New viewing deck overlooks Blue River

Craftsmen just yesterday put the finishing touches on the new viewing deck overlooking Blue River in Shelbyville, Indiana.

This nice observation deck is just across the Blue River Trail pavement at the end of the new A to Z Storybook Trail. We just published a post about that trail feature here. Shelbyville and Shelby County are in central Indiana, and are continuing to expand the popular Blue River Trail. These additions add to the enjoyment of trail users.

A Bison-tennial statue in Shelby County

Before each county got theirs to decorate

Indiana’s Statehood Bicentennial was celebrated in 2016. The remnants of that celebration can be seen all over the state in the form of 5 feet tall fiberglass bison. The website states: “Indiana Association of United Ways was the proud sponsor of the statewide Bison-tennial Public Art Project. This legacy project helped celebrate Indiana’s 200th birthday by decorating and displaying 5-foot-tall fiberglass bison with an end goal of at least one – if not a herd – of bison on display in each of Indiana’s 92 counties.” We’d seen a few around the state, and just last week we saw a newly placed one in Shelbyville.

Balsar the Bison in front of the old Porter Pool Bath House

Lots of local landmarks, businesses

Recognize that Kennedy Covered Bridge?






The bison is named Balsar after the main character in The Bears Of Blue River by Shelbyville resident author Charles Major. Not sure where Balsar has been since 2016, but now the Shelby County bison grazes in front of the old Porter Pool Bath House which was built in 1930. (Read about the current use of the Porter building here.)



An A to Z Storybook Trail

A new short trail showcasing highlights and history of Shelby County has been completed along the Blue River Trail in Shelbyville, Indiana. The 13 signs are placed at intervals with two “letters” each on the signs.

One of the 13 signs on the trail

Shot of the trail

Note the limestone benches

Sign showing local attraction and bit of history

The whole trail and sign placements are very nicely landscaped with trees and flowers. Scattered around are large limestone “benches”. These have been quarried from a Shelby County quarry that has has been in operation for decades.

The main Blue River Trail along the tree line

In the far background you can see the Blue River-Wind, Rain and Water public art (here is a link to our post about the sculpture). Shelbyville and Shelby County have done a great job constructing and maintaining the Blue River Trail complex across the city and through at least three parks.




Fire destroyed the 1879 grandstand ten years ago

Around midnight on May 19, 2012, Shelbyville, Indiana residents saw flames raising hundreds of feet in the air. The source of the flames, visible from over a mile away, was the historic all wooden grandstands at the Shelby County Fairgrounds. These grandstands were constructed back in 1879, and records show that 6000 board feet of white pine was utilized for the build. Over 130 years later, the wood was tinder dry and the entire structure was fully involved when firefighters arrived on the scene.

New grandstands facing the track

The history of the Shelby County Fair goes way back to original farmer’s markets in the late 1840’s. The legal organization came in 1873 with the writing of the Fair Constitution. Future Vice President of the United States Thomas A. Hendricks took part in the authorship and execution of these documents. The first fair under the Shelby County Fair Association name was in 1874.

Stables in background, turn 3 in foreground

The backstretch






The grandstand, as mentioned above, was built in 1879 at the same time the race track was being renovated. This track is known as one of the fastest tracks in the state due to it’s design, which was a duplicate of the world-famous Kentucky Derby track at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. Horse farms from all over have trained on this track for decades, and still continue to stable and train in this facility.

The old grandstand, photo by Gary Plunkett

The new entrance to the grandstand

New grandstand facing the fair midway

The burning of the grandstand in 2012 a couple of weeks before the scheduled opening of the fair was a shock to this small Indiana community. The temporary portable bleachers just didn’t quite get it. However, in 2014 the new grandstands were completed. with the same basic design, but now constructed with brick and concrete, both fireproof!

New home for an old bridge

By 1870 Shelby County Indiana had 154 miles of new gravel roads. It was time for the county to start building bridges at principle crossings of rivers. By 1880 there were 10 “substantial and elegant” iron bridges  with additional bridges planned each year thereafter.

The bridge’s new home, seeing bicycles and pedestrian traffic only

The Clover Ford Bridge over Buck Creek was constructed in 1889 by the King Iron Bridge & Manufacturing Company of Cleveland, Ohio. The cost of the bridge, Shelby County Bridge No. 13, was $3,384.50. The bridge served many years but was closed due to structural issues in 2011.

Beautiful and sound reconstruction

History board






Deemed historically important, it was refurbished in 2018 and moved to the Blue River Memorial Park in 2019. It is now part of the Blue River Trail that traverses Shelbyville. USI Consultants was the company that oversaw the relocation of the restored bridge, as well as designing the new Shelby County Bridge No. 219 which replaced the old Shelby County Bridge No. 13 over Buck Creek.