The Plainfield Quaker Day Festival, a highly anticipated event each year featuring a parade, vendors and food, celebrates the heritage of Plainfield. But this well-run and celebratory event, bursting at the seams with activity and tradition, has humble beginnings in the basement of a church.
In the 1970s, a group of women at Plainfield Friends Church decided to have a “Church Mouse Sale,” a rummage sale to support the missions of the church. Through the years the rummage sale grew into an annual craft sale on the church lawn with hot dogs, sloppy joes, barbecue pork, lamb, and burgers served out of the church basement.
It has since become a festival and parade the entire community looks forward to. The Plainfield Chamber of Commerce organizes the parade while the Plainfield Friends Meeting church handles the festival, although both groups work together along with many community groups and volunteers to put on a memorable event.
“It’s amazing for community development,” says Brad DuBois, president and CEO of the Plainfield Chamber of Commerce. “It brings the community together. They sit along the street, they mingle – it offers that small-town feel that everyone is craving when they live in the suburbs.”
The Plainfield Chamber of Commerce has sponsored the parade for several years. It’s an opportunity for many local nonprofits, businesses and political candidates to introduce themselves to the community. Many groups go all-out on their floats, sometimes even including live bands playing on their float throughout the parade. DuBois says flyovers have been a fun addition since moving the parade back to U.S. Highway 40, and organizers hope to continue the trend this year.
The parade was famous for its route down U.S. 40 until it was rerouted due to construction a few years ago. In 2019, thanks to some help and collaboration from many people including the Indiana Department of Transportation and the Town of Plainfield, the parade returned to its home route on U.S. 40. Interest exploded, and there were more than 100 floats in the parade that year.
Typically there are about 70 floats in the parade, which starts in Duke Energy’s parking lot, drifts onto U.S. 40 west of Dan Jones Road, and goes all the way to Vestal Road. It’s a two-mile walk for participants.
“It’s really amazing how many people bring floats,” DuBois says. “We had a flyover the very first year and the last year. The police and fire departments both participate as well as the National Guard and the Plainfield High School band, and we have a deejay to get everyone amped up.”
Each year the parade has a theme. This year the theme is “Love Your Neighbor” – fitting after a year of community rallying to endure the pandemic. There is also a float contest every year. The judging takes place before the parade, and winners are put in front of the parade and given banners to hold, announcing their status as a top float.
The Quaker Day festival, which takes place on the lawn of the historic Western Yearly Meeting of Friends, has always been a place for local crafters and vendors to share their wares and missions. Among the many tents, attendees will find homemade soaps, kitchen and home decor items, baked goods, local honey, and many other handmade goods. There is even a car show from noon to 4 p.m., featuring vintage and classic cars.
Cathy Harris, pastor at Plainfield Friends Meeting, says in previous years, hot dogs, lamb burgers, pork chops and sloppy joes were served in the church basement. This year there will be food trucks serving lunch on the lawn in front of the church.
“There will be a variety of homemade crafts, some churches and businesses, the Lions Club, the American Legion, and even some who sell commercial products,” Harris says. “Any of the money raised goes to local missions and some Quaker missions. Some goes to church needs but most goes to missions.”
The Quakers were some of the earliest settlers in Plainfield. When they moved here from North Carolina to settle, they named it Guilford Township, which is a Quaker name. The local school mascot is even the Quakers.
“This event is one of the things we’re known for,” Harris says. “The church works so hard, but everyone has a lot of fun doing it. It’s just like going to the county fair. You get to see lots of people you haven’t seen in a while. Especially this year, after everyone’s been cooped up after a lockdown, everyone is ready to get out so we’re excited about it.”
While the event enriches local community connection and involvement, it also has ripple effects around the world. Once the Quaker Day Festival is over, Plainfield Friends Meeting splits the proceeds and supports local groups and missions, such as Family Promise, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church Food Pantry, the Church Federation of Greater Indianapolis, Stability Builder’s Network, and other local organizations and Quaker missions.
In the past, proceeds from the car show supported My Daily Walk, a local organization that assists low-income families with donations of shoes, coats and clothing.
This year, proceeds from the car show will benefit the HandiCapable Camp, an outdoor camp for people with physical, mental and emotional challenges. Several church members are involved with the camp, and according to Harris it’s an important mission of the church.
Another Quaker mission that benefits from the festival is Belize Friends Ministries. Dale Graves, who was well-loved in the local Hendricks County and Morgan County communities as well as in Quaker circles, was the director there. He passed away a year and a half ago, which makes supporting the mission even more important.
“That school has a very special place in our hearts as a church,” Harris says. “We try and support them however we can.”
The Quaker Day Festival will take place this year on September 18 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., at 105 South East Street in Plainfield. The parade starts at 10 a.m. and the car show starts at noon. Many come as early as 9 a.m. to secure their spot along the route. The event is free, but attendees are encouraged to come prepared to shop the local vendors at the festival.
For more info, visit quakerdayfestival.org.