CHESTERTON — Portage attorney Ken Elwood is among the people left scrambling Monday in the wake of an overnight fire that destroyed the popular lakeside wedding venue The Allure on the Lake.
Elwood said his 27-year-old daughter, Stephanie Tyrka, was scheduled to be married at the site Sept. 28 after having made the reservation a year ago.
"We had heard good things about it," Elwood said.
But the site was even more meaningful in that it was where Elwood and his wife, Edna, were married 20 years prior.
Elwood said his wife was making calls Monday morning to weigh their options, with the priority being finding another venue for the same date. But recognizing that September is a popular wedding month, he acknowledged the day of the nuptial may have to be changed.
Natalie Finnegan, a manager at The Allure sites in Chesterton and LaPorte, said she and others had been working hard Monday calling around to other venues to help couples make alternative plans for their weddings.
The priority, she said, has been on the most immediately scheduled weddings at the destroyed Chesterton location, including the ones planned for next weekend.
"We're going weekend by weekend," she said.
In the meantime, she and the others have been attempting to deal with grief the best they can, Finnegan said.
"We're all so very much in shock and numb," she said.
A few of the displaced brides and grooms had already showed up Monday at the Porter County Expo Center inquiring about replacement space for their big day, according to Director Lori Daly.
The facility at the northeast corner of Indiana 49 and Division Road has a pretty light August, she said, and some limited availability in October, November and December. The Great Room holds up to 400 guests and the Patio Room can accommodate 200 to 225 people.
No one had yet made a reservation as of Monday afternoon.
"I think everybody's still in shock," Daly said.
Troy Clark, who owns The Allure on the Lake, said from the fire scene Monday morning he intends to rebuild at the site.
Clark said he had spent a year renovating the existing banquet hall and adding a wedding chapel only to watch it all go up in smoke after a year in operation. A deck also was added overlooking the adjacent Lake Chubb.
"It's a devastating loss," he said.
Daly said she reached out to Clark offering help.
"He put his heart and soul in this facility," she said.
A state fire inspector was expected to arrive on site Monday to investigate the blaze, which was noticed by an on-duty police officer at 2:46 a.m., Chesterton Fire Chief John Jarka said from the scene Monday morning.
The blaze, which sent flames high into the night sky, is the largest fire in the town's recent history and attracted firefighters from several local communities, he said.
"All our neighbors were here to help," Jarka said.
The fire was finally put out about 5 a.m. Monday.
An event was hosted at the site Sunday, and the last employee left about 10:50 p.m., Jarka said. The building has kitchen facilities.
The Allure on the Lake is attached to the Waterbird Lakeside Inn, but a fire corridor kept the flames from reaching the hotel, Jarka said. He said the inn was evacuated, and 40 overnight guests were accommodated at another nearby hotel before being cleared Monday morning to return.
No one was injured in the blaze and the cause has not yet been determined, Jarka said.
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