This is not rocket science.
It’s tourism.
And its tools are basic: Information, having a good story to tell and marketing that story to visitors and to the community itself.
A recent retreat co-sponsored by the Jay County Tourism and Visitors Bureau and the Jay County Historical Society brought Dr. James Glass in for a talk.
What he had to say should be a roadmap for the tourism bureau going forward. In fact, some of Glass’s comments were so basic that the roadmaps should already have been in place.
From about 1886 to 1905, this part of Indiana was at the heart of an incredible economic boom — the Gas Boom. It flamed out quickly, largely because way too much of the gas was wasted. But it lives on in our architectural and economic history.
That’s the cultural asset Glass was trying to draw attention to in his remarks.
And that’s the cultural asset still to be capitalized upon in terms of tourism.
Many of the key parts are already in place.
Glass — who is  the pre-eminent scholar on Indiana’s Gas Boom — was blown away by the depth and quality of the collection at The Glass Museum in Dunkirk. Minnetrista Cultural Center in Muncie has a larger and more extensive collection of Ball jars, but as Glass noted, the collection is only on display intermittently. The best place for a visitor interested in Ball Glass history to see things on a regular basis is The Glass Museum.
He was similarly impressed by the breadth and quality of the collection on display at Jay County Historical Society’s museum. Together, the two could act as bookends for a historical tourism attraction.
In between — in Dunkirk, Redkey, Pennville and Portland — there’s a rich architectural heritage of Gas Boom construction.
Never noticed it? That’s not surprising.
We drive and walk by it every day. But it has a story to tell, one that could attract visitors and tourism dollars.
The expert’s advice:
•Develop an inventory of Gas Boom era buildings and architectural tours to show off that inventory.
•Capitalize on the life story of Elwood Haynes, whose career from Portland to Kokomo paralleled the Gas Boom.
•Come up with ways to provide a hands-on glass making experience for visitors.
•Create a stained glass tour, maybe on a once a month basis, that allows visitors and the community at large to enjoy the beauty of the county’s four Gas Boom churches — Asbury United Methodist and First Presbyterian in Portland, Redkey United Methodist and Plymouth United Church of Christ in Dunkirk.
And so on.
It is not rocket science. It’s story telling. We have a story to tell. We haven’t told it well. And we’re missing an opportunity if we don’t do so.
It’s that simple. — J.R.