Caravan provides thrills for small Indiana town

Caravan provides thrills for small Indiana town

Caravan provides thrills for small Indiana town
VEVAY, Ind. -- The Hughes family can boast being the iron horses of their community when it comes to attendance at school. Illnesses and family vacations never prevent 7-year-old second-grader Tanner from making it to class.

Tanner Hughes' perfect attendance streak was stopped on a dime Friday, however, when the Reds Caravan rolled into town. That was especially since the contingent included one of his favorite players, Brandon Phillips. Tanner's father, Greg, who boasted 12 straight years of perfect attendance at school when he was a boy, decided it was worth it.

"I've never missed a day. It was a little bit of a challenge for me to decide that," said Greg, a bank manager. "I came last year and there were very few kids down here, but it was such a neat event. I thought I'd love to bring Tanner if it could work out. I was worried about the perfect attendance thing, of course."

Tanner did have a tardy on his record for being late to school last semester because his father was running behind one morning and that clinched the family's decision.

"If I didn't get that one-minute tardy, I wouldn't be here," said Tanner, who will turn eight in February.

The Reds wouldn't promote skipping school, but they had a solution to Tanner's issue -- a note from Reds radio voice Marty Brennaman.

"I respectfully request that Tanner Hughes be granted an excused absence from second grade classes at Dillsboro Public School today, January 28th," the note read below Reds letterhead. "Realizing that he has not missed a day of school this year, but realizing that the opportunity to attend a Reds Caravan stop following a National League Central Division championship has not occurred in 15 years, we cite this as a remarkable circumstance that is worthy of your consideration."

Brennaman called Tanner on to the stage and presented him with the note, which will soon be arriving to the inbox of the school principal.

"He's going to expect it from Tanner on Monday," Greg Hughes said.

The whole school probably won't need to wait that long to be regaled about the Reds' visit to the historic Hoosier Theatre on Ferry Street. The population of Vevay (pronounced Vee-Vee) is only around 1,500 people despite being about an hour from downtown Cincinnati. All of Switzerland County, Ind., has a population of less than 10,000 residents.

The area is known for establishing the first winery in the United States in the early 1800s. There were certainly no sour grapes about the Reds visiting town.

"Sometimes we get more people at the casino than the entire county," said Angie Satterfield from Switzerland County tourism. "It's awesome because the buzz for the Caravan starts so far in advance. Everyone wanted to know the date and who was on the Caravan."

The Vevay stop was one of many this week for the western leg of 2011 Reds Caravan that featured Phillips, Brennaman, Devin Mesoraco and assistant general manager Bob Miller. The group was coming off a huge stop Thursday night at Triple-A Louisville's ballpark, Louisville Slugger Field, that attracted around 1,500 fans.

"It has been sensational. We are the 'rock star group' and that's the way it is," Brennaman said. "[Thursday] night, we had the biggest crowd of any Reds Caravan group."

Stopping in Vevay was meaningful for Brennaman since his annual golf event to benefit the Reds Community Fund is always held at the Belterra Casino and Resort just outside of the small town along the Ohio River.

"Switzerland County is a big sponsor of our golf event," Brennaman said. "The fact it just worked out that I was on this part of the Caravan and happened to come here was perfect for me. These people have been so good to us with their devotion to the golf tournament. It was nice to be able to come back here personally to let them know how important they are to us."

After a question and answer session, the roughly 200 fans inside the Hoosier Theatre were able to get autographs and pictures with the Reds group. And that included Tanner, who asked Phillips to sign his Reds shirt.

Then it was time for the traveling party to get back on the bus. More stops awaited, including Friday night's public stop in Bloomington, Ind.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for Read his blog, Mark My Word and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.