2014 Popcorn Festival

On Saturday morning, September 6, 2014, the streets of downtown Valparaiso were buzzing with excitement and electricity in anticipation of events of the big day ahead at the 36th Annual Valparaiso Popcorn Festival! Vendors arrived early to set up booths and began sales at 7 a.m.

"I love seeing the community come together to showcase Valparaiso. It takes a ton of people sharing their time and talents to make it happen and gives me another reason to love my job because of the great people I get to work with." Tina St. Aubin, Executive Director, Valparaiso Events, said.

Athletes numbering to 1,400, were anxiously toeing the starting line at 7:30 a.m., readying for the 5 mile run and 5K walk, hosted by the Valpo Parks Department. As the runners and walkers were making their final approach to the finish line, crowds gathered along the sidewalks to cheer them on. David Goodman won the title of champion in the men's 5 mile race and Racheal Marchand finished first in the women's field. The top male finisher in the 5K walk was Vince Lorenz with Melissa Moeller, finishing first for the female division.

Jerry Fagen of Fagen Pharmacy spent the morning with his family and had the chance to watch his son Hugo run.

"We have been coming for a long time and always look forward to hanging out and enjoying the time together," Fagen said.

Hugo Fagen ran in the 9-year old race, and when asked if he thought the race was hard he said, "No, I have been practicing. I hope to be a good runner some day."


Following the Popcorn Panic, the time had come for the 550 children ages 2 - 9 to strut their stuff in the Lit'l Kernel Puff Race. Beginning with the 2-year-old category, each group ran down the strip of Lincolnway, a distance from 100 yards to 300 yards according to age, to the finish line where they were awarded participation ribbons.

When asked about the purpose of the race, Phil Blasko, Valpo Parks Dept. Youth Recreation Director responded, "The goal of the race is to have kids arrive smiling and leave smiling, all while promoting the benefits of exercise at an early age."

This is the 36th year for the annual Popcorn Panic race.

"It's a great event; the Kentucky Derby of races in Valpo," Dan Lukes, Adult Recreation Director of Valpo Parks Department said. "Seeing all the participants come back year after year inspires us to make the race better each year." 

Photo Contributions from Michelle McCaskey, Jill Baker and Pam Antonetti

All of our shots are available on the Ideas in Motion Media Photos page at http://photos.ideasinmotionmedia.com. They start at $4 for a digital copy or a print, but you can also get them on coffee mugs, mouse pads, ceramic tiles, desk organizers, tote bags, magnets, playing cards, t-shirts, and many more options are available!

The downtown had been filled with the smells of food and sounds of music in the days preceding the festival, as different businesses and organizations sponsored fundraising dinner events for non-profit beneficiaries at the Chicagoland Popcorn Tent. On Tuesday evening, Don Quijote Education Foundation, a foundation to promote and develop the Spanish language and cultural enrichment for high school students through study or travel, hosted a traditional Spanish dinner fundraiser. The Wednesday evening meal of barbecue pulled pork, was hosted by the Valparaiso Band Parents Association to raise funds for the purchase and repairs of instruments for the school's band program. On that evening, the tent was also shared by all the adorable children at the Cutest Baby Finals, with Annelise White and Henrich Seal winning the event.

Thursday evening featured the Valparaiso Kiwanis Club chicken dinner, with proceeds benefiting a host of local non-profit community organizations. Entertainment was provided by the VHS Band and Varsity Singers. Rounding out the week on Friday, a grilled pork chop dinner by the NWI School Nutrition Association Chapter 25, a non-profit group of "lunch ladies" from all over Porter County. The funds raised are used to promote specialized training and education of school nutrition for its current members. The scheduled entertainment was by the South Shore Brass Band, although both the meal and concert would be cut short by the impending storm.

As the streets were cleared, festival goers eagerly awaited the start of the parade. And finally, the moment we all were waiting for...the flashing lights and sirens of the Valparaiso Police Department, meant the parade had officially begun! Serving as Grand Marshall, The Howie Family of Town and Country Markets, was followed by beautifully decorated floats, sports teams, fairies, and high school and university bands, all among the 108 entries that adorned the city streets as they strolled along the parade route from Calumet to Lincolnway and concluding at Ben Franklin Middle School.

One of the parade announcers, Drew Zromkoski, said,"I love to see everybody's smiling faces as the popcorn parade goes by."

Addison Wall, Hobart Elementary Kindergartner, said her favorite thing about the parade was seeing her friend, Kylie, ride in the Hobart police car. She was having lots of fun in the Kids' Poppin' Play.

This year's new Title Sponsor, Chicagoland Popcorn, was on hand along with many delicious, flavor-filled popcorn items.

"When my wife and I formed the company last August, and I decided to step away from corporate America, we knew we wanted to be in Northwest Indiana. I'm really entrenched in the community." Dwayne Walker, Owner and CEO, Chicagoland Popcorn said. "I had no idea how big the festival was. I'm blown away! Not only by the people, but the hometown feel of the community."

"Frontier is excited to be a part of the Popcorn Festival because we view ourselves as an integral part of the Valparaiso community." Alan Sopko, Technical Supervisor-Network/CPE, Frontier, shared.

Proceeding the parade, the streets were filled with shoppers as they browsed the nearly 400 booths, with goods ranging from home decor, apparel, food items, handmade jewelry, dog treats and everything in between. Children of various ages were enjoying their own special section of the festival at the Kids' Poppin' Play.

Opening the music portion of the festival on the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority Main Stage at noon was our own country music star Nicole Jamrose. She was followed by the performances of Keith Jackson & The Triple Dose Band and The Crawpuppies. Headlining the stage at 5 p.m., was the Grammy and American Music Awards nominated alternative rock band, Spin Doctors.

Just down the street at the Front Porch Music Stage, the spotlight featured students of the Garage Band 101 Course and local musicians from noon to 6:30 p.m. There were many toes tapping, hands clapping, and dance moves exhibited during this afternoon of music.

The sponsors for this year's event included:
Gold Sponsors: Centier Bank, Miller Lite, M & S Collision, Indiana University Northwest, Muller Acura of Merrillville, NIPSCO, NITCO,
and Orville Redenbacher.

Silver Sponsors: Duffy's Place, Frontier Communications, General Insurance Service, Porter Regional Hospital, REGIONAL Federal Credit Union, Town & Country Market, and Strack and Van Til.

Bronze Sponsors: Auto Junction, Courtyard by Marriott, Fairfield Inn & Suites, Family Express, Grieger Motor Sales, Kiwanis Club of Valparaiso, Paul Sur Buick GMC, and Rotary Club Valparaiso.

"NIPSCO has been involved with the Popcorn Festival for several years. This year we reached out, as the Damage Prevention Department, to focus on public safety." Jennifer Barbour,  NIPSCO Damage Prevention Program Manager said.

The weather was picture perfect and made for a fun-filled day for the estimated 60,000 attendees, many of whom will be anxiously awaiting the arrival of this grandiose event in 2015!