November 28, 2015
Overcast, mist, rain
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  • Overcast, mist, rain

Lights, Camera, Christmas!

Chip Rossetti, an independent filmmaker in Evansville, was contacted in April by a distribution company that wanted a Christmas movie. Rossetti didn’t have one — yet.

Rossetti immediately went searching for a script, and found a stage play from the 1970s titled “The Rented Christmas.” He rewrote it for the screen, brought in actors from as far away as Alaska, and shot the film titled, “A Borrowed Christmas.”

“We shot for five days here in Evansville,” says Rossetti. “Mostly at the home of Sherry and Kirk Wright (see Evansville Living May/June 2014) on Riverside Drive, but also a little bit out in Newburgh. Five days is a little faster than we like to do stuff, but because we wanted to have it ready for Christmas, we didn’t have a lot of time.”

“We wanted to create something the whole family could enjoy,” says Rossetti. “It is kind of a throwback. It is like the old classic Christmas movies. The test screenings we’ve done with it have been great.”

Rossetti Productions has been around for about 15 years, but it’s just been in the past three years that the production company has shot feature-length films. In that time, Rossetti and his team have produced 14 movies, all faith-based family films. Seven of them were shot in Evansville.

“A Borrowed Christmas” will be shown on Nov. 13 at Showplace Cinemas East. It will then run for a week at Showplace Cinemas South. It also will show on about 40 other screens across the country.

For more information about “A Borrowed Christmas,” visit


Santa Comes to Town

For the 15th year, Santa is coming to W. Franklin Street. The Grinch will be there, too, but he’s not trying to steal Christmas.

It’s all a part of the West Side Nut Club’s Santa Land. Kids can sit on Santa’s lap, tell him what they want for Christmas, get a free picture, and enjoy hot chocolate and cookies. Held each year since 2000, Santa Land also features other costumed children’s TV characters and a giant Christmas tree.

The event started as a way for children from economically disadvantaged homes to enjoy Christmas at no cost, says Santa Land Chairman Jim Farney. Over the years, that’s evolved into an event for everyone.

“It provides an opportunity for people, especially those on the West Side, to have a convenient place to bring their kids to see Santa,” says Farney. “It’s all free. It is a service we put on at no charge. Anybody is invited.”

The Nut Club does accept donations at Santa Land, and those go toward a scholarship the club sponsors at University of Southern Indiana.

Santa Land runs for two weekends, Dec. 13-14 and Dec. 20-21, from 3 to 6 p.m. each day. It’s located on the Nut Club property at the corner of Franklin and 10th streets. The pictures are taken in a large tent, so Santa Land is held regardless of weather.

“We’ll keep doing it as long we see the desire and the need for it,” says Farney. “We believe it is a good cause.


Conducting Business

Nick Palmer leads the Owensboro Symphony Orchestra into its 49th season
Maestro Nick Palmer sits in front of the band shell at Owensboro’s Smothers Park.

When Maestro Nick Palmer first came to Owensboro, Kentucky, in 1998 to become the music director and conductor of the Owensboro Symphony Orchestra, he was immediately impressed by the community’s interest in the arts.

Before coming to Owensboro, he spent 13 years as the music director of the symphony orchestra in Dubuque, Iowa. Palmer has been writing music since he was very young, and that led him into conducting. A Hingham, Massachusetts, native, Palmer graduated from Harvard and earned his master’s degree from the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston and doctorate degree from the University of Iowa.

Palmer stays busy. On top of his duties in Owensboro, he’s also the music director and conductor for the symphony orchestra in Lafayette, Indiana. He spends one week each month in Lafayette. Palmer also conducts two music festivals: Evening Under the Stars Music Festival in Massachusetts and the Dubuque Festival Orchestra in Iowa.

Palmer has been a guest conductor all over the U.S., in Europe, and South America for both orchestras and operas. He remains a Conductor Laureate of the Altoona Symphony in Pennsylvania, where he was the music director from 1996 to 2007. He was a recipient of the Helen M. Thompson Award from the League of American Orchestras as the nation’s most outstanding young music director.

