Watch for photos of Flat Ned Riley to show up on social media when the #travelingwwithjwriley campaign begins March 1. Submitted photo
Watch for photos of Flat Ned Riley to show up on social media when the #travelingwwithjwriley campaign begins March 1. Submitted photo
GREENFIELD — Meet Flat Ned Riley. He’s a happy guy, smiling, about eight inches tall. Dapperly dressed in a suit and tie. Pince nez spectacles perched on his nose. Top hat on his head. And, well, he’s flat.

If Flat Ned Riley looks familiar, it’s because of his resemblance to his close relative Ned the NineStar Nerd from NineStar Connect. Through a partnership between NineStar Connect and the James Whitcomb Riley Boyhood Home and Museum, cut-out images of Flat Ned Riley will soon be traversing the county, the state, the country and very possibly the world.

If you’re familiar with the children’s book “Flat Stanley” by Jeff Brown, then you know where this is going. In “Flat Stanley,” Stanley wakes up one day to find himself flat. The book then details all of Stanley’s adventures while being flat, such as sliding under doors and such. The book spurred a popular classroom activity where children take a cut-out of Flat Stanley everywhere they go and take pictures of themselves with Flat Stanley on the playground, at the grocery, at piano lessons and soccer practice and so forth.

On March 1, the Riley Boyhood Home will launch its “Traveling with JW Riley” campaign. Cut-out images of Ned Riley, printed on foamcore board will be delivered to community leaders and interested teachers throughout the county.

“My job is to keep Riley relevant,” said Stacey Poe, coordinator of the home and accompanying museum next door. “It’s our claim to fame.”

Poe hopes to get community leaders on board to take Ned to work or to businesses and other locations around town. Then, according to plan, people will take a selfie of themselves with Ned and post it on Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag #travelingwithjwriley.

Joanie Fitzwater, Zoning Administrator for the city of Greenfield, plans to take her Flat Ned to a planning commission meeting or a council meeting. She’s also hoping to get an inspector from the building commission to take Ned to the top of a tall building.

“He can get a good view of what Greenfield looks like today,” Fitzwater said.

Over Spring Break, Fitzwater hopes to introduce Ned to snow skiing.

“Since he’s a flatlander,” Fitzwater said, laughing at her own pun, “that would be something totally new for him.”

Another focus for Poe is outreach to schools. Poe worked with former Greenfield-Central School Corporation assistant superintendent Ann Vail to put together a curriculum plan that included James Whitcomb Riley.

Shana Wolfenberger, a second grade teacher at Mt. Comfort Elementary School in Mt. Vernon school district has been teaching a unit on James Whitcomb Riley for all of her 22 years in education. Wolfenberger’s Riley curriculum includes the study of four poems, a visit to the Riley Boyhood Home and participation in the laying of the wreath at Riley’s grave in Crown Hill Cemetery each October.

With a focus on history, Wolfenberger looks forward to incorporating Flat Ned Riley into her syllabus. With the unit being taught in October, her students could take Ned Riley with them on Fall Break.

“It would be a history lesson,” Wolfenberger mused. “What would Riley see now as he travels?”

The “Traveling with J. W. Riley” campaign will run through the end of the year.

“It’s so hard for us to comprehend that a poet could have been famous,” Poe said. “It’s an odd concept, but he was known all over the country and all over the world.”

The more selfies that are posted, the more local hashtags.

“And hopefully,” Poe said, “one of them might spur a ‘hey, let’s go visit this.’”
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