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Made in Dearborn County

Groups visiting Dearborn County, Indiana, should leave extra space in their luggage. The county’s attractions offer plenty of hands-on craft opportunities that result in several memorable souvenirs and gifts.

At Casey’s Outdoor Solutions, groups can shop for garden gifts and make their own suet feeder to attract songbirds. Similarly, a trip to the Southeastern Indiana Art Guild (SIAG) Gallery and Studios goes beyond incredible local art. The group can choose from several crafts to create, bring home and then make again whenever they wish.

“We’ve found that people are looking for hands-on activities with a sense of place experience,” said Sally McWilliams, group sales for the Dearborn County Visitor Center. “I think we’ve been really successful with that. We showcase places off the beaten path you might not think of as an attraction, yet they have been very popular.”

McWilliams works with local attractions to offer groups a plethora of interactive opportunities. Because the area receives so many repeat customers, McWilliams is constantly packaging new experiential activities.

For an itinerary that can offer both baking beer bread and crafting a Victorian ornament, book a tour to southeastern Indiana.

Make a Suet Feeder

Casey’s Outdoor Solutions

When groups enter Casey’s Outdoor Solutions in Lawrenceburg, McWilliams notices a trend. The women tend to flock to the gift shop while the men run to look at the rocks.

“If I have a group of half men and women, I’ll send them to Casey’s,” said McWilliams. “There are things going on there all the time. Groups can listen to a presentation on what flowers attract pollinators. Or they can try a project that is nature-oriented. They offer choices based on your interests.”

One easy “do it yourself” class helps participants create seed-filled suet feeders to attract wild birds. The activity includes materials needed, a glass of “cardinal punch” and a tour of the property’s 1850s log cabin and garden center.

Groups can also make an Indian corn wreath, enjoy a beekeeper presentation and honey tasting, or learn to grow herbs and cook with them.

Garden-themed activities continue at the nearby McCabe’s Greenhouse and Floral. McCabe’s hosts more than 15 hands-on classes, such as Plant a Hanging Door Basket, Create a Japanese Kokedama and Plant a Pollinator Pot.

The family-owned garden center offers tours of its extensive greenhouse nursery production and samples of the center’s homemade gourmet fudge. If chocolate attracts travelers more than flowers, groups can decorate fudge treats with apples, marshmallows and other garnishes.

Paint a Silk Scarf

SIAG Gallery and Studios

A colorful scarf is a great way to make an eye-popping statement. And wearing such a scarf is even more enjoyable when you have made it yourself with the help of the experts at SIAG Gallery and Studios.

“People will book the paint-a-silk-scarf experience because it is so unusual,” said McWilliams. “You learn what materials are required and how to do it. But it requires no talent. You don’t need to know how to draw. It still ends up beautiful.”

The SIAG Gallery and Studios in Aurora offers the wearable art project. Participants can experiment with color, since abstract designs work well with the artform.

The 20-year-old organization displays fine art, photography, wood-crafting art, sculptures and other works from local artists. The nonprofit group promotes visual arts for the tristate area of southeastern Indiana, northern Kentucky and southwestern Ohio.

Groups can dabble in artistic endeavors themselves with the guidance of one of the guild’s resident artists. At one class, participants learn that finger painting is not just for grade school. Finger Paint a Garden requires a brushed background, sprays of water and finger-made flowers.

Other workshops include Create a Mixed Media Note Card, Paint a Gourd Birdhouse and Brush Paint a Canvas.

Beer Bread-Making Demonstration

Great Crescent Brewery

When a group of Amish women asked to try the Beer Bread-Making Demonstration at the Great Crescent Brewery in Aurora, the chef, Lani Valas, expressed some hesitation.

“She said she could not believe she was going to teach Amish women how to bake,” said McWilliams. “They came and were thrilled. They asked so many questions. They were an unexpected target audience.”

The brewery’s owners enjoy trying the unexpected. They offer the Beer Bread-Making Demonstration for those who want something beyond a simple beer tasting and tour. The interactive experience allows guests to watch Valas bake the bread before being sent home with their own beer bread mix. During the demonstration, groups can sample several varieties, such as pepperoni and cheese, or blueberries and walnuts.

For more of a challenge, the brewery also offers a basket-weaving workshop. Though it is more difficult than bread-making, inexperienced visitors can still walk away with a handsome basket.

Great Crescent Brewery opened in 2008 and grew from a small location to reside in a spacious 1843 former distillery warehouse. The name Great Crescent pays tribute to Aurora’s Crescent Brewery Company founded in 1873.

Groups can discover the brewery’s history and most popular beers during a tour. The brewery offers several locally sourced sandwiches served on homemade buns or pretzel buns with chips.

Create a Victorian Ornament

Hillforest Victorian House Museum

Built on a bluff overlooking the Ohio River, the Hillforest Victorian House Museum never fails to catch the eye of visitors to Aurora. Industrialist and financier Thomas Gaff built the house in 1855 to blend Italian Renaissance architecture with the style of the then-modern steamboat.

This unusual pairing resulted from Gaff’s involvement with the shipping industry. Groups can now examine the home’s full-width front porch modeled after a steamboat’s deck, along with other singular designs.

The home’s architecture and setting are so striking that many group leaders started asking McWilliams for a hands-on activity in the space. To align with the well-attended Victorian Christmas experience, where the home is decked in 1800s decorations, the mansion started offering Create a Victorian Ornament.

“People tell me they love that it is not complicated and not offered other places,” said McWilliams. “We can even do Christmas in July for groups that don’t want to travel in the winter. Groups hear a program about Victorian Christmas traditions and then create pretty ornaments with scrap materials. People who are scrapbooking like it because it uses ribbons and glue.”

Costumed docents offer tours of this National Historic Landmark from April through December.