The Owensboro Symphony Orchestra began its 2014-2015 season Aug. 9 with Concert on the Lawn, which had to be relocated indoors due to bad weather. The next concert will be Sept. 20 at RiverPark Center, and will feature 20-year-old acclaimed American cellist Cicely Parnas. The orchestra sells season tickets as well as single-event tickets.

Palmer and his wife Dorothy have four adult sons and live on a horse farm in eastern Daviess County, Kentucky.What led you to Owensboro?
I had heard that there was a wonderful orchestra here, a great hall, and lots of community support. I was looking to move on from the job I had in Iowa, so when I heard about all the great things going on here, I decided to apply. It was a long process, about 18 months from beginning to end, and I was thrilled to be offered the job.

Do you share musicians with the Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra?
Quite a few. Something like 25 people. We’ve always had a good relationship with Evansville, and that’s been a good thing for both orchestras. We schedule our concerts and rehearsals so musicians can play in both groups.

How did you get started as a conductor?
I was given an opportunity to direct some of the pieces I had written. When I was 16, that’s when I started as a conductor. Growing up in Boston, I had a lot of opportunity to perform. I played in several orchestras in the area and I was a member of the Boston Symphony Chorus. That was a great way for me to experience classical music as a performer, which I think is important as a conductor.

Owensboro has a solid foundation in arts and music. What is the level of support like for the orchestra?
I am thrilled with the level of support from the community. The city and county donate a lot of financial and other support. The community as a whole is very interested in supporting the arts organizations here. For a city of our size, we have a tremendous and vibrant arts community. Music has always been important to people living in our area. They hear it from an early age. I think there is a real appreciation for what we do, just because people already have a background in music. Owensboro is a wonderful city for collaboration. The different arts groups work together frequently. There is a lot of communication between the arts groups, and I think that’s easier to do in a small community.

How much of an asset is the RiverPark Center?
We have a fabulous facility that is kind of the cornerstone of all the downtown development, which is great for us. We are right at the center. When people come to the community, that’s one of the first things they see. For us to have our concert hall on such a significant piece of real estate is a big thing.

Do you have a favorite style of music?
I really like a lot of different types of music. We do an opera every year here, and I really like that. I enjoy the classics, but I also enjoy conducting pops concerts. I think that is one way we build our audience here.

How do you get musicians to travel to Owensboro from as far away as Indianapolis and Cincinnati?
There is a great attitude with the orchestra. People really love coming here. They are treated well by the symphony staff and board. To attract the best quality players from the region, you have to treat them well or else they won’t drive all the way over here.

What makes the Owensboro Symphony Orchestra unique?
We’re one of the smallest communities that has not only a professional orchestra, but also a music academy that is integrated into the structure of the orchestra. We have a wonderful facility, and our offices are located within the Owensboro Symphony Academy building.

For more information about Maestro Nick Palmer, visit For information about the Owensboro Symphony Orchestra, call 270-684-0661 or visit


Lively Lincoln

Mr. and Mrs. Abraham Lincoln invite you to a Civil War ball in Rockport, Indiana, where visitors will be swept back in time to a different world to pay homage to the area’s colorful past.

Hosted by Friends of Lincoln Pioneer Village & Museum — including actors portraying the Lincolns — this year’s ball will take place 6 to 10 p.m. Sept. 20 in the Spencer County Courthouse in Rockport. The grand march will start at 6:30 p.m. where couples will be announced one by one as they walk elegantly down the courthouse staircase.

In her ninth year volunteering for Lincoln Pioneer Village & Museum, Nancy Kaiser explains the funds raised at the ball are used to rebuild one of the 14 Lincoln-era replica cabins on the grounds of the Spencer County attraction.

“Abraham Lincoln spent most of his formative years in Spencer County. I really love the history that he brings to the area,” says Kaiser. “Anyone who loves history and the Civil War time period would have so much fun; it truly takes you back in time.”

Due to the venue’s capacity, reservations are required and can be made by calling Nancy Kaiser at 812-686-2553. Tickets are $30. Civil War-period attire also is required, and easy-to-learn era dances are taught in advance at the event. Guests can participate in a silent auction and enjoy refreshments and hors d’oeuvres.

