Conner Prairie Announces New Exhibit, Sponsor

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Conner Prairie says Reynolds Farm Equipment is the new presenting sponsor of the 1859 Balloon Voyage at the interactive history park in Fishers. Reynolds will provide $375,000 through 2019 to support the helium balloon and its new exhibit space. In a Studio(i) interview, Conner Prairie Chief Executive Officer Ellen Rosenthal discussed the plans.

January 28, 2015

News Release

FISHERS, Ind. - The iconic helium balloon that has flown high above Fishers since 2009 now has a new sponsor, a company well known throughout the city, Hamilton County and the region.

Reynolds Farm Equipment is now the presenting sponsor of the 1859 Balloon Voyage experience at Conner Prairie. Through 2019, the company will provide $375,000 to support the balloon and its new exhibit space currently under construction.

The original balloon that debuted in 2009 was decommissioned in December. A new one that prominently features Reynolds Farm Equipment’s corporate logo will begin flying on March 26, weather permitting, when the park opens its outdoor grounds for the 2015 season.

"Reynolds Farm Equipment and the entire Reynolds family have been wonderful supporters of Conner Prairie in a variety of ways for decades,” said Conner Prairie President and CEO Ellen Rosenthal. “The company understands our mission and cares deeply about our future as we continue to accomplish our five-year strategic development plan.”

Gary Reynolds, president of Reynolds Farm Equipment headquartered in Atlanta, Ind., has served on Conner Prairie’s board of directors since 2010. His family, starting with parents A.W. “Mac” and Arline Reynolds, has supported Conner Prairie since 1987. In November, Reynolds, wife Cindy and the company announced a $1 million pledge to support Conner Prairie’s five-year strategic development plan.

The 1859 Balloon Voyage experience is currently under construction as new experiences to tell the story about how the balloon signifies an important part of Indiana’s past are being created. That past includes the world’s first-ever successful air-mail delivery via helium balloon.

In 1859, 20,000 people gathered in Lafayette, Ind., to witness the launch of a manned balloon that would demonstrate the viability of air transportation to the East Coast and carry the first mail delivered by air by the U.S. Postal Service. The voyage involved a giant, gas-filled balloon bound for New York City piloted by John Wise. When winds blew in the wrong direction, however, Wise was forced to land his balloon near Crawfordsville, Ind. The mail was ultimately delivered to New York City by train.

“We chose the story as the basis for the 1859 Balloon Voyage experience because it represents a little known yet important piece of Indiana aeronautical history and opens another door for us to include the history of science and technology in its exhibits, experiences and programming,” Rosenthal said.

Additional funding support for the exhibit has been awarded by Hamilton County Tourism, the William Brooks Fortune Charitable Lead Annuity Trust, Conner Prairie Alliance, the city of Fishers and the Allen Whitehill Clowes Charitable Foundation.

Spanning 800 wooded acres in central Indiana, Conner Prairie welcomes more than 360,000 guests of all ages annually. As Indiana’s only Smithsonian Institute Affiliate, Conner Prairie offers various outdoor, historically themed destinations and indoor experiential learning spaces that combine history and art with science, technology, engineering and math to offer an authentic look into history that shapes society today.Conner Prairie is a nationally acclaimed interactive history park. Its mission is to inspire curiosity and foster learning about Indiana by providing engaging, individualized and unique experiences. Created by Eli Lilly in 1934, Conner Prairie combines history with science, technology, engineering and math and encourages visitors to explore Indiana’s natural and cultural heritage through hands-on, immersive and interactive experiences. Inspiring visitors of all ages to discover more about the events, discoveries and forces that shaped the American Midwest, Conner Prairie offers various historically themed, indoor and outdoor experience areas throughout its 800 acres of wooded property in Fishers, Ind. Indiana’s only Smithsonian Institute Affiliate and accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, Conner Prairie is a 501(c)3, non-profit organization that relies on grants and philanthropic donations from corporations and individuals for sustainability and growth. Visit ConnerPrairie.org or call (800) 966-1836 for admission dates, hours, ticket prices and opportunities to donate and volunteer. Conner Prairie is on Facebook, Flicker, YouTube and Twitter.About 1859 Balloon Voyage

Conner Prairie is overhauling its 1859 Balloon Voyage exhibit to make a clear connection to adventure John Wise’s historic Indiana and the park’s tethered balloon ride.

Renowned balloonist John Wise set out from Lafayette, Ind., in 1859 for New York City with the nation’s first air mail delivery. Winds blew Wise’s balloon in the opposite direction, however, and he landed in Crawfordsville, Ind. The 123 letters he attempted to deliver were taken to New York City by train.

Conner Prairie’s exhibit opened in 2009 at a cost of $2.2 million. The 140-foot helium-filled balloon takes guests 377 feet above Conner Prairie in a gondola.

1859 Balloon Voyage is under construction, with the downtown Lafayette town square being re-created. When the new exhibit opens in March, visitors will start by entering the Lafayette post office, visit a dry-goods store, a pharmacy and a photography studio and explore gasworks used to inflate the balloon. Visitors will learn about Wise, his trip and the science of ballooning before taking their own flight.

Reynolds Farm Equipment has pledged $75,000 annually for five years to be presenting sponsor of the 1859 Balloon Voyage.

Construction to create the new exhibit is estimated at $165,000. The cost of the new balloon, built by French company Aerophile, is $530,000.

Flights cost $12 for Conner Prairie members and $15 for non-members.

Since 2009, nearly 91,500 visitors to Conner Prairie have ridden in the balloon.

Source: Conner Prairie