GRIFFITH — The town has adopted what Council President Rick Ryfa called “a citizen- and business-friendly attitude that makes the move to Griffith a pleasurable experience.”
And it seems to be working.
“Griffith has witnessed tremendous growth in both our residential and business real estate markets,” Ryfa said.
Founded in 1904, Griffith currently is home to almost 17,000 people, and Ryfa said its strong housing market and unprecedented small business growth are backed by an excellent school system, creating a combination that increases property values while keeping the housing affordable and the property taxes low.
“Griffith’s downtown is home to a diverse business district with unique shops, eateries and entertainment,” he said. “Three different craft breweries have opened in Griffith over the last several years.”
Other downtown businesses, which range from a sports bar and a bowling alley to gourmet popcorn, taxidermy shops and a 33-table pool hall, provide something for just about everyone, he said.
The variety of businesses is matched by the town’s Parks and Recreation Department, which Ryfa said provides an excellent recreational experience for residents of Griffith and the surrounding communities.
“Their beautiful, well-maintained parks and recreational facilities, children’s playgrounds, walkable bike trails and landscaped streets are decorated with seasonal and public art. These open spaces and public venues provide attractive platforms for a variety of popular outdoor festivals, markets, cultural events, youth sports, child’s play and facilitated community programs offering conversational and social opportunities for everyone.”
Three of the town’s nine parks have state-of-the-art playgrounds that offer Americans with Disabilities Act accessible equipment. The crown jewel of the parks system is Central Park, located in the center of town, where many of the community’s most popular events are held.
“The park features an iconic army tank and military memorial at the southwest corner, a state-of-the-art playground area with modern ADA accessible equipment, a large pavilion available for rent, two sand volleyball courts, restroom facilities and three youth baseball fields,” Ryfa said.
Central Park is packed with summertime events that feature lots of live music, family-friendly fun and entertainment.
Griffith Activities Director Michelle Velez said, “Each year we strive to make our events better, and we are excited to offer free outdoor events that provide the utmost live music experience that you can find in Northwest Indiana.”
Events include the weekly Central Market from May 10 through Sept. 13 with a beer garden, crafts, artisan foods, kids’ activities and, of course, live music.
That’s just the appetizer leading up to the festivals starting with the Broad Street Blues and BBQ Festival, a three-day event held in Central Park the weekend before July 4th with plenty of blues bands, fireworks shows and more.
The Labor Day weekend is the time for the four-day Rock ‘N’ Rail Music and Street Festival held in the 100-200 block of Broad Street in downtown Griffith with more than 30 food vendors and 25 bands.
The festival season concludes with Oktoberfest, which this year will be Oct. 4-6 in Central Park with German food and music plus a wide variety of beer and wine, and a pumpkin patch for the kids.
Griffith is ranked as one of the safest communities in the state, and Police Chief Greg Mance said it’s the result of a real team effort.
“Over the past six years, our officers, elected officials, community partners and residents have all come together to actively work to make Griffith the best community it can be,” Mance said.
The police department and the town’s school district have partnered to hire a full-time social worker to identify those in need of social services before they end up in the criminal justice system.
“We know that, if we can identify individuals, whether they are suffering from mental, behavioral, drug or alcohol issues, and if we can find them the meaningful help they need, we will enjoy a safer, better community with a reduced crime rate,” he said.
The department also hired a full-time civilian crime analyst to identify crime trends in town and in surrounding communities. These additions to the department have helped reduce property crimes by 34 percent and violent crimes by 84 percent in the last six years.
Pat Stout grew up in Griffith and has lived there for all but nine months, when she and her husband Mike lived in another region community. Both of them soon agreed Griffith was the place they would rather be.
“I’ve always loved the town,” Nancy said. “I grew up across from Central Park and I could walk anywhere. The low crime rate was another factor. I feel safe, and it always seemed like the police knew the neighborhood. You can be walking down the street and, if you see a policeman, he waves at you. We have a great fire department, too.
“Now we have grandkids and they love coming home. I love our downtown, and I love going to the restaurants and the coffee shop. More people take pride in their homes, including a lot of young people. Mike can be out mowing lawn, and someone will stop and ask how he gets his grass so green, and they end up having a half-hour conversation. A total stranger.”
It sounds like no one is a stranger for long in Griffith.