For more information about the Civil War ball, call Nancy Kaiser at 812-686-2553.


How Does Your Garden Grow?

Kerry Ann Mendez

From what to plant in the growing season to the effects of climate change in the Tri-State, those who have a passion for gardening can explore several different topics at the Ohio Valley Garden Conference Oct. 18 inside the Tropicana Evansville Conference Center.

The Southwestern Indiana Master Gardeners Association (SWIMGA) holds the conference every two years to further the group’s mission to educate the public about gardening. This year’s event will include speakers such as Paul Bouseman, botanical curator at Mesker Park Zoo and Botanic Garden and Larry Caplan, extension horticulture educator through Purdue Extension Service -Vanderburgh County.

“We will have different vendors (selling plants and crafts), which people love,” says Martha Schriver, SWIMGA press representative for the conference. “We’re a nonprofit, with no paid staff. This is not a fundraiser; it’s purely an education event for the area. I always say if you want to know anything, ask a master gardener.”

The keynote speaker, Kerry Ann Mendez — creator of the gardening business Perennially Yours in Kennebunk, Maine, and a frequent guest on HGTV — will speak on different ways to garden such as terrace gardening and easier plant choices, plus how to cut time without sacrificing appearance.

“It’s about garden design solutions and exceptional plants for aging and time pressed gardeners,” says Mendez. “It’s really geared to anyone from their 20s to 30s whose lifestyle is changing.”

Vendors will be on-site along with plant sales.

For more information on SWIMGA’s Ohio Valley Garden Conference, call 812-708-0179 or visit


Bark at the Park

It took 11 years and more than 300 truckloads of dirt to get Evansville’s only dog park, Central Bark, up and running.
“I went to New York and became crazy about the idea of a dog park,” says Alice Rademacher, president of the nonprofit Evansville Dog Owners Group. “When we asked the board of commissioners for a dog park though, they were hesitant.”

Concerns about misbehaving dogs and a lack of funding sparked the formation of Evansville Dog Owners Group to raise funds for Central Bark. The nonprofit park currently has around 130 members who pay $30 for a yearly membership plus a one-time joining fee of $10 that helps maintain the park.

“The city required us to do the park as membership only, which turned out to be a blessing,” says Rademacher. “It helped us ensure things like (the dogs’) behavior, vaccinations, funding for the future, and more.”

The park, which opened in 2010, covers 2 acres in the northeastern corner of Kleymeyer Park — a former landfill site until the group trucked in new dirt. The park is accessible each day, and dogs in Vanderburgh and the surrounding counties are welcome to join, provided they meet certain behavioral, registration, and vaccination requirements. Additionally, the group will host Halloween events including a dog costume party Oct. 28. The contest will have different categories and trophies.

“We’ve learned a lot since we started the park,” says Rademacher. “It’s been a great way for people and their dogs to socialize.”

For more information about Central Bark Dog Park, visit


Jewel of the City

Rarely-seen Reitz Chalice will go on display
Reitz Chalice

Anna Maria Josephine Reitz and her family had a spectacular jewelry collection. And after she died, a local jeweler used it to make something special.

In 1929, David Cohn, one of the founders of Kruckemeyer & Cohn Fine Jewelry, designed a gold chalice for Reitz. She donated it to Holy Trinity Catholic Church just before her death. Cohn then used the chalice, along with her jewelry, to create a tribute to the church.

The result is known as the Reitz Chalice. It contains 507 diamonds, 15 rubies, seven sapphires, pearls, and emeralds. At the base, six engraved medallions tell of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, St. Francis, St. Joseph, St. Peter, the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and St. Michael the Archangel.

Sept. 19, the chalice will again be very briefly put on public display during the Jewel of the City Ball at the Evansville Country Club. Proceeds benefit the Reitz Home Museum, as well as Holy Trinity.

Karan Pastora, Reitz Home Museum Guild Ball chair and vice president of the board of directors, says the museum’s board members feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to show off this rarely seen treasure.

“It’s going to be a very exciting black tie formal event,” says Pastora. “It really is a jewel of the city, this chalice and the museum, and they are intertwined. This is going to be, in my opinion, the most elegant event in Evansville this year.”

