City editor

A documentary on the Courthouse Girls calendar saga will make its network television debut Thursday evening on PBS channel WIPB. Courthouse Girls of Farmland airs July 31 at 9 p.m. on WIPB.

The story began in the summer of 2005, soon after the Randolph County Commissioners voted to tear down the county courthouse and build a new one. Members of a Farmland bridge club came up with a plan to raise money for a campaign to stop the demolition and draw attention to the plight of the condemned building.

With help from a noted local photographer and a printing company, the bridge club members - aged 77 to 94 - created a calendar with photos of themselves in suggested states of undress.

The calendar created a controversy, making the local courthouse an issue that was discussed across the state and, to a lesser extent, across the nation. Calendar sales raised more than $45,000 for historic preservation and community improvement.

"The calendar is only one part of this story," said co-executive producer Angela Soper. "The bigger issue is what's happening to small towns all across America, especially those with history to be preserved in the form of their buildings, their culture and the lives of their citizens.

"It's also a story about the value offered society by those who are older."

She said the film is not only about those who worked to save the courthouse. The team of filmmakers made a point to talk to people who were against saving it and express a differing point of view.

"We really wanted to get other people's opinions as much as possible," she said.

Soper said the Muncie PBS broadcast will be the first time the program has been widely available to the public. It was previously seen only in showings to private groups and at film festivals.

"Right now we're just trying to get it out there," she said. "The more play it can get, the better. We feel we will have more of a chance to get a distributor interested."

WIPB General Manager Alice Cheney said Courthouse Girls of Farmland is an excellent documentary on the revitalization of a small community.

"We are thrilled to have been a part of the production," Cheney said.

WIPB Marketing Manager Angela Rapp said, as the presenting station, WIPB has offered the Courthouse Girls documentary to all the Indiana Public Broadcasting Service (IPBS) stations. Those stations include: WNIT-TV South Bend/Elkhart, WFWA-TV Fort Wayne, WYIN-TV Merrillville, WFYI-TV Indianapolis, WVUT-TV Vincennes, WNIN-TV Evansville and WTIU-TV Bloomington. At this time all the stations have expressed an intent to air the program.

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