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We Gather Together: An Annual Tradition In Transition

september party

It's the time of year for traditions and reunions.  An annual gathering of friends in Brown County is right up there with Thanksgiving and Christmas, according to some attendees.

The very first September Party was held in 1976.

It was a get-together with old friends to celebrate the purchase of land in Brown County. 40 years in, their kids and grandkids are just as invested in this annual gathering, but there are tough conversations to be had as one generation thinks about passing the torch to the next.

I'm sort of a person who doesn't give anything up. I always think I'll do it somehow and that will represent the spirit of it for me. And so, I think before I give it up, I'll be dead. Jeanne Hannan

The sun starts to set on Rose Hill Farm, northeastern Brown County, and the guitars comes out. The September Party revolves around a group called The Messengers. It was the folk group that John Hannan, Charlie Gardner, and Carney Strange started when they were in school at St. Meinrad Seminary in southern Indiana. At that first party, it just made sense that they would play music together. It's still the same music as back then: Peter Paul and Mary, Pete Seeger, 1960s protest songs.

As the September Party has evolved over the years, it seems like changes to the musical traditions have been the hardest to accept:

This ruffled a lot of the folks who... loved how traditional the music was, and how they were still playing it the same way they had been playing it 20-30 years ago. And so even small changes like that, things that on the surface aren't that big of a deal, felt like they were straying too far from how things should be. How this party will be, and how it has been. Julia Strange

Many of the children of the founders of the September Party are all-in for continuing the annual gathering. There are those who think it's not yet time for this conversation. Still others feel helpless in the face of logistics.

As the September Party family adds a new baby to its ranks, what will become of this 40-year-old tradition?

Listen by clicking play at the top of this page.

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