This September 30th marks the 60th anniversary of James Dean’s tragic death, but his spirit lives on stronger than ever in his hometown of Fairmount, IN…
Grant County in north-central Indiana has quite the claim to fame… It’s “where cool was born,” and Fairmount, the town where James Dean spent his childhood and even caught the acting bug on the high school stage still celebrates their hometown hero 60 years after his passing with their annual James Dean Festival.
(Side note: Dean was actually born in the nearby Grant County city of Marion. They too celebrated his life this year by unveiling a new memorial at his birthplace.)
Most of the year, the town of Fairmount isn’t unlike most small midwest farm towns… quiet and peaceful, but this past weekend the town came alive as it was flooded with thousands of classic cars and James Dean fans from across the globe.
Like past years, the James Dean Festival was anchored by the massive James Dean Run car show with everything from perfectly restored classics to radical customs.
Front and center as usual… The Ford James Dean drove to high school:
and as always, the Mercury Corral was filled with beautiful early Mercs…
In a nod to Jimmy’s love for motorcycles, the James Dean Run also featured a new exhibit of early Triumphs, Indians, and Harleys.
The most popular car of the show, however, was this replica of the Porsche Spyder Dean drove to his death. Painstakingly crafted to mimic the original “Little Bastard,” the car had a constant stream of people stopping for photos like Dean fan fiction author Scott Brimigion pictured below.
The car show was just part of the celebration, though. Uptown Fairmount featured a full street fair with rides and vendors selling all your street food favorites. The stage also featured live music and the James Dean Look-a-Like Contest, an annual favorite.
The James Dean Festival is also the perfect time to stop by the Fairmount Historical Museum which features everything from James Dean’s baby clothes to memorabilia from his 3 blockbuster movies.
This year also featured the release of James Dean: On the Road to Salinas, an incredibly detailed account of Dean’s final days. Lucky for us, the author, Lee Raskin, was on hand to sign copies.
Having been attending the James Dean Festival for the past 30 years, this year’s festival wasn’t unlike past trips to Fairmount, and that’s part of why we love going each year… His hometown, like him, is timeless. Each year we know what we’ll find… Classic cars, rare Dean memorabilia, and thousands of fellow James Dean fans. There’s something wonderful about a small-town festival that still draws thousands of visitors each year, just to celebrate its hometown hero. His old high school may be coming down, but the actor’s legacy lives on each September, even 60 years after his passing.
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