Posted on March 8, 2021 by Indiana's Cool North
Michael Pentos says he doesn’t know how he missed it all these years.
“I spent years driving through Indiana to get to my mother-in-law’s house in Ohio,” says the Chicago resident. “We’d travel there every summer and most holidays, and I don’t think I stopped in Indiana for anything other than lunch or gas.”
Today Pentos says he views Indiana, specifically the small towns and cities of Northern Indiana, as the “there,” a destination offering culture, community and a little peace and quiet that’s only a short car ride away.
“I feel guilty that I spent hours driving to get away from the city for a little R&R with my wife when I could’ve been from my front door to a place like Shipshewana in a couple of hours,” says the retired Chicago Public Schools employee.
This summer, the Pentoses plan on returning to Indiana to take advantage of some of the state’s vibrant fests, including their favorite, the Valparaiso Popcorn Festival.
“We’ve had a lot of fun there in the past,” Pentos says. “It’s just a well-run event, and the wonderful smell of popcorn stays with you for days.”
Northern Indiana has become a destination for many Chicagoans in recent years. Whether that’s due to limited travel budgets, increased gas prices or the simple desire for a brief respite from city and suburban life depends on the individual or family. But if the Pentoses’ accidental love affair with Indiana is any indication, you might want to consider working Illinois’ next-door neighbor into your summer plans.
A good way to sample what Northern Indiana has to offer is to visit its summer fests. As Pentos learned, the experiences there – and the unexpected pastoral locales, the sounds of Americana and the smells of fresh-baked goodness – are hard to forget.
When: June 17-20, 2021
Since 1988, jazz legends and fans have gathered each summer for a memorable weekend at the Elkhart Jazz Festival. Combining warm, intimate, small-town hospitality with the excitement of big city jazz, the Elkhart Jazz Festival has become an internationally acclaimed event. Today, the festival showcases more than 100 performers and draws an audience of 20,000 to our community celebration of America’s classic art form – jazz.
When: June 23-26, 2021
At some point in her or his life, anyone who’s ever created or admired a quilt should make the trip to the Shipshewana Quilt Festival. Sure, you’ll be able to admire the numerous labors of love displayed throughout the festival grounds, but you’ll also be able to communicate your tips, your stories and your appreciation of this unique American art form with others who share your passion.
When: August 5-8, 2021
Start in the Marketplace surrounding the Amish Acres farm pond, where you’ll find artisans and crafters displaying and selling their work. Stages provide musical entertainment throughout the weekend. And don’t forget the food. Homemade baked goods and tantalizing sandwiches will tempt and tame your appetite as you work your way through a true slice of Americana.
Where: Michigan City
When: August 5-8, 2021
Speed + water + big boat = Are you kidding me?
Let’s forget about the pastoral, acoustic Indiana experience for a second and focus on something really loud, like large boats roaring across Lake Michigan.
The perfect marriage of speed and strength will be on display at the Great Lakes Grand Prix, as some of the largest and most powerful race boats in the world speed across the southernmost tip of Lake Michigan for what is anticipated to be an exciting race. The fun kicks off on Thursday, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Washington Park, and then continues the next day with the First Friday Art Walk & Taste of Michigan City. Saturday offers a parade and block party and the fun culminates on Sunday with the big race.
When: Sept 2-6, 2021
The annual Blueberry Festival is set for Labor Day weekend, and you can be sure that Centennial Park will be the place to be for all things blueberry, including concerts, food, carnival rides, crafts, fireworks and more. The schedule of events offers a summer’s worth of fun, all in one weekend. Go ahead and pay homage to the berry that seems to have made its way off of the pancake and out of the muffin, and into the hearts and stomachs of health-minded individuals everywhere, thanks to its high level of antioxidants. Oh, forget the antioxidants and grab some blueberry ice cream. You’ll have time to work it off walking through the festival.
When: Sept. 11, 2021
Somewhere, Orville Redenbacher is smiling. The Indiana native and Purdue University graduate must be proud to see the Popcorn Festival celebrating its 39th year. And he no doubt gets a kick out of seeing the games, the five-mile run, the Cutest Baby contest, the Hot Wheels race, the food booths, the arts and crafts exhibitors and the parade thrive in this community that has embraced its role in producing the snack that is as American as it gets.