Northwest Indiana loves its festivals

2014-03-16T00:00:00Z 2014-03-16T00:31:08Z Northwest Indiana loves its festivalsJoyce Russell, (219) 762-1397, ext. 2222

You love pierogi?

We gotta festival for that.

How about popcorn or bacon?

We've got festivals celebrating those too.

And, beer, wine, arts, crafts, history, summer, fall and even winter.

You name it, and Northwest Indiana likely has a festival to celebrate it. Nearly every community throughout the region hosts some sort of festival during the year.

"A festival for us, it is a way for a community to showcase itself ... to show pride in itself," said Tina St. Aubin, executive director of the Valparaiso Community Festivals and Events nonprofit organization. It runs festivals and events in Valparaiso from the Popcorn Festival to Brewfest to weekly farmers markets.

"The underlying goal is to promote pride in your community and bring people together," she said.

Karen Anaszewicz, executive director of the Whiting Robertsdale Chamber of Commerce, which sponsors the Pierogi Fest, and Alaina Hagenseker, an intern with the Crown Point Special Events office, agreed.

Festivals aren't only an excuse to have fun and indulge in favorite treats or listen to music or celebrate whatever the festival is named for.

"Whiting is small, very small, and we need something to bring people here," said Anaszewicz. Pierogi Fest brings some 250,000 people to Whiting over the course of a late July weekend.

"It brings an awareness to the community. After Pierogi Fest, we have a huge upswing in people asking questions about Whiting," she said.

The three agree it is an economic development tool for communities. People come in and see the community and may want to relocate. It's the same for businesses.

Hagenseker said businesses who are vendors at one of the city's festivals, from the St. Patrick's Day event to the Food and Arts Festival and corn roast, may be willing to open up a restaurant in the city after being successful at a festival, filling empty storefronts.

Putting on that party to show off your community is no easy endeavor, the three concede.

St. Aubin says it takes her group 10 months to plan for each Popcorn Festival, which brings 50,000 to 60,000 people to Valparaiso.

To keep the event popular, she said, they always try to introduce something new.

"You can't stay stagnant," she said. The new attraction might be a different type of music or the addition of a sub event to the main festival. They also partner with many local organizations to keep residents involved.

For the Pierogi Fest, however, it's the tried and true that has kept people coming back each year. The acclaim in national magazines and on television hasn't hurt anything either.

Anaszewicz believes it is the "quirkiness" of the festival that makes it so popular.

"Where else do you have a chance to see a dancing pierogi?" she asked.

In Crown Point, said Hagenseker, it's a combination of the old and new.

"We like to still have that tradition, but we like to have new things too. We try to have new things to bring in new people," she said, adding it's a balance of the old with an infusion of the new either in the community's signature festivals or in new events they introduce.

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