At a small crossroads in southwestern Johnson County, the sleepy community of Nineveh is a throwback.
The handful of houses, churches and businesses represent a small blip on the map, barely even a place to stop as summer visitors travel on to the lakes in the area.
But for one day every year, the community comes alive to celebrate its unique culture during the Nineveh Heritage Festival.
“It keeps us all together as a community. Prince’s Lakes and Cordry-Sweetwater are more known in the area now, and this helps keep the community’s attention,” said Mike Duncan, an organizer of the festival.
The community is once again having a celebration of its history. But this is a year of change for the Nineveh Heritage Festival, scheduled for a new time of year, situated in a new location and scaled back to a single day.
Gone is the traditional parade, and in its place an emphasis has been placed on a “rendezvous” style market for salvage, crafts, garage sale items, flea market, farmers market and other vendors.
Local residents hope that on July 30, the alterations help their celebration stand out and expose more visitors to their small corner of the county.
“We don’t want the community to die. We’re not incorporated or anything; we’re just a small area, so we want to stay in the public eye,” Duncan said.
Nineveh has been throwing a festival for decades. The focus has been on revisiting the history of the community, including bringing together alumni who attended the now-gone Nineveh school.
At its peak, the festival attracted hundreds of people in 2011, when organizers brought in cast and crew members from “Hoosiers” to mark the film’s 25th anniversary. The Nineveh school building was used to film parts of the movie in 1985, and many local residents had been extras.
But in recent years, interest has waned, said Nancy Voris, another organizer of the event.
Part of that has been due to a glut of community activities scheduled in late September. Towns such as Edinburgh and Bargersville have their own festivals the same weekend, which has siphoned off potential visitors.
“Every weekend we have it in the fall, we’re always fighting other festivals in the area,” Duncan said. “We moved it this year to get away from some of those events.”
Another conflict arose within the Nineveh community itself. Music at the Creek, a fundraising festival for the Nineveh Hensley Jackson Education Foundation, also was set on the same weekend this year.
“They asked if we could move it, since they were afraid that we’d be drawing people from them. So we decided to do it in the summer. That way, we won’t be fighting anything that’s going on around,” Duncan said.
Organizers also have found a new location for the festival. Formerly, a bulk of the activities had been centered at the intersection of Nineveh Road and County Road 775S. But with kids games and historical displays situated a few blocks away, and other events spread out among the community, people had some difficulty finding everything.
This year, all of the events will be centered around Nineveh’s Masonic Lodge No. 317. The lodge offers ample space for vendor booths and a stage, as well as plenty of parking for people, Duncan said.
“We’re having everything basically in one area, where you can just be right there to see everything,” Duncan said.
The new location made the logistics of planning a parade difficult, so that aspect of the festival has been canceled, Duncan said.
The centerpiece of the festival will be a concert by local band Highway 44, playing a mix of popular country, rock ‘n’ roll and hits from the 1950s and ‘60s. Other groups such as the Gold Dust Girls and singer Jim Young will perform throughout the day.
Historical photographs and documents will be on display. Pioneer crafts and kids’ activities such as a bounce house and slide will be set up across the street at the post office, and pony rides will be available as well.
Food vendors will sell barbecue, bratwurst and other goodies, and a public exercise demonstration will help people burn off the calories after they eat.
While the festival is designed to be a celebration of the community, more changes may be coming in the future. This may be the final time the event is conducted every year, Duncan said.
Organizers are considering bringing it back on major Nineveh anniversaries or every five years, to make it have more meaning.
That might also allow the current Nineveh Heritage Committee, which plans the event, to bring a younger generation in to lead it, Duncan said.
“I won’t say it won’t be back next year. But the older ones of us are getting a little bit tired, and we need new people to come in and carry it on, where we can let them take the lead while we assist them,” he said. “We need new people to see what they can do with it.”
Nineveh Heritage Festival
When: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. July 30
Where: Nineveh Masonic Lodge No. 317, 7221 S. Nineveh Road
- 9 a.m.: Flag-raising ceremony by Boy Scout Troop 222
- 10 a.m.: Pioneer crafts for all ages
- Noon: Gold Dust Band
- 5 p.m.: The Finicky Pickers
- 6 p.m.: Highway 44
- Throughout the day:
- All day: Line dancing and other local talent, pony rides, car show, silent auction, historical displays, cake walk, bounce house, duck pond, bean bag toss, FFA pork chops, garage sale, fresh produce and other vendors.