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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

2014 Festival Recap


Time for the annual festival recap. If you've been following this blog, you know I get out and about. The winter months give me some hibernation time, but as soon as that temperature increases and the snow melts, I'm out. With a busier than ever summer for me, 2014 included still 18 fests that I can remember going to. It was a blast, for the most part. 

The ones I wrote about are linked in the headings.
  1. Hammond Art Walk
    End of May | Various Area Galleries | Hammond, IN
    I stumbled upon a release for the 2014 walk nearly by accident. The date was earlier this year, and I was out of the loop. I had other plans that day, but I was still able to visit 8 of the 12 galleries/exhibits. It was just as good as the previous year. New art, a few new spaces in the line up, and a new wonderful experience. 
    Tip: Get there early and get an event map at Paul Henry's.
  2. Dyer Summer Fest
    First Weekend in June | Pheasant Hills Park | Dyer, IN
    I visited this standard city fair to get out and enjoy the air, and of course some fair food. We walked through the midway, grabbed some food, and listened to the band. It was a cool night, a wonderful night to be out.  
    Tip: Go in the evening, and be patient finding street parking.
  3. Paws in the Park
    Early June | Main Square Park | Highland, IN
    I hit up this fest while visiting the farmers market. They had water bowls set up for dogs, all kinds of pet food and toys for sale, and booths set up by local businesses and veterinary clinics. It was a great event for dog lovers.
    Tip:  Don't leave your pooch at home. They have plenty of stations and activities for dogs in addition to the human activities.  
  4. Chicago Food Truck Fest
    Early June | Cellular Field | Chicago, IL | Event Site
    While the idea is great, especially in a city with new food truck legislation and an exploding food truck scene, this event was awful. The lines were long, the food band was far away, and the food and beer was very limited. I'm hoping they've listened to the widely-reported criticism and improved the planning for next year. Even so, I'll skip this one this year.
    Tip: Don't go. If you do, bring sunscreen and chair, you'll be out there for a while. You can also just set $12 on fire and go to Five Guys.
  5. Portage Summer Fest
    Mid-June | Haven Hollow Park | South Haven, IN
    This was a bit too far for me to drive for this standard city fair. It was similar to the Dyer Summerfest. They did have the Da Portable Rican, my favorite local food truck, so it wasn't a total bust. It was interesting people watching, I will say that.
  6. Highland 4th of July
    4th of July Weekend | Main Square Park | Highland, IN
    This was a very low-key affair in a small park in Indiana. They had standard fair food, a few craft booths, and a few rides. It was a nice spot to grab a quick lunch, enjoy some ice cream, and walk around a bit.
    Tip: Plan on going for lunch or a late-afternoon snack. If you want to go for the rides and the full carnival feel, get there after sunset.
  7. Lightning Bug Music Fest
    Early-July | Sunset Hill Park | Valparaiso, IN
    This was a really awesome event. The music was good, the beer was craft, the food was fresh. I really can't wait for next year.
    Tip: Bring a blanket to sit on, plenty of cash for food and drink, and a wide-brimmed hat.
  8. Pierogi Fest
    Late-July  | Whiting, IN |  Event Site
    I hit up the fest on another light Friday for my annual pilgrimage to Whiting. Friday is the only time to go. The crowds are small and the pierogi is fully stocked. We got a spot right next to one of the entrances. This was my fifth year going! The weather was just as good as last year. I got pierogi from my favorite (Gosia Pierogi), some less-than-stellar boiled pierogi, and an apricot kolaczki (my first, but not my last). I took home two necklaces, frozen Gosia pierogi for Mr. K, and a couple of strudels from the Original Strudel Factory.
    Tip: Go on Friday afternoon if you can to beat the crowds. Bring cash and a water bottle. No sense in wasting possible pierogi funds on water, but they will make you quite thirsty.  
  9. Chesterton Art Fair
    Early-August | Hawthorne Park | Chesterton, IN |  Event Site
    This has made it to my annual list. It's a great day out, and I always see something new and interesting. This year I saw a range of handpainted eggs. Chicken to Ostrich, they had them all. It's a couple of bucks to get in, but it is a fun way to support the Association of Artists & Craftsmen of Porter County. It has a good range of jewelry, metal work, paintings, ceramics, and wood work. I walked out with a small wooden stand from WhyKnotWood to hold a painted egg in our collection. 
    Tip: Walk through the aisles two or three times, you'll see something you missed. Bring a hat, a bottle of water, and sunscreen if you want to stay longer.
  10. Lake County Fair
    Early/Mid-August | Lake County Fairground | Crown Point, IN |  Event Site
    Cheese curds always seem to be on the list along with delicious Puerto Rican food when I go to this fair. It seems to be a ritual. Hit up Da Portable Rican as soon as they open, walk around, find the cheese curd guy (the one who sells donuts and pork rinds), watch a horse show, and leave. The curd guy seems to move location, but I can always track him down. We walk though the whole fair, but at a minimum we always hit up my favorite exhibits: the ag, the 4-H, and the craft buildings. This year the entries were a little light in the agricultural building because of the harsh winter and cooler-than-normal temperatures. There was still some monster veg though. The chickens and bunnies seemed much more relaxed in the cooler weather. It was a great summer day.
    Tip: Check the weather before you go and be ready to fan yourself off if needed. Get there early in the season to see the entries at their prime. Find Da Portable Rican by the Midway for a departure from standard fair food.
