Indianapolis man has fond memories of family campout in Blizzard of 1978


Editor's note: In 1978, Rich Van Wyk was starting his career as a reporter. He remembers covering the Blizzard of 1978 and, in particular, remembered meeting a family camping in the park during the snow. He tracked down the video from forty years ago and then found the family.

INDIANAPOLIS - While most Indiana families huddled in their homes trying to stay warm and out of the snow, one Indiana family decided it was perfect camping weather. The blizzard that started January 25, 1978 brought more than 15 inches of snow, winds gusting to nearly 50 miles and hour and snow drifts 20 feet high.

Kent Demmary moved his family into an 18-foot tall tee pee he set up in Ellenberger Park on the east side of Indianapolis. Demmary, his sons Brett and Mark and their friend Ellen Eads were experienced winter campers. In fact, the family had just returned from another camping trip where the temperature was 20 degrees below zero.

Demmary explained this was their way of escaping all the news and mayhem around them.

“It’s getting back to real things. It’s doing without things we don’t need, and living with the things that are alive and feeling good,” Eads said.

Demmary and Eads were teachers at Arsenal Technical High School. At the time, Demmary told Eyewitness News he tried to get the right permits.

“We talked to the gentleman at the mayor’s office, and he suggested that before we could do this legally, we would have to have permission from pollution control because of the campfire. We’d have to have something from the sanitation department because of our indoor plumbing over there. We have fresh water, but we just needed all kinds of clearance. We didn’t get it. The man just said, “Go ahead. Nobody’s going to hassle you,” Demmary said.

As the 40th anniversary of the blizzard approached, Eyewitness News tracked down Brett Demmary, who was 11 years old at the time we met him. He is the young boy seen chopping firewood in the video.

“Wow! That is amazing,” Brett said as he watched the story from 1978. He said the video brought back what he calls one of his best childhood memories.

“It was fun to get out of school, go camping with no body there. It was a good time.”

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