If you happened to be in downtown Indianapolis on the evenings of June 20 or 21, you can be forgiven for thinking you’d entered a time warp. Naptown Get Down: A Groovy Boozy Tour through 1970s Indianapolis was well underway, and in addition to revelers dressed in throwback duds, you couldn’t miss this year’s volunteers, outfitted as they were in bright orange t-shirts, jean shorts, tube socks and rainbow suspenders decked out with a plethora of buttons.
This year’s historic bar crawl was truly out of sight. In case you missed ‘em, here’s the low-down on some of our favorite details:
Disco Fever: We started and ended the night at 416 Wabash, an event space tucked between East and New Jersey. The light-up floor, the glittering mirrored balls, the blaring speakers—it was a disco fever dream come to life! On night two, we squeezed in an homage to Soul Train as group leaders boogied down through a double line of revelers. If you left early, you may have missed an impromptu dance party as we shook our groove things to the Naptown Get Down playlist (listen here on Spotify).
Mood Rings: As you checked in, you got a mood ring—and hopefully your rings stayed blue all night! The back of patrons’ nametags doubled as a key to the mood ring, with Indy-in-the-seventies cues for each color (black = sadness after Elvis died, just days after giving his final concert at Market Square Arena; green = feeling good after helping with the Clean City Committee’s anti-litter campaign; etc.)
Group Names: We had fun picking thematically appropriate group names. This year, we had Pet Rocks, in honor of the decade’s goofiest fad; Exploding Pintos, a nod to the nadir of American automotive manufacturing; Koolaid Drinkers for the cult followers of Indy’s own Jim Jones; and the Tricky Dicks, named for the politician at the center of the Watergate scandal and general feeling of distrust that characterized the seventies.
Suspenders + Tube Socks: In addition to jersey-inspired tshirts, volunteers wore rainbow suspenders (na-nu, na-nu!) and tube socks with jean shorts. Groovy!
Buttons: The 1970s were an era of political activism and every cause had its own slogan. We recreated some of the iconic buttons—ERA YES, Keep the Busses Rolling—related to the stories we featured on the crawl, and invented a few of our own—a vintage Pacers logo and a Unigov design based on a handbook from Indy’s Mayoral Archives. Since it was bar crawl, we couldn’t help adding “Draft Beer, Not Students,” a slogan from the anti-Vietnam War movement.
I Am Woman: One stop recreated a planning meeting by the Indiana chapter of the National Organization of Women, led by chapter president Sue Errington. Anna, the actress who played Sue, is a regular from the Indiana Historical Society, but the other three women were volunteers and included Sue Errington, now a State Representative from Muncie, herself! It turns out that Sue is Anna’s aunt, so when she heard about the bar crawl, she offered to act in the scene. We loved having this extra authentic touch—and appreciated the trove of books, pamphlets, vintage buttons and NOW paraphernalia Sue, Mavis (Sue’s sister, Anna’s mom) and Julie (Anna’s partner) brought with them.
Pacers Proud: One of the decade’s quirkiest events was the improbable Save the Pacers telethon hosted by Coach (now announcer) Bobby Slick Leonard. Thanks to the Indiana Pacers, we were able to host this stop at Bankers Life Field House and view original footage from the 1977 telethon. As everyone left, they got a complimentary Slick Leonard bobble head doll!
Urban Walls: Our route took us past a slowly fading remnant of the Lugar era: Roland Hobart’s 1974 Urban Wall mural. It was the first flowering of a public art initiative by the Mayor’s office to liven up and beautify downtown’s empty lots—one of the first efforts to transform “Nap”town. We paused to share this nearly forgotten icon of 1970s Indianapolis.
Snow Cones: If you talk to anyone who lived in Indiana in the 1970s, they will tell you their memory of the Blizzard of 1978. Of course, we had to end the night with snow cones in honor of the epic snowstorm that caused of the first-ever statewide National Weather Service Advisory for the entire state!
Nosh: Snow cones weren’t the only thematically appropriate foods: we sampled seventies staples like fondue and quiche, as well as got a taste of Elvis’s favorite sandwich—grilled peanut butter, bacon and banana—in honor of the King’s last concert at Market Square Arena.
We are grateful for all the volunteers who helped make this groovy bar crawl happen. Special thanks to Dan Shockley of the Indiana Historical Society and Rebecca Denne of the IUPUI Public History program for their help researching and creating the scenes.