  11. Minnesota State Fair
    Late August-Early September | Minnesota State Fairgrounds | Saint Paul, MN | Event Site
    This was my second visit to this fair. The first visit was memorable, this second one was chaos. The day we visited, they broke attendance records! With our coupon book in hand, we hit up the food booths. We had sausage wrapped in a pancake on a stick; scotch eggs on a stick; and my favorite, bacon, cheddar, mashed potatoes, on a stick. We ate sweet peaches, strips of gyro meat, and sausages. We skipped the cookie line from hell and pushed our way to a new area of the fair. It was crowded, had no shade, and the stores had little ventilation. But the bathroom was clean with no line. We watched the cattle judging and pushed our way through the agriculture building. We stopped by a talk about conventional and CSA farming and looked at the latest energy-efficient technology. It was a long, hot, crowded, tiresome day.
    Tip: Use the free remote parking at the local churches. The bus is frequent and comfortable. Look up the food finder on the event site before you go so you can formulate your plan of attack.
  12. Minnesota Renaissance Festival
    Late August-Early October | Shakopee, MN | Event Site
    This was more low key than the Bristol Faire. It reminded me more of the Kansas City Renaissance Fair. While it was laid back and not as crowded, there was plenty to do and see. We had missed part of the Tortuga Twins performance at the Bristol Faire and were surprised to see them in Minnesota. We met up with a friend and enjoyed the festival. They had interesting crafts and great food. They had different types of mead to cool us off on that hot summer day. We saw a big tortoise walking around with a sign to raise money for a sanctuary. We saw bawdy women singing and knights competing in the tournament. We saw daring acts of entertainment. We walked in the cooling rain. All-in-all it was a fun event and worth the trip if you live anywhere in a 75 mile radius.
    Tip: Take your time and enjoy yourself. Bring napkins in case it's muddy, to clean off your shoes before you get in the car.
  13. Bristol Renaissance Faire
    Memorial Day-Labor Day Weekend | Village of Bristol | Kenosha, WI  |  Event Site
    This is such a great event that I went twice in 2014. We got there when it opened and stayed until it closed. We saw a more risque side of the faire this year with the R-Rated shows. We ate fried foods. We browsed fine crafts.
    Tip: Plan to stay all day. The cheaper parking isn't too far of a walk. Bring a light rain jacket in case it rains.
  14. Fetching Market
    Early-September | Ford Hanger | Lansing, IL
    I'm not sure if they'll have this again in the same location next year, but these pop-up all over the city. It's an exhibition of artisans and collectors. It was small, but it took a while to really see everything. All items on display were unique. The food and booze selection was small but mighty too. The night before the opening they had a higher-priced evening event that I will try to attend if they have it again.
    Tip: Walk around a few times to see all the artisans and collectors have to offer. If there is a crowd, wait it out. Bring cash.
  15. Valparaiso International Festival
    Mid-September | Central Park Plaza | Valparaiso, IN  |  Event Site
    We got there late because we had another commitment that day. We missed the bigger performances. It was still nice to walk around and see the limited selection of crafts. We got some sushi and sat on a bench for a mini picnic. It was unseasonably cold, so we quickly left.
    Tip: Check the schedule, and be sure not to miss the entertainment.
  16. Liberty Fall Fest
    Late-September | Downtown Liberty | Liberty, MO | Event Site
    This fest was full of food vendors, local businesses, home craft booths and other entertainment. It included one of the longest parades I've ever experienced. I had to walk away and sit on a bench in the shade. It seemed to be every business and candidate in the whole area. It was so slow moving and had such an erratic flow that there was enough space between floats for people to walk through the parade to get to the other side of the street. They had marching bands, fire departments, and candidates. Though long, it was a nice hometown parade. A slice of Americana, as it were. I just so happened to be standing by a booth giving out apples too! I forgot to wear my red, white, and blue. The infinite parade aside, it was a fun event.
    Tip: Bring a blanket or chair to sit on and an umbrella (or find shade). Get there early for street parking, there is plenty to do while you wait for the main event to start.
  17. Porter's Perfect Pint
    Early-October | Hawthorne Park | Porter, IN
    After enjoying myself in 2013, I returned for another visit. I'd pretty much sworn off beer fests, but this is so laid back and well-organized it's worth a visit. 2014 was as smooth as 2013, so this is definitely on my annual fest list. (Cost: $37.92 inc. fees)
    Tip: Get there a little early and pace yourself. Be adventurous. 
  18. Porter Holidaze Market
    Mid-December | Porter County Fairgrounds | Porter, IN 
    This giant holiday extravaganza is a go-to spot for holiday items and hand-crafted gifts. You can get gifts for your kids, yourself, and even your dog. It has its share of mass-produced items (Tupperware, Avon, etc.), but there are so many other crafts you can easily by-pass those. You can stock up on toffee and snag some well-crafted purses, wooden knick-knacks, or jewelry made with paper beads. It's a couple of bucks to get in, but most of the items are reasonably priced.
    Tip: If you're low on cash, use a credit card when you can and save your cash for vendors that don't have credit card processing.
2015 will not be as chaotic for me. Will I get to 39 fests? 

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