In The Spotlight
Brad Igou sets record straight on Amish By Dan Nephin, Staff Writer firstname.lastname@example.org
Brad Igou's interest in other cultures, and the Amish in particular, had a practical origin.
His mother was a local tour guide, and he needed a summer job while in college.
Through work at The Amish Experience, he began meeting Amish people and, partly influenced by that, decided to change majors to sociology and anthropology.
"By my senior year in college, I did an independent study and actually lived with an Amish family," he said.
After graduating, he joined the Peace Corps, then taught English in Japan. While there, the movie "Witness" came out and he was sought out by the Japanese media for his insight into the Amish, which reinforced his connection.
He's president of The Amish Experience in Bird-in-Hand and publishes the monthly tourist guide, Amish Country News.
"People come here with all kinds of conceptions about different things that they pick up through movies and the media -- long before any of this stuff was going on," he said, referring to Discovery Channel's "Amish Mafia."
Igou, sensing both an educational and business opportunity, has developed a tour to dispel the show's nonsense. "If you're curious about something and you want to learn more,'' he said, "then the important thing is to see what sources you're using and we want to be another voice besides the voice of the 'Amish Mafia.' "
Family/pets: Single and missing my dog. It's still great getting a home-cooked meal from my mother.
Hometown: Hanover, but I consider Lancaster home since we moved here when I was 5.
Residence: East Hempfield.
Education: McCaskey High School (a city boy); summa cum laude, Ithaca College, sociology/anthropology; and life in general every day.
How'd I get this job: When I came back from teaching English in Japan, I thought a part-time job again in tourism was the best immediate option. I was hired at Mill Bridge Village and the owner thought I might be good marketing a consortium of attractions that then included Amish Country Tours, Plain & Fancy and the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire. I had no marketing experience, but I guess his recommendation and my knowledge of the area made them think I was teachable.
What I enjoy most about my work: All the different talents I get to use, or must learn, and when I see that what we do often means so much to people of all ages and all nationalities. Our relatively small staff does a LOT of work, and I so much appreciate them and the mentoring from my partners. I am proud I get to work with them every day, and every day is different.
The most challenging part of my job: Since we essentially run four businesses that could each be a stand-alone company elsewhere in the county, the broad range of questions and challenges that present themselves on any given day gives new meaning to multitasking and prioritizing, without losing the big picture perspective. I'm still learning.
Growing up, I wanted to be: An actor or drama teacher (at least that's what I said as the paper's "Teen of the Week" when I was in McCaskey High).
Someone I really admire: Martin Luther King and Gandhi, who showed the world it was possible to achieve tremendous change nonviolently -- but at a price. The "I Have a Dream" speech still moves me. Currently, I admire those who serve in our armed services because I don't believe we average Americans have any idea of what they are going through, and the sacrifices they and their families make.
Music on my iPod/MP3 player: Actually, I am old-fashioned and still prefer CDs. They far outnumber what I have digitally. Since junior high, I have been a collector of film music from here and around the world.
Pet peeve: People who are so locked into their beliefs that they want to force them on others, or are unwilling to listen to a different perspective or opinion and give it its due.
My favorite meal is: Mom's lasagna (sorry, it's just not chicken pot pie), virtually any good soup, and corn in all its variations, especially local [freshly] picked corn on the cob.
Something always in my refrigerator is: Leftovers. I just can't make soup for one.
Best movie I've seen recently: Tough choice. "Lincoln," "Zero Dark Thirty," "Life of Pi" and any Pixar movie.
Best advice I've ever received: "Judge not that ye be not judged."
People would be surprised to know: I was actually quite adventurous when I was in the Peace Corps in Costa Rica, whether it was climbing volcanoes or boating down jungle rivers. In fact, many people have no idea I worked in agricultural extension in Costa Rica for three years, taught English in Japan for eight years, traveled in China alone for three months just after it opened to the West, and lived on an Amish farm for three months. All ... have enriched my life.n