The Apple of Conner Prairie’s Eye

Julie Smith and Sue HotwagnerVolunteerism is a vital part of any thriving community, and the Geist/Fishers communities are no exception. A benefactor of steadfast volunteers is our own Conner Prairie Living History Museum, long recognized nationally as the finest, most comprehensive museum of its kind in the country.
Our neighbors, friends Julie Smith and Sue Hotwagner, are two such givers of their time, talent and creativity to the advancement of the Museum. These vibrant young women of our community have found a meaningful and enjoyable avenue to promote Indiana’s distinct, significant history.

In 1982, the Junior League of Indianapolis delegated twelve of its members to form a women’s alliance of volunteers for Conner Prairie at the request of its Executive Director. Within a year, the Alliance had clearly defined its purpose and established The Apple Store on the premises as its major annual fundraising enterprise.

The Alliance was, by then, fully independent of the Junior League, and its membership grew, as did the popularity of The Apple Store . . . beyond all expectations.

Open from September to November, The Apple Store was originally a partnership with Adrian Orchards. Over the years, in addition to apples and cider, other related products were added for sale—most notably, the caramel apples, now lovingly made by the Alliance volunteers’ own hands. The store became a much anticipated fall attraction and a hub of activity. Eventually, the partnership transferred to Apple Works of Trafalgar, IN. Members make the trip to Trafalgar twice a week for fresh apples and cider during the store’s season.

In the early days, the Apple Store operated in a spruced-up pole barn. But its current home, befitting its purpose and identity, was built in 1993. The construction was, in part, funded by another time-proven Conner Prairie Alliance annual event, the Elegant Country Luncheon. Aptly named, this fundraiser began in 1990 with a presentation by guest speaker Martha Stewart. The annual luncheon continues, and proceeds are always designated for special projects such as Access to Art, a hands-on art exhibit for people with disabilities, and the construction of a children’s playground.
Currently, all Alliance fundraising proceeds support worthy education projects and exhibits at Conner Prairie.

Alliance President Sue Hotwagner has been a volunteer member for seven years. She and her entrepreneur husband live with their three sons, ages 17, 15 and 11, in Bridgewater at Geist. Her friend Julie Smith is President Elect and has served the Alliance for 12 years. It was Julie’s invitation that got Sue involved. Julie’s husband, Dr. David Smith, has recently moved his dental practice to Carmel after 16 years in Fishers. The Smiths and their teenage son and daughter live in Noblesville.
Julie and Sue would like it known that the Conner Prairie Alliance will soon launch a membership drive. The group is diverse, dedicated and enthusiastic in working for a common goal. Since its founding, the Alliance has raised over $1 million and donated over 200,000 hours of service. They’re looking for women interested in lasting friendships while making a positive difference in the community.

Plan to visit the Apple Store next fall; it is delightful. And in the meantime, consider having a lot of fun as a volunteer. For information about joining the Alliance, contact Julie Smith at 450-0490 or e-mail.

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