OFFBEAT: Mint Fest offers change to ride railways of yesteryear

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column
2014-06-13T00:00:00Z 2014-06-13T12:47:04Z OFFBEAT: Mint Fest offers change to ride railways of yesteryearBy Philip Potempa, (219) 852-4327

Yes, today is Friday the 13th.

But this weekend also welcomes the 37th Annual Mint Festival in North Judson in neighboring Starke County. This year's theme is "Mint Is Supreme in 2014."

One of the highlights of a trek to North Judson, besides the sweet smell of lush fields of spearmint and peppermint — the area's trademark "money crop," is a trains ride at Hoosier Valley Railroad and Museum.

"It's the chance to rekindle old memories or create new memories by riding the rails during North Judson's Mint Festival Weekend," said Loretta Kosloske of Hoosier Valley Railroad and Museum.

She said the train will leave the depot at 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. tomorrow and Sunday for 10-mile round-trip excursions to English Lake/Kankakee River. A longer, 20-mile round-trip excursion to LaCrosse in LaPorte County lasts about 2 hours and leaves the depot at 2 p.m. She said purchasing tickets on-line is recommended at

Passengers have their choice of riding in a vintage caboose, an open-air car, or a vintage commuter coach. Groups of six or more receive a $2 discount off each ticket.

"It's a great chance to plan family time around a relaxing train ride through the local area and learn about some of the local history," she said.

In July 2008, then-Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels visited and toured the train depot before joining participants (including my parents Chester and Peggy and myself) for a train ride.

Before or after the train excursion, there's the opportunity to visit the museum and grounds where the admission is always free. The Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum has one of the largest museum collections of working railroad signals. Visitors also enjoy photo opportunities standing next to the C&O 2789 Steam Locomotive, which is the cornerstone of the museum. There's also plenty of time to stroll around the grounds to see all types of rolling stock and engines of a by-gone era.

She said the Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum has an exciting schedule of events planned for this season. Saturday train rides continue through the end of October with round-trip runs to English Lake or LaCrosse. Some of the special events scheduled are an Open House Extravaganza, a World War II war encampment recreation, a Scouting groups "Rails & Trails" event, Fall Harvest train rides, along with "Pumpkin & Halloween Train" special events. Also, Santa Claus traditionally rides the rails in December for the Christmas Trains schedule.

Call the depot at (574) 896-3950 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays.

Cooking up fun

At 11 a.m. on Saturday, the festival features its annual Cooking with Mint Contest (entries still being accepted) in the Girl Scout Cabin near the downtown area of North Judson. Another favorite part of the festival weekend are the 2 p.m. guided bus tours of area mint farms (departing from near our town library) on Saturday. On Sunday, it's the annual Peppermint Parade, led by this year's freshly crowned Peppermint Queen. For more details, visit

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at or (219) 852-4327.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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