SEPTEMBER 28, 2019 PERSIMMON FESTIVAL
Andy Mullen’s vision for the 73rd annual Persimmon Festival is to celebrate Mitchell’s diverse assets and the connection the community has to places around the globe.
That’s why he chose Bedford’s Dan Bortner to serve as the grand marshal of the Persimmon Festival Parade, slated for Sept. 28. Bortner, who has served as the director of Indiana State Parks since 2005, is representing the role public lands play in the diversity of southern Indiana.
“With our theme ‘Mitchell Around the World,’ I knew Dan and his work with our state parks would perfectly embody the festival’s vision,” said Mullen, who is the general chairman of this year’s festival, set for Sept. 21-28.
Bortner, who has enjoyed visiting the Persimmon Festival his entire life, said he never expected to be chosen to lead the parade.
“I am very, very excited. I certainly didn’t see this coming,” Bortner said. “Being a Lawrence County resident my whole life, the Persimmon Festival has always been a big deal for us. … Knowing the amount of work that goes into planning it every year, especially the parade, and getting to be a part of that is very humbling.”
As director of Indiana State Parks, Bortner oversees the operation of 32 state parks and reservoirs, including Mitchell’s Spring Mill State Park, and he’s served three governors: Mitch Daniels, Mike Pence and Eric Holcomb. He’s currently the third-longest serving state park director in the nation and relishes his role as vice president of the National Association of State Park Directors.
“The Persimmon Festival is a big deal, not just for Lawrence County, but for all of southern Indiana as one of the largest festivals in the state,” Bortner said. “The honor here is not about me, but it’s about Indiana State Parks. … Coincidentally, parade day is the same day as National Public Lands Day, so I am looking forward to bringing that connection together and talk about the true treasure we have in Spring Mill State Park.”
Bortner also serves on the board of directors for the America’s State Parks Foundation and the Indiana University Executive Development Program’s board of trustees. He and his wife April are the parents of three adult children, Ashley Barnes (and husband Clayton Barnes), Alex Bortner and Dylan Bortner. They have one grandchild, Claire Barnes.
“Our family has always enjoyed the Persimmon Festival, … and we look forward to visiting it every year,” Bortner said.