The Evansville Diocese, working on behalf of Holy Trinity, is particularly sensitive about giving out too many details about the chalice. There are limits as to what the Reitz Home Museum can divulge, like the chalice’s worth, size, and other specific details. And that only adds to the mystery.

The original chalice was crafted by Cohn in Germany, though it’s unclear why it couldn’t be made in the U.S. And the date 1830 is etched into the base, though that year has no clear significance to the Reitz family.

Although it was once regularly used in communion ceremonies, today the chalice is rarely seen in public. It was briefly on display at the Reitz Home Gala in 1991. It was kept hidden for more than a decade until 2004, when it was shown at Kruckemeyer & Cohn Fine Jewelry. In 2011, the chalice was used in the installation ceremony of Most Reverend Charles C. Thompson as the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Evansville.

The ball is planned to be every bit as opulent as the chalice, with carefully decorated tables, finely prepared dishes, an 18-piece orchestra, candelabras, and Victorian-era clothing. It will be held from 6 to 11 p.m. in the ballroom at Evansville Country Club. Kruckemeyer and Cohn will display other pieces of jewelry for sale.

Tickets, which can be purchased by calling 812-867-3733, are $135 per person for non-members of the Reitz Museum, or $100 for members. Seating is limited to 375 guests, and the event is expected to sell out.

For more information about the Jewel of the City Ball and other events at the Reitz Home Museum, visit


Horror Channel

Factory worker finds creative outlet as haunted house owner
Chris Lankford stands outside of Eville Studios, a haunted house located at 210 N. Fulton Ave.

While the idea of a coffin ride and being buried alive might make the average person cringe, for Chris Lankford it’s just another day at the office.

During the fall months, Lankford serves as the owner and operator of Eville Studios, a haunted house located at 210 N. Fulton Ave. As a full-time job year round, Lankford, an Evansville resident, works as a team leader at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Indiana in Princeton, Indiana, where he has been an employee for the last 16 years.

Lankford began working with haunted houses when he helped out at the Newburgh (Indiana) Civitan Haunted House, where he spent 10 years, which later became the Zombie Farm.

When Toyota took Lankford to Texas and later returned him to Evansville, he began working with the Evansville Asylum Haunted House, which was previously located in the basement of the old Sterling Brewery building. After a couple of years, an opportunity came up to own the haunted house and Lankford went for it.

“I have always been artistic and I was looking for an outlet,” says Lankford. “Working in a factory, there are only a limited number of things I can do with creativity. I personally did a lot of haunted house makeup. That’s what ended up bringing me back.”

With new ownership, the name changed from the Evansville Asylum to Eville Studios, and also moved locations from the Sterling Brewery building to the former Central Labor Council of Indiana, at the corner of Fulton Avenue and the Lloyd Expressway. Eville Studios opened Aug. 13, 2012, and will soon begin its third season.

“We’ve become a blended crew,” says Lankford. “We’ve all done prop making, haunted house building, and makeup, and combined we have extensive working abilities in haunted houses and the haunt industry. We’ve actually kind of expanded ourselves and blended ourselves where it is an even more interesting experience. We are doing a lot more and building a lot more props, and branching out.”

The haunt season runs from late September into early November. In addition to the haunted house, Eville Studios also offers the coffin simulator ride, where customers experience a super-realistic ride inside a coffin on the way to being buried alive, and the Shoot-A-Zombie attraction, where guests use paintball guns to track down and kill a zombie. And for a calmer scene, Eville Studios has a no-scare tour, which takes guests behind the scenes from 6 to 6:45 p.m., as the actors and actresses prepare and apply makeup and costumes for the full-scare house, which opens at 7 p.m. and runs until midnight.

“A lot of people don’t realize the work that goes into it,” says Lankford. “It becomes sort of a family, and when your ideas start coming together, it gets really exciting.”

For more information about Eville Studios, call 812-518-0454 or visit


Breathe On

Just breathe. It’s something you say to your friend about to go on stage in a play or to your wife as you hold her hand in the hospital room. It’s part of life; it seems so easy, but for those with pulmonary fibrosis, it is an everyday challenge.

