Why is it called the Hoosier State? Ah, that's an excellent question -- and one, apparently, that can't be answered with absolute certainty. There are a handful of theories, with two popping to the surface as the most plausible for the 19th state in the union. One story has it that when Sam Hoosier helped to build a canal on the Ohio River, he hired mostly rough-and-ready men from Indiana to do the job, and they were often referred to as Hoosier's men. The second and arguably most popular theory goes something like this: During the wild and unpredictable frontier times, when making an unexpected visit to a friend's home, folks would call out a common greeting to avoid being thought of as an unfriendly trespasser -- and, thus, treated as such. In response to the call, people in their homes would reply, "Who's there?" but it would come out sounding more like, "Who'sh 'ere." And so a name was born.
The friendly greeting version of the lore may or may not be the word's true etymology, but the Hoosier State is indeed a pretty amiable place to pack up for a getaway, especially if the great outdoors is your bag. The nearly 100-year-old state park system, the fourth largest in the nation, includes 24 state parks, 13 state forests, 14 nature preserves, and 9 reservoirs on which to float, fish, dive, and dunk, and shares a crescent-shaped northern border with Lake Michigan. Along that stretch sits the city of Gary, birthplace of the famous (and, at times, infamous) Michael Jackson and his singing siblings. Actually, if you wanted to tour the state based on its famous sons and daughters alone, you could easily satiate starry-eyed interests. Indiana spawned James Dean (from Fairmount, where a festival in his honor is held every year on the day of his passing), white-haired popcorn icon Orville Redenbacher (Brazil; see below for information on the annual popcorn festival), Cole Porter (Peru), Jane Pauley (Indianapolis), the Wright Brothers (Millville), Kurt Vonnegut (Indianapolis), Jimmy Hoffa (who may not be buried there, but was born in Brazil), John Mellencamp (Seymour), Vivica Fox (Indianapolis), Sydney Pollack (Lafayette), and that gap-toothed beacon of late-night hilarity, Indianapolis's own David Letterman. More famous, though, than its illustrious former residents, the state's true star may well be its limestone, which was used to build the Pentagon, the Empire State Building, and, more recently, the Holocaust Memorial Museum.