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Automobiles Take the Front Seat at Kokomo Festival

June 27, 2018
        Cars drive in the festival.
Interesting automobiles are featured in the festival.

Long, hot summer days by the pool, the aroma of hot dogs fresh off the grill, and fireworks lighting up the night sky are all signs that Independence Day is near.

For the people of Kokomo, Indiana, the annual Haynes Apperson Festival is a Fourth of July tradition that has a footing in the automotive industry.

“The main purpose of the festival was to highlight the incredible automotive heritage that we have here,” said Haynes Apperson Festival Chairman Paul Wyman.

The festival wouldn’t be possible without Inventor and Industrialist Elwood Haynes.

Elwood Haynes Elwood Haynes. (Photo: Haynes Apperson Festival)

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A native of Indiana, Haynes attended the Worcester County Free Institute of Industrial Sciences, where he studied the effects that tungsten had on iron and steel.

Haynes’ studies in college led him to the discovery of natural gas in 1886. It was this revelation that motivated his nickname, “Father of the Natural Gas Industry.”

He was later appointed as the superintendent for the Indiana Natural Gas Company of Chicago.

Haynes’ discovery has not only led to modern safety procedures for gas use, but preceded some of his most impactful discoveries for the automotive industry.

In 1891, after years of work in the sciences, Elwood Haynes considered putting the cart before the horse - or rather, without it altogether.

Haynes began testing out the concept of a horseless carriage and soon came to the conclusion that he would need help to get his vision out of his mind and on the road.

Elwood Haynes hired Elmer and Edgar Apperson to build the first automobile in 1893.

The Apperson brothers were mechanists, connected to Haynes through their work on inventing an internal combustion fuel from a byproduct of natural gas.

The combination of the Appersons’ expertise with the cunning mind of Haynes led to the first successful test ride of the car.

“On July 4th of 1894, America’s first automobile was test driven right here in Kokomo,” said Wyman.

A few other of Haynes’ inventions expedited the production process and ultimately commercialized the automobile.

“The festival is named after them, and over the years, it’s grown not only to be a festival that celebrates our incredible automotive heritage, but also, all that is great about Kokomo and Howard County,” said Wyman.

Family enjoys the rides at the festival. Family enjoys the rides at the festival. (Photo: Visitkokomo.org)

For the people of Kokomo, there is a lot to celebrate during the festival.

“It’s an incredible action-packed three days,” Wyman said. “Primarily the car shows are where we highlight the automotive history.”

The car shows take place every night of the three day festival. “People will be able to check out some of the oldest cars you can imagine to some of the newest, coolest cars out there,” Wyman said.

All of the entertainment at the festival will be family-friendly.  Wyman mentions that the carnival rides on Friday night are a family favorite.

Families can also come out to view the annual parade on Saturday afternoon. This year, the parade will honor active duty service members and veterans.

In tandem with the parade, there will be food vendors and entertainment. Each night there will be a concert. Artists such as Grammy Award Winner Marc Cohn, Heywood Banks, and Pink Droyd will be performing, with the latter bringing on a laser light show.

Pink Droyd performs their laser light show. Pink Droyd performs with their signature laser lights. (Photo: Haynesappersonfestival.org)

“It always closes out with this incredibly huge fireworks show that people just rave over. So I’m excited about the whole three days,” states Wyman.

The three-day festival from Thursday to Saturday will be a time to reflect on Kokomo’s tradition and culture.

“We are incredibly blessed with our heritage and our history here and we believe we are incredibly blessed going forward in the future for our community,” said Wyman.