VALPARAISO | The Butterfield Family Pavilion at Fairgrounds Park has seen a lot since its Depression-era construction in the 1930s, from its days as an animal barn for the Porter County Fair to the upcoming Galacti-Con gaming convention in October.
Galacti-Con is one of 73 events booked for the pavilion between mid-April and mid-October.
Along with the usual wedding receptions, family and class reunions, open houses and birthday parties, the facility hosts a variety of fundraisers, and the Mothers and More Kids' Closet Sale.
It also serves as the starting and end point for the city's annual night bike ride and is the scene of the House of Lost Souls haunted house, which closes out the season the last two weeks of October. It easily fulfills the board's goal of being affordable and flexible.
The pavilion, the only building left from the park's Porter County fair days, was dedicated to former Mayor Dave Butterfield and his family in 1997 in honor of his efforts to buy the land and convert it into a city park instead of seeing it developed, as some county officials wanted.
"When we acquired the property, it was important to me historically that it remain in public hands," Butterfield said. "I know at the time (some county officials) wanted to change it into a strip mall ... I think it turned out better than anyone expected."
Parks Director John Seibert said the windows were broken, and it had become a pigeon haven. The city spent $200,000 to renovate it and convert it for use as a rental facility with restrooms and a kitchen.
Helene Pierce, who handles the pavilion rentals, said the rustic appearance make it ideal for the wide range of activities. It has been decorated with everything from hay bales to Japanese lanterns and, soon, action figures.
Making it a yearround facility by adding heat and, possibly, air conditioning has been suggested, but Seibert said that would require changing many of the building's features, including the high ceiling, the 100 panes of glass and the concrete floor.
"We wanted to continue to have that ambiance," Seibert said.
The park board has worked hard to maintain the building, which had more than 6,000 guests in 2012. All the restroom fixtures were replaced in 2012, and this year the concrete floor, which has cracked and heaved in places, will have the uneven areas ground down.