The Herald Bulletin

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Columns

August 12, 2013

Underwood column: Callaway Park speaks eloquently of community that cares

A park can say a lot about a community.

Expensive playground equipment speaks of conspicuous wealth. Intricate landscaping suggests an artistic emphasis. Historic markers signify civic pride. Overgrown pathways indicate apathy or financial distress.

Callaway Park in Elwood says, “Let’s get together!”

Callaway isn’t large by some standards, but the park and nearby sports complex still exude spaciousness while offering a variety of recreation: a swimming pool, basketball courts, baseball and softball diamonds, a skateboard course, a sand volleyball court and a paved walking path invite enthusiasts of sundry pastimes.

Soon, three horseshoe pitches will be added to Callaway’s offerings. Friday morning, a pair of men were busy working to lay out the pitches so that concrete could be poured and the area prepared for next weekend’s Glass Festival.

Another team of workers could be found at the opposite end of the park, measuring vendor spaces for the festival along the main path through the park.

Callaway, established in 1927 on land donated by Henry C. Callaway, has a rich history. Republican presidential candidate Wendell Wilkie, an Elwood native, accepted his party’s nomination during an Aug. 17, 1940, rally at the park. A crowd estimated at 250,000 crammed Callaway and the surrounding streets to hear his words and catch a glimpse of him. Wilkie lost in the general election to Franklin Roosevelt, but he remains Elwood’s favorite son.

A historic marker commemorating the Wilkie rally stands near one of Callaway Park’s most interesting features. The large, blond-brick shelter house is a stout structure with squat towers at each of its four corners. Twenty-four heavy wooden picnic tables are lined up inside the shelter, and six garage-style doors are open and, combined with overhead fans, keep it cool inside.

The park is laid out to encourage people to linger together while enjoying nice weather and simple but pretty landscaping. Swinging benches beckon here and there, as do picnic tables and playground equipment. A path was recently paved leading from a nearby retirement home to the entertainment stage at the park. To the north of the stage, a large, raised gazebo faced by permanent benches makes an attractive spot for weddings.

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