This banner is hanging outside the building of the town’s sole C-store.
It made me think of a story from a few years back…
It was the summer of 2002, less than a year after Mr. Koch passed away. A lovely bipartisan effort by our state legislature resulted in the renaming of a portion of Highway 162 the “William A. Koch Memorial Highway.”
We put together an unveiling ceremony of one of the huge highway signs. It was to be in the Hoosier Celebration Theater, the outdoor theater located not far from the entrance to Splashin’ Safari. And Governor O’Bannon would be on hand to talk about his friend Bill Koch and take part in the unveiling.
I’m one of those cross-the-t’s-and-dot-the-i’s person. A multi-page memo was in everyone’s hands well ahead of time to make sure everything went perfectly.
And it did.
The Hoosier Celebration Theater is located in the 4th of July section. I was rather proud of myself that I’d remembered to include a note to make sure the themed music for the 4th of July section was turned off shortly before the ceremony commenced. That way, the speeches and vocal performances within the outdoor venue wouldn’t clash with the park music.
The news media arrived en masse. Former Indiana Governor Whitcomb, local officials, the Koch family, curious park guests, and some of our staff packed the theater. We were just waiting for Governor O’Bannon to arrive and make a suitable entrance.
The spirit was jovial and the Governor was only a few minutes late. Just as he entered the back of the theater to thunderous applause, I realized that just turning off the 4th of July music wasn’t enough.
Halloween was still going strong.
If you’re familiar with Holiday World’s layout, you can picture how to the left of the seating area there’s some “green space,” then a walkway, and then HallowSwings.
That’s how close Halloween is.
And just as Governor O’Bannon, beaming, entered the theater, those of us located on the left side of the seating area heard it immediately.
From the Halloween section, the unmistakable anthem:
Daaaah-dum dah daaaaaah-dum!
Darth Vader’s Theme.
I looked over. The Governor was still surrounded by his constituents. Lots of hand shaking, back slapping and chatting.
Good. They couldn’t hear it.
I then turned to look at the news media.
They were in stitches. Watching me instead of the governor. Enjoying my discomfort far too much!
I clutched my two-way radio and called Base: Please turn off the Halloween music immediately!
The reply was that the Entertainment Director would have to do it.
Chris just happened to be in the theater’s tech booth — mere yards from me. I looked back there — our eyes locked (his were as big as saucers). I knew he couldn’t leave the booth.
Daaaaaaa-da-da duh-dah-duh …
I thought I heard the Dark Lord’s labored breathing.
Oh. That was me.
The news media’s mirth was becoming audible. Chris made a quick phone call. Suddenly the Darth Vader Theme ceased. And the ceremony continued without further incident.
I always thought the Governor (on the far left) would get a kick out of that story. Sadly, that kind and gracious man passed away the following year.
I’ll always remember that day as a mixture of tears and laughter.
And the day the Force was with us.