1982: Contest asks Hoosiers to create ‘Wander Indiana’ theme song

Posted at 5:33 AM, Sep 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-22 13:41:56-04

INDIANAPOLIS — The Wander Indiana campaign began in January 1982 with the goal of attracting more tourists to the Hoosier state.

The Tourism Office of the Department of Commerce launched the campaign with a budget of $390,000 in 1982.

The promotional campaign had its own logo and even a line of merchandise known as Wander Ware. One thing it was missing, though, was a song.

Name that tune

With no money allotted for recording its own song, the Department of Commerce turned to Hoosiers.

It held a contest for the public to submit song entries with the chance of becoming the official Wander Indiana theme song.

“You need a song,” Jan Diggins, the director of tourism development for the Department of Commerce, told WRTV in August 1982. “It’s a good form of advertising and people get a tune in their head and they go around humming and singing it all day.”

The prize-less contest was a priceless opportunity for 81 entrants.

WRTV reporter Derrik Thomas noted that the Tourism Office of the Department of Commerce looked less like an office and more like a music studio.

Thomas listened to a few of the entries, which spanned genres from gospel to jazz.

Music to my Earmark

Lt. Gov. John Mutz’s Tourism Advisory Council announced the winning entry in September 1982.

The song, appropriately titled Wander Indiana, was created by a music production company named Earmark Inc.

Earmark, composed entirely of Hoosiers, donated the work, which was written by W. Douglass Benge and arranged by Pete Schmutte. The song was recorded at Soundsmith Recording in Indianapolis.

Indiana Governor Robert Orr heralded the song, saying it would be a welcome change from Michigan’s, “Say Yes to Michigan,” campaign which at the time had plagued Hoosier airwaves.

“It is my understanding that it is much more logical, all of us having to listen to that awful thing that has been on the tube and on the air so frequently promoting a state to the north of us, with song and lyrics, it’s going to be nice for us here in Hoosierland to have our own song where we can promote the state of Indiana.”

While Earmark presented the song as a country piece, it was selected for its versatility. The work could easily be arranged for rock, symphony, big band or marching bands.

1982: 'Wander Indiana' theme song

Wander Indiana Lyrics

Breathe in the mornin’ sunshine on an Indiana Day.
Then make the most of your time.
Come and play the Indiana way.
Wander Indiana, there’s so much here for you to see and do.
Wander Indiana, Indiana’s ready now for you.
In Indiana, there’s time to call your own.
But you’ll never be alone, cause we’re your friends.
From the cities to the towns to the hills.
The feelin’ lives.
It never ends.
Wander Indiana, let your wanderin’ spirit come on thru.
Wander Indiana, Indiana’s ready now for you.
In Indiana, there’s sky and air to breathe.
And a way for you to be more like yourself.
You’ll find the people are anxious to be known.
As folks to turn to when you need help.
And in Indiana, there’s good times made for you.
No matter what you do or what you like.
Indiana has the place and the way.
Give us a try.
Give us a try.
Drink in the painted sunset of an Indiana day.
And come see all you get.
Come and play the Indiana way.
Wander Indiana, let you wanderin’ spirit come on thru.
Wander Indiana, Indiana’s ready now for you.