Visit Fairmount, Indiana for Nostalgic Vibes

Even though Fairmount, Indiana is a small community, you could easily spend several days honoring local celebrities, uncovering Hollywood lore and experiencing the fabulous 50s. Nostalgia is everywhere in this idyllic town. We invite you to explore the charming streets, relive classic moments and immerse yourself in our cool small-town vibe.

Classic and Cool Celebrities

James Dean

On February 8, 1931, James Dean was born in Marion, Indiana. Following the death of his mother when Dean was only nine years old, his father sent him, an only child, to live with his aunt and uncle on their farm in nearby Fairmount. During his childhood in Fairmount, he developed interests in bullfighting, car racing and theater. In high school, Dean played baseball and basketball, studied drama and competed in public speaking. Upon graduation, he moved to Hollywood. There, he attended UCLA majoring in drama. His acting career took off after he played the role of Malcolm in Macbeth and participated in James Whitmore’s acting workshop.

James Dean’s career soared, quickly becoming a 1950s Hollywood icon. He starred in three films during his brief career: East of Eden (1955), Rebel Without a Cause (1955) and Giant (1956). In these roles, he portrayed a rebellious and often tormented young man who was restless and disillusioned.

In 1955, James Dean’s short life came to a tragic end. On September 30, Dean was driving his new Porsche from Los Angeles to Salinas, and he hit another vehicle. Everyone involved recovered from their injuries, except for James Dean who died instantly. He was only 24 years old.

He is affectionately remembered as redefining what it means to be cool. His tremendous talent plus his love of cars and motorcycles led to living his short life to the fullest. The Fairmount community celebrates James Dean every day at the James Dean Museum and James Dean Gallery. To demonstrate his larger-than-life persona, tall cut-out murals were installed in 2021 and 2022 by renowned muralist John Cerney. These displays capture some of James Dean’s famous roles and are impressive selfie spots.

Jim Davis

Jim Davis, Garfield the Cat, Odie, Fairmount Indiana famous natives

Growing up on a Fairmount, Indiana farm, Jim Davis was surrounded by barn cats. Lots of them – twenty-five to be exact! As a child, he spent lots of time doodling and, of course, some on his favorite subjects were cats. All that drawing led to pursuing a degree in art and business at Ball State University in nearby Muncie, Indiana.

Following graduation, one of his first cartoon strip attempts was called Gnorm Gnat. The newspapers rejected it, citing a bug was unrelatable. Undeterred, Davis literally went back to the drawing board to develop the perfect critter to star in his comic strip. At the time, there were lots of comic strips about dogs, but none about cats. So, again he started sketching cats, inspired by the cats he knew on his family farm. Eventually, he settled on an orange, fat, lazy cat. And, a star was born!

Cool Cat, Garfield Trail, Fairmount Historical Museum, James Dean

Davis named the cat, Garfield. Then, in 1978, the first Garfield comic strip was accepted by the United Feature Syndicate for national distribution in newspapers around the country. This lasagna-loving cat quickly became a fan favorite and remains one of the most popular cartoon characters in the world.

In town, you’ll spot Garfield outside the Fairmount Historical Museum dressed in a red jacket like the one James Dean wore in the movie, Rebel without a Cause. This statue is part of the Garfield Trail that winds throughout Grant County and includes 13 other glossy Garfields in various poses. You’ll want to get selfies with them all! Use #followthefatcat! to share your feline photos.

Annual Big Doin’s

During the last weekend of every September, the Remembering James Dean Festival takes place in downtown Fairmount. This weekend aligns with the untimely and tragic death of this Hollywood icon. Along with the downtown festival, the James Dean Run Car Show takes place in Playacres Park. Be there or be square.

A local memorial service is planned annually on September 30 at the Back Creek Friends Church in Fairmount, followed by a pilgrimage to James Dean’s burial site in nearby Park Cemetery.

Other events include the James Dean Fans Spring Get Together typically in late May and the James Dean Spring Run Car Show in late June.

Every summer on Wednesday evenings, live music is performed on the James Dean Memorial Stage in Playacres Park. This is the exact same stage on which James Dean performed at Fairmount High School. It has been carefully preserved inside the Lions Club building.  Bands travel hours to perform on this special memorial stage. Admission to Fairmount Concerts at the Stage is free.

Shake, Rattle & Roll Shopping

In Fairmount, you’ll find shops that specialize in treasures, especially from the 1950s era. Take a walk down memory lane while you visit these shops.

Back Home on Main – histories and mysteries line the shelves in this gem of a shop.

D & M Variety – packed with a passion for the past.

Flea King – some new, but mostly used and vintage items. No fleas here.

Minerva’s Treasures – this consignment store has vintage clothing, household items and décor. You might just find your saddle-shoe-worthy 1950s outfit here!

Rebel Rebel – this 1950s collectibles shop is so nice, we named it twice.

Chews and Brews

Downing Vineyard and Winery – visit for a soothing taste on the weekends.

Bad Dad Brewing Co. – a fun brewery with a sense of humor.

Grains & Grill – delicious upscale, right next door to Bad Dad Brewing Co. Combine both experiences for a fun evening out!

The Branch – best known for coffee, homemade soups and freshly made sandwiches. 

Fairmount’s Humble History

After being settled mostly by Quakers in the 1830s, the town of Fairmount was originally known for its rich soil and was incorporated in 1870. Soon thereafter, natural gas was discovered in the area and this town benefitted from the Indiana Gas Boom until the early 1900s. During the “boom”, the town swelled with workers and their families drilling for natural gas and working in the glass factories that popped up then. Once the natural gas was depleted, the town settled into a peaceful community that has produced notable celebrities from authors and comic strip creators to television journalists and Hollywood movie stars. Despite the famous residents, Fairmount remains humble.

Fairmount is located on the southcentral portion of Grant County on Hwy 26. You can access it easily off of I-69 using Exit 55/255. Marion, the county seat, is only 12 miles north of Fairmount on SR 9.

Other Grant County dining options.

Places to stay.

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Grant County

About Grant County

Grant County, Indiana, is home to nifty attractions, outtasight events and rebellious celebrities. Whether it’s saddle shoes, classic cars, vintage bikes, James Dean, or Garfield, we love everything classic and cool. Have a blast just 90 minutes North of Indy.

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