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Camp Cullom ready to 'roll out the red carpet'

By AARON KENNEDY - akennedy@ftimes.com

A hidden gem tucked away in rural Clinton County, Camp Cullom will offer chili, hiking, hayrides, stargazing and more Saturday at its annual Open House and Chili Dinner.

“It is a wonderful, beautiful time of year to roll out the red carpet for the community,” Clinton County Foundation for Youth board member Russ Kaspar said. “Sometimes, with the leaves turning red, that is almost literally running out the red carpet. It is also a good time of year to open the observatory and enjoy a hot bowl of chili and the beautiful fall weather. The weather is often gorgeous. It is a good time to show it off and, if we can raise some money at the same time, that is fine as well.

“You can come out to the observatory, walk through the prairie grass habitat, go to the stream and listen to the creek and enjoy that 90 acres owned by the children of Clinton County. The whole camp is owned by the children of Clinton County.”

The Clinton County Foundation of Youth was formed as the result of a trust agreement in 1947 and has been overseeing and protecting Camp Cullom ever since.

While activities such as hiking down the prairie grass habitat trails or disc golf on one the top courses in the state can be enjoyed throughout the day, the chili dinner and silent auction will be from 4:30 p.m. to 7 at a cost of $8 for adults or $4 for children between the ages of 5 and 12. Other than chili, there will also be peanut butter sandwiches, Frito-Lay products and beverages.

“The fall is a great time to be outdoors in Indiana,” board member Tom Dickerson said. “The leaves are turning and the mosquitoes are gone. It is a nice time to show off the camp.”

Once the sun sets, Camp Cullom will also be showing off its Prairie Grass Observatory, which will allow visitors to view – weather permitting – Mars, Jupiter and Saturn as well as the moon and some beautiful star clusters with the help of members of the Wabash Valley Astronomical Society.

“If it is a clear night, it will be an incredible night for viewing,” Dickerson said. “There should be a lot to see.”

Prairie Grass Observatory will have four telescopes in use Saturday night – a 28-inch Dobsonian telescope, a 16-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope, a 16-inch Newtonian telescope and a 7-inch apochromatic refractor. They also have a large pair of 25/40x100 binoculars.

“We will be able to see a star cluster with over 100,000 stars, assuming the weather is good,” said Kaspar, who is also a member of the Wabash Valley Astronomical Society. “You will also be able to see the Milky Way.”

Kaspar added that visitors may also be able to view the famous Double Cluster within the Perseus constellation with the binoculars.

“It is like looking at two clumps of diamonds on black velvet,” he said. “The moon will be at 21 percent, so you can see craters, rifts and walls on the moon. It will be a beautiful night to see the planets, moon and star clusters.”

Members of the Clinton County Foundation for Youth hope that the open house and chili dinner lets those who don’t already know about it to learn about the many things the camp offers throughout the year.

“Generally, 1,500 to 2,500 people come to the camp per month,” Dickerson said. “Camp Cullom offers hiking, we have a disc golf course, there is a nature center that is open from time to time or by appointment. There is a lodge that groups can come use if they like. You can picnic there. There are campgrounds, and we have a playground. We run youth programs through the area schools. Last Saturday we had 23 young, bright fifth-graders out there. We expose them to different types of science. They actually dissected a crayfish, and they built rockets and fired them off.

“The camp is owned by the children of Clinton County,” Dickerson added. “It is a trust. Children 18 and under in Clinton County actually own the camp, and the board of directors protect the camp for them. So, when the adults come out there, they are actuality the guests of their kids.”