Pulmonary fibrosis is a condition in which the tissue deep in the lungs becomes scarred over time. Although medical research has been ongoing, there is no effective treatment or cure for the disease.

The University of Southern Indiana will host a Pulmonary Disease Awareness Symposium 8 a.m. to noon on Nov. 12. Local and regional doctors and specialists will provide an overview of innovations in pulmonary disease diagnosis, patient management and care, and how to prepare for transplant and post-transplant. The event is co-hosted by Pulmonary Fibrosis Partners, Inc.

Due to her son-in-law and his family suffering from the disease, Shirley Becker became a Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation (PFF) Ambassador and began the Pulmonary Fibrosis Partners, Inc. in 2009 in Evansville.

“I discovered, when my family was directly affected by it, that there is a local need for this organization,” says Becker. “We needed to make it a local so we could put all of our money back in the community through awareness and education.”

The symposium’s target audience will include respiratory therapists, nurses, social workers, and anyone in the community impacted by PF.

If you’re interested in attending the Pulmonary Disease Awareness Symposium, call Diane Masterson at 812-425-3280.


Behind the Mask

Dark Cornerz Artistry helps role players get into costume

Costume play, or cosplay for short, is a form of performance art where participants role play specific characters. It’s been a growing hobby for more than two decades, and it’s become a growing industry.

Not every character needs a mask, but many do. And that’s where Evansville’s Emily Bachman and Dark Cornerz Artistry come in. She started making leather masks in 2010, along with other leather accessories.

Bachman wasn’t really into cosplay before she started making the masks, but now she travels across the country going to conventions and showing her masks and other items. Customers can either buy one of the pieces or give Bachman a specialty order.

“I think it is really important for people to express themselves,” she says. “If I can bring something really unique for them that’s what’s important.”

What made you decide to start Dark Cornerz Artistry?
The love of simply creating and designing costumes. I realized after some trial and error I really enjoyed working with leather versus fabrics. I started out small with a few very detailed costume masks, mostly science fiction themed. After great feedback at my first convention at EvilleCon, I began expanding into other accessories. Now, I create custom pieces as well as my own designs. I am inspired more everyday by movies, TV shows, and my very enthusiastic customer base.

Who are the masks made for?
They are created for anyone and everyone, adults and children alike; everything from Halloween masks to cosplay enthusiasts. There is a wide range of people whom my art appeals to. Some people even use my pieces as wall art.

What’s fun about making masks?
The most exciting part is traveling and seeing the pure joy of those who find a finishing piece for their costume. I also am approached by those who choose one of my masks to create an entire costume around. Now that’s fun!

Do you have common requests?
During my travels the most common requests have been for superhero style masks and armor accessories. The need for superhero masks encouraged me to create kid-friendly foam masks. These are specifically designed for a child’s face and are a perfect alternative to my leather masks.

Do you have a piece you’ve made that is a personal favorite?
My favorite would have to be the Green Man mask. It’s based off a tree spirit mythology, and it was my most enjoyable art piece to create. The mask is bordered with curled leaves, which emphasize a realistic and dimensional overall feel.

What else do you make besides the masks?
I also make a variety of other accessories. These include eye patches, bracelets, chokers, helmets, and tiara headdresses. As my business grows and I receive more customers’ input, the accessories I make also will expand. In the near future, I’m looking into introducing thermo plastic into my inventory. I’m excited to see how my customers will react to these new possibilities.

How much of your business comes from word-of-mouth?
Some does, but I also (promote the items) on Facebook and I go to conventions every few months if possible. The comic conventions themselves are a fantastic way to advertise. My customers are my best promoters; they show off their costume accessories everywhere they can. It really allows them to become their own characters and express themselves.

Are there many artists who make masks?
It’s pretty unique. I would say there are only a handful of crafters who work with leather to specifically create masks. I feel it’s important to branch out from just making masks and offer more choices to the public. That’s why I advertise the creativity aspect of what I do. If people don’t see what they want on my table, they can always request a custom order. I love bringing people’s imagination into a reality.

For more about Dark Cornerz Artistry, visit its Facebook page at