By Nancy R. Elliott
The Herald Bulletin
FAIRMOUNT – Maybe it’s the rebel mystique, or maybe it’s the cool classic cars. Fairmount, Ind., will mushroom next weekend from a sleepy little burg of 3,000 to throngs of visitors. The magic words are "James Dean."
Fairmount hosts the 38th annual James Dean Festival and Fairmount Museum Days from Sept. 26 to 29. The weekend celebrates the life of the actor, and a whole lot more.
James Dean and his impact“I think Jim changed our culture,” said Gale Hikade, president of the Fairmount Historical Museum. He observed that Dean’s legacy includes the idea that “everybody has something to say, whether it’s right or wrong, you have to listen.”Dean only lived to be 24 years old, but in that short life made a name for himself worldwide. He was born in Marion, Ind., in 1931, and lived in Fairmount. At age 3, he moved to California with his parents. At age 9, his mother passed away and Dean returned to Indiana to live on his aunt and uncle’s Fairmount farm. Dean died in Sept. 30, 1955, in a car crash.Despite his huge notoriety, Dean’s Hollywood stardom derived from just three movies, “East of Eden” (1955), “Rebel without a Cause” (1955) and “The Giant” (1956).
Each year, anywhere from 30,000 to almost 50,000 people throng to Fairmount for the festival that commemorates Dean and other local notables. Although James Dean is the name that’s stuck like glue to Fairmount, the city was home to other noted names. Jim Davis, creator of the Garfield comic strip, hails from Fairmount, Class of ’63, and occasionally makes it back.
Festival funVisitors have no shortage of activities in which to participate. Visitors will tour the museum, see Dean movies, and enjoy games, races, pet parade, contests, food, crafts, rides, and entertainment. The grand parade takes place at 2 p.m. Saturday.The Main Street stage features entertainment including The Moon Cats in performance Friday night, and Terry Lee and the Rockaboogie Band on Saturday.“We’re very family oriented. We want families to come and have a good time and not worry about anything,” said Hikade.The 34th annual James Dean Run car show runs concurrent with the festival. The car show alone draws upwards of 2,000 classic vehicles from around the country and beyond, and includes events like flame throwing and muffler rapping contests.
Local historyLocal landmarks can also be toured, with more information available at the museum. Many people stop at the cemetery where Dean was buried. Hikade said the gravesite is a year-round destination.“You’ll find pennies, rocks, cigarettes, beer cans – open and closed, flowers and teddy bears any day of the week,” said Hikade. Quite a few even kiss the tombstone. “The only way to get the lipstick off is with turpentine.”One stop visitors won’t be touring in Fairmount is the old high school where Dean at one time performed. “The high school is really history,” said Hikade. In July, the building began to collapse. Hikade noted the chimneys are all that seem to be holding it up at this point. The site is roped off. “I don’t think anything has fallen in the last week.” A few years back, the stage was removed from the old school. Hikade said the Fairmount Lions Club salvaged the stage and is raising funds so that it can one day be incorporated and enclosed in another facility.
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38th annual James Dean Festival and Fairmount Museum Days, Fairmount The weekend includes the 34th annual James Dean Run car show, carnival rides, entertainment, vendors, contests, museum tours, music, food and more. More info: www.jamesdeanartifacts.com. Thurs., Sept. 26 4 p.m. Streets close 5 p.m. Main Street car show, kick-off party, 10th annual pre-James Dean Run Friday, Sept. 27 4 p.m. East of Eden free showing 4 - 6 p.m. Sadie Beck Band 5 p.m. 2013 Senior Citizens King and Queen 6 - 7:30 p.m. Line dancers 8 - 10 p.m. The Moon Cats Saturday, Sept. 28 9 a.m. Garfield's 23rd Great Race 10 a.m. Children's pet parade 11 a.m. Kiddie tractor pull 11:30 A.M. Rock lasso contest 12 p.m. Line Dancers 2 p.m. Parade 3 p.m. Corn hole toss contest 4 p.m. Rebel without a Cause free showing 6 p.m. '50s dance and costume contest 8 p.m. Little James Dean look-alike contest 9 p.m. James Dean look-alike contest 10 p.m. Terry Lee and the Rockaboogie Band Sunday, Sept. 29 11 a.m. Nondenominational church service 1 p.m. Giant free showing 1 p.m. M-G Xtreme Dancers and ArGuys 'N Gals 2 p.m. M-G High School band