- State designation “Stellar Community”
- National registered Fourth Street
- League Stadium
- Antique and boutique shopping
- Jazz and wine Festivals
Experience small town life in this historic Indiana hamlet
Huntingburg, a small, Dubois County city in southwestern Indiana, can honestly call itself a city like no other. “There is no other Huntingburg in the United States,” says Mayor Denny Spinner. “There’s a lot of Huntingtons, but no Huntingburgs.”
Match that with its history as an early hunting ground, its clay soil, historic downtown, and fame as a movie site for the 1992 film “A League of their Own.” Add the city’s state designation last year as a Stellar Community, and its motto holds true.
“There has been a concentrated effort in the downtown by a number of individuals and organizations in the last 30 years to kind of maintain the integrity of the downtown,” Spinner explained. Antique shops helped build a niche for the downtown then, along with annual antique shows by the Chamber of Commerce. Seeing the charm and historic influence of National Register-listed Fourth Street, younger business owners have also moved downtown.
Fourth Street now boasts unique businesses like Purple Plum, with original local and contemporary art; Back in Thyme, with collectibles and antiques; Cherished Moments, with chocolate, jams and homemade bread; and flower shops, fabric shops and more.
Quaint, themed eateries like Old School Café have established themselves. Old School touts its “Baseball Burger” and highlights local team jerseys and memorabilia honoring the town’s baseball culture. What really sets Huntingburg apart and gave the town a boost is a combination of baseball culture and the film industry. “A League of Their Own” began a period where Huntingburg was sought after for film production, which also included “Hard Rain” and “Soul of the Game.” It was by chance, said Spinner, that the town became a film production studio for a while. “When (director) Penny Marshall decided to make ‘A League of Their Own,’ she selected Evansville, Bosse Field, as the site,” says Spinner, who worked for the local radio station then. “They wanted to film there because the stadium was of a period they were looking for, but they were looking for a secondary location nearby.” Marshall was directed to Huntingburg and discovered League Stadium, part of the former fairgrounds, built in 1894. The production company raised the grandstands about 6 feet, reconditioned the stands and field as1940s-era appropriate, and hired hundreds of residents as extras and workers for the movie. Spinner was in the movie and made daily announcements over the radio for different groups needed on set. It brought millions in revenue to the city and gave it a major boost and popularity as a movie set.
While the movie business has dried up for now, the stadium, left as is when production ended, remains the site of summer league baseball with the Dubois County Bombers, an Ohio Valley Baseball collegiate wooden bat league. Each summer 20,000 visitors watch players in 1940s-style uniforms play ball, while young women in Rockford Peaches uniforms staff the concessions. Huntingburg also capitalizes on other highlights – the downtown district, a 188-acre city lake, a new replica railroad station event center and its future plans. “We’re planning a trail system connecting downtown to the event center and making downtown an open community type space,” Spinner says.
“There will be a new downtown park area with green space where you have a farmers market, a stage and amphitheater.” Throw in the annual art and jazz and wine festivals, September Latino Festival and other events, and Huntingburg truly is a grand travel destination.
Story by Kevin Howell