The Catholic Diocese of Evansville has announced another round of parish mergers, including several here in Dubois County.

Diocese officials announced this morning that 15 parishes across the area will be consolidated into 6 over the next 2 years as part of ongoing consolidation plans.The merger plan was originally announced at a press conference last September.

Now locally, several Dubois County parishes will be merging over the next couple of years. The St. Ferdinand and St. Henry parishes will merge effective July 1st of next year. Meanwhile, the St. Anthony Parish of St. Anthony and the Sacred Heart parish of Schnellville will merge. Finally, the St. Peter of Celestine and St. Raphael of Dubois parishes will merge. Those 2 mergers will be effective July 1st of 2016.

Tim McGuire is the chief operating officer for the Catholic Diocese of Evansville. He says though change is difficult, the consolidation was needed:

In the end, McGuire says the changes are being made with the best interests of the diocese in mind:

Diocese officials say pastoral announcements will be made at a later date.

Several parishes in Daviess, Martin, and Spencer counties are also merging. Those mergers were announced at last year’s press conference.

The Jasper Train Depot is hosting a special visitor this week in honor of Indiana’s upcoming 200th birthday.

The Indiana Bicentennial Train arrived in town yesterday for a 3 day stay. School groups and many others took time to walk through the train and learn more about Indiana.

The train consists of 3 cars. The first car features exhibits from Indiana’s past, the second car is for the present, and the third car is for the future. The train is being supported by both the Indiana Rail Road Company and the Norfolk Southern Railroad. Local sponsors include Jasper Engines and Transmissions

Marianne Sheline is the director for the train. Sheline says the train came about as a reincarnated version of the Indiana History Train that regularly toured the state. She says bringing the train back is a way to get folks around the state excited about the 2016 bicentennial.

Sheline says the train also serves as a chance for people to learn more about Indiana’s history:

Now the train is not the only part of the exhibit. Tents with an on-location history, activities, and a railroad man’s story reenactment were also set up at the depot.

Heading into the 200th anniversary of Indiana’s founding, there is a lot of talk about the future of transportation. Sheline says the topic will continue to be of interest as time goes on:

Now the train will be in Jasper through tomorrow. It will be open for tours from 9 am to 4 pm.

The train will then move on to Terre Haute for the 3rd of its 4 stop Indiana tour. It will finish its statewide tour in Bargersville.

Last night marked the opening night for this year’s Huntingburg Herbstfest.

Last night featured the opening of the beer garden and various performances throughout the evening. “Overdrive” was on the midway stage from 5:30 til 9 o’clock. Meanwhile the main stage featured a performance from “The Hasbeens” beginning at 8 o’clock. “Flip n Twist” also performed on the main stage at 6:30 pm.

Jennifer Baseden is the chairperson for the Huntingburg Herbstfest committee. She says planning for the year’s fest began back in January and February. She also says the many nonprofit organizations see this weekend as an important one for them:

Some of this year’s booths included the Southridge band boosters, YMI, and March of Dimes among others.

This year’s Herbstfest continues through Sunday. Other highlights include musical performances by Kirby Stailey and Haywire this evening, the BBQ and chili cookoff, outhouse races, and the championship round of the WBDC Cornhole Tournament of Champions tomorrow afternoon.

The Herbstfest concludes Sunday following the parade. The parade gets underway at 2 o’clock.

The most recent round of ISTEP scores was something to celebrate at 10th Street Elementary.

Last night, the school held a cookout and celebration for students and parents in honor of the school’s improvement in the reading assessment of ISTEP. The night featured many different games and prize giveaways as well.

Now the original goal laid out by the school was to get to an 80 percent passing rate in all subcategories of the reading test. The plan to get there was laid out back in 2010 and was originally supposed to take 5 years to complete. However, the school reached their goal in 4 years.

Prinicpal Kent Taylor says the school came close to that 80 percent mark several times within the last 4 years before finally breaking through this year. He says several things including more small group instruction and the addition of strategic writing to the curriculum had a positive impact on scores.

Taylor says in the end, students and parents played the biggest role in getting over the hump:

Results from last year’s reading scores found the district cleared the 80 percent mark by a significant margin in all subcategories. All subcategory scores were at 85 percent and above.

Now the school’s improvement on the ISTEP test was not limited to the reading part of the exam. 10th Street Elementary registered a 76.6% overall passing rate for last year’s ISTEP. That was an improvement of nearly 5 percent over the 2013 test.

Local health officials are now encouraging folks to be smart about keeping their septic systems maintained.

Donna Oeding with the Dubois County Health Department says around 11 thousand new septic systems are installed statewide each year and more than 26 million households depend on septic systems to treat their water. She says homeowners are responsible for maintenence of their septic system to ensure public health and preservation of valuable water resources.

Oeding is also offering several tips on how to keep your system working and to be SepticSmart. These are getting your system inspected every 3 years, avoid pouring fats, grease, and solids down the drain, spreading out water use to be more water efficient, and reminding home guests not to park or drive on a system’s absorption field.

For more information, you can call the Dubois County Health Department at 481-7055. You can also go online to onsite.isdh.in.gov.

The Huntingburg Chamber of Commerce and the Huntingburg Herbstfest are once again partnering for this Saturday’s Farmer’s Market.

For this week only, the city farmer’s market will be at the Huntingburg Municipal Park in front of Dan Merkel Field. The market will be run in conjunction with the weekend’s Herbstfest.

In a news release, Huntingburg Chamber director Nick Stevens says it is an honor to have the 2 community activities held in the same place this weekend. He says it is a great opportunity for the community.

Now the market is looking for local farmers and folks interested in selling produce, flowers, plants, baked goods, meat, and various other homemade/handcrafted items. All items sold have to be grown or made in Dubois or adjoining counties. Booth spaces at the market are 7 dollars a week.

For more information or to become a vendor, you can contact the Chamber at 683-5699.

The Vincennes University Jasper Campus is hosting an open house coming up next week.

The 3 part open house is set to start at 4 pm next Thursday October 2nd. The event is being sponsored by the Jasper Chamber of Commerce, the VUJC Foundation, and the Jasper Arts Center.

The Jasper Chamber will host a “Time Out from Business” event from 4 til 6 pm. That will take place at the Ruxer Center and will feature a self-guided walking tour showcasing the campus and the Jasper Arts Center’s Krempp Gallery. There will also be door prizes available.

Also from 4 to 6, the Center for Technology, Innovation, and Manufacturing will be observing “National Manufacturing Day.” That observation will feature demonstrations of advanced manufacturing processes along with displays from students and local firms.

First Thursday will be held from 5 to 8 pm at the Jasper Arts Center. That event will feature a reception with Louisville painter James Russell May and sculptor Laura Levine of Carmel.