Some covered their ears, others jumped a little.
Whatever the reaction to the pop of electricity, the young students attending the Children’s Farm Festival at Peden Farm paid rapt attention to the South Central Indiana REMC line crew doing a live line demonstration.
The annual festival took place on September 28-29 in northern Monroe County this year, the second year back in action after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
SCI has been a participant at the event for the better part of two decades now, offering the live line demonstration in addition to a booth with a tabletop demo.
That booth was neighbors with the Hoosier Energy booth helmed by Angela Dabney, who offered an activity book about energy efficiency as well as crayons, candy and pencils that changed color with heat. However, the most popular item was a brown paper Hoosier Energy bag for carrying around the goodies acquired at all the displays.
The origins of the festival date back to 1953 when a 4-H supervisor asked Richard and Rachel Peden if they would host elementary school students to learn about farm living.
They agreed, and approximately 400 students a year came from both Bloomington and Indianapolis to hear Rachel Peden, who wrote newspaper columns on farm life for many years and published three books, talk about the farm, rural life and the importance of appreciating the land while Richard Peden provided wagon rides and let kids feed ears of corn to the cows.
The festival kept growing, and the Pedens’ son, Joe, and his wife, Joyce, took charge of the event in 1986. A few years later, the Monroe County Farm Bureau and local 4-H chapter got involved with the event, which saw its popularity soar.
Joe Peden helped bring South Central Indiana REMC on board, serving as a member of the SCI board from 2006-2018. He also served on the Indiana Electric Cooperatives board from 2008-2014.
The festival’s return from hiatus in 2022 saw 2,500 children in attendance with nearly 1,000 more teachers and chaperones in addition to 300-plus volunteers.
The numbers were similar for 2023 as children ranging from preschool to third grade swarmed the countryside, greeting typical farm animals such as cows, horses, sheep, goats and chickens. They also got to see sheep shearing, wool spinning, blacksmiths making horseshoes and a display of pelts from the tanner, not to mention everyone got a free bag of popcorn. There were also stations for shelling corn and churning butter, and about a dozen wagons for the hayride.
But none of those had the same sizzle as the live line demonstration on the eastern edge of the property, presented by SCI lineman Chuck Beaver.
Children saw what happens if a “critter” gets on the line, the sizzle of a shiny helium balloon, the potential igniting of a fire from a pine bough and even some hot dogs as an illustration of how human fingers can get cooked.
Beaver and his crew also offered some other safety tips, ultimately reminding kids and adults on hand to stay away from a downed line and call your local utility to come fix it.