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Southside neighbors reunite for annual picnic

william lester craig day
Posted at 8:46 PM, Aug 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-08 13:12:32-04

INDIANAPOLIS — For years, Babe Denny Park has brought dozens of Hoosiers together on the first Saturday in August, marking a return to home.

It’s been a tradition since 1975- William Lester Craig Day. Craig is one of the men who originally brought the southside neighborhood together after the construction of the interstate, tore it apart.

The multicultural, multi-ethnic neighborhood where Lucas Oil Stadium now stands was once home to a high school, business district and a theatre.

MORE: 'Under the highway': How interstates divided Indianapolis neighborhoods and displaced 17,000 people

“Our families were like this, we just blended - blacks, Jewish, gypsies or whatever. We were all together, and then the highway came," Beatrice Miller, better known as Miz Pete, said.

The infrastructure construction displaced thousands of Hoosiers and destroyed thousands of buildings, including homes.

“When I see all this, I block it out. Because the way it came in was ugly," Miller said.

Robert Jackson says sitting down with neighbors like Miz Pete is a way to learn the rich history of the area.

The pastor didn't grow up in the neighborhood, but went to high school in the area and was invited to the annual picnic by friends years ago.

"I came here a stranger and I inherited a family," Jackson said. "I will come here as long as I have breath in my body because this is home."

Saturday's picnic featured more than just food, games and music - it's the one day each year the neighbors can reconnect.

The hope for future picnics is to engage the next generation so the history of the southside neighborhood is never forgotten.

"As long as these legs keep me going, I'll be out here," Miller said.