Infamous Southern Indiana Sandbar Camper Gets Hilarious Tribute During Fall Festival Lighthouse Parade
'Twas the summer of 2022. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had made their way down the Ohio River to the Evansville riverfront to perform the routine duty of dredging the bottom of the river to ensure barges and other shipping boats that regularly pass through the area on their way to deliver whatever cargo they carried could do so without the risking the chance of running aground. It was a moment boaters around the area had anxiously awaited. For you see, the process of dredging meant the creation of a large, temporary sandbar just downriver as the tons of sand and other sediments dredged from the bottom of the shipping path by the Corps were simply relocated to another part of the river where it would no longer be in the way. The resulting sandbar then becomes a destination where boaters can meet up and hang out for the day without having to travel far. All went according to plan until one morning someone noticed something strange that captivated the region's collective attention.
Camper Appears on a Sandbar in the Middle of the Ohio River in Evansville
Someway, somehow, someone managed to float a camper from the shore to the sandbar, presumably in the middle of the night, and left it there. Photos of the camper and questions asking who put it there and how they did it quickly went viral on Facebook. Those questions were never answered (to my knowledge anyway), but the camper reached legendary status and was given the crass and iconic nickname, "The Poon Saloon."
Photos of boaters and party-goers hanging out with the camper were all over local social media for days until the river began to rise and slowly began to overtake the sandbar. With no one ever coming forward to remove the camper, local TV outlets focused their tower cameras on the camper and live-streamed the shot online so the public could watch in real-time as the river washed away the remaining sand and swept the camper downriver. What a time it was to be alive.
Pumpout Camper Gets Hilarious Tribute at the West Side Nut Club Fall Festival
Three residents who were particularly fascinated by the whole thing were Colette, Vienna, and Lochlan, the children of JoElle Baker Knight. JoElle told me through a series of Facebook messages that the kids thought the camper "was the coolest thing and loved passing it every time" they drove along the riverfront. When the time came to come up with an idea for the annual Lighthouse Parade that takes place during the first night of the West Side Nut Club Fall Festival, an event JoElle herself regularly participated in when she was a kid, the family decided to pay tribute to the city's infamous camper with a small-scale recreation.
With the help of their grandmother, JoElle's mom, Julia, the kids created this stellar tribute to the city's favorite "saloon."
As you may imagine, the hilarious tribute was a huge hit and even won the kids the grand prize for this year's parade. JoElle told me the kids couldn't believe they won and were stopped several times by people on Franklin Street after the parade who wanted to take pictures with it. She said it definitely was a night they'll remember for a long, long time.
JoElle went on to say winning the grand prize trophy is particularly special for Julia who has been battling stage 4 bone cancer for a couple of years and was recently told the cancer had spread rapidly and the treatments she was receiving "were no longer working." Building a lighthouse with her grandkids, in the same way she did with JoElle when she was a kid, was at the top of her bucket list. To have it end with the event's top honor makes the win even more special for all of them.
A huge thanks to JoElle for allowing me to share the story and pictures of possibly one of the greatest entries the Lighthouse Parade has ever seen and for keeping the spirit of the city's most iconic camper alive and well.