From banana flavored popcorn to dill pickle, coconut and Key lime, as well as some of the mainstays like white cheddar, Chicago mix, and caramel, ChicagoLand Popcorn serves up more than 250 different flavors of the popular treat at their Merrillville-based location. And who better to sponsor the 37th annual Valparaiso Popcorn Festival on Saturday, Sept. 12, than the 1-year-old company?
“This is our second year as the title sponsor, and we are excited to support the festival,” says Dwayne Walker, owner of ChicagoLand Popcorn along with his wife Mogda. “It gives us an opportunity to gain more exposure and show people what we do. We will have more flavors at the festival this year than we did last year.”
Located across from Albanese Candy Factory off U.S. 30, Dwayne and Mogda opened ChicagoLand Popcorn in September 2014. And before the relatively new family business could put an “Open” sign on their front door, they agreed to serve as the title sponsor for the 36th annual event.
“[Last year] we were trying to get a booth or a car in the parade when the opportunity presented itself,” Dwayne says. “The week before we opened, we secured the title sponsorship.”
And with an overwhelmingly positive response from festival patrons, Dwayne says that it was an easy decision to sponsor the event again. In addition, it allows the company to fully participate in a region and statewide tradition surrounding one of the country’s favorite anytime snacks.
“One of the things that many people don’t know is that Indiana is the second highest popcorn producing state in the country,” Dwayne says. “I hope for ChicagoLand to be a spokesperson for the festival and to talk about the rich heritage that popcorn has in Northwest Indiana.”
This year, patrons can visit the ChicagoLand Popcorn booth, where they will be able to sample as many as 16 of the store’s 250-plus flavors, including dill pickle, a surprising favorite. In addition, the store will host a float in the parade, and the ChicagoLand Popcorn main tent will provide food and entertainment for all.
Rooted in the Community
Sponsoring the event also provides just another way for the local popcorn store to become rooted in the community. With a heart for community outreach, Dwayne and Mogda have already made their mark in Northwest Indiana through membership in local chambers of commerce and by supporting various organizations and businesses. Dwayne says he hopes to continue to strengthen relationships in the community.
“We don’t want to just be a business in the community,” Dwayne says. “We want to assimilate—to become part of the community in several ways. Anything we can do to use what we have—popcorn—to help raise awareness for other businesses and non-profit organizations in the area, we want to do.”
Valparaiso Events is the host of the Popcorn Festival, and executive director Tina St. Aubin agrees that ChicagoLand Popcorn is an excellent match for the festival. “ChicagoLand Popcorn is a natural fit,” St. Aubin says. “I can’t even begin to say how appreciative we are to have them on board. Without the help of our sponsors, it would be very difficult to do what we do.”