of his time in Indiana. What I wanted to get away from is for it to be a mildly entertaining and informative lecture. There is so much information, and you’re kind of working a timeline. Hopefully, it will be more of a story than a lecture.

— Compiled by Ryan

Ryan Trares is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at or 317-736-2727.