2015’s Lightning Bug Music Festival Brought Great Music and Fun for the Entire Family

The Lightning Bug Music Festival is finally growing out it’s roots. For the second year, the Lightning Bug Music Festival has been flourishing at Valparaiso’s Sunset Hill Park to benefit the Dunes Learning Center. The festival hosts various bluegrass, folk, and americana bands for a full day of music along with great food from a long line of food trucks and family activities along the way.

To see more photos from the event, click here!

The festival is a family-friendly day that encourages parents to bring their kids (because if they’re under the age of 12 they got in for free) and also is the perfect local flair for the region community. The idea of the festival being not only restricted to the larger crowd is what really got festival director Jim Chaddock going. He credits a personal experience at another festival for putting the seed in their heads to bring a festival to their community.

“My wife and I love live music, and that was the first part.” Jim Chaddock explained. “We actually took our son to the Country Music Festival in Nashville two summers ago and we noticed that every bar that had live music you could bring you kid in with you to watch. Having a night where Mom and Dad go out to listen to live music doesn’t always mean that they need to get a babysitter. We wanted to bring that to this area and have a day where the whole rest of the family doesn’t get left behind - that they’re experiencing the same thing that their parents do.”

And that’s what they did. Hundreds of festival-goers, from toddlers and up, camped out on a large hill to watch bands play in the barn-turned-amphitheatre. At a quick glance it was easy to see that the family presence was there - whether it be the kids tie-dying shirts at the top of the hill at the craft area or the small kids dancing in front of the stage. The bands were also chosen to keep things family friendly. Bands like SHEL and Grammy winners Jerry Douglas Presents the Earl of Liecester had something for everyone, young and old music lovers alike.

Having kids be a big part of the festival is something also drove home the mission of the event - which was to raise money for kids to be a part of the Dunes Learning Center. From the start the Lightning Bug Festival wasn’t put on to make profit, it was so that the funds were to go to the Chaddock’s charitable organization of choice. Their choice was the Dunes Learning Center, a program that educates kids on their environment. The program is one of only 20 that is done in relation to a National Park within the country and the Center draws almost 8,000 kids a year. That number will certainly increase with the money that is being raised for the families who are in need of assistance to let their kids experience the program. This year alone with sponsors the festival already raised a hefty $10,000.

Sandi Weindling, Director of Marketing and Development for the Learning Center, credits the Chaddock’s for making the Lightning Bug Festival something that will benefit kids who need help, and not making the festival a for-profit evening.

“All of the kids who have been lucky enough to go to summer camp and who have experienced nature through the Learning Center know how special it is to be a part of.” Weindling stated. “I have to give credit to them to understanding the value of that and helping us make that experience possible for hundreds of kids every year. Last year they raised $6,000 through this event and this year we will at least have 300 kids who will be able to waiver off the full price of camp. That’s incredible.”

Not only were the festival organizers passionate about giving back to their community - the festival goers were just as aware of what the festival was doing to benefit kids in their region. Nichole Sheaffer, who came from Michigan City with her boyfriend and daughter, said that the event was something they were happy to support.

“We wanted to support the cause they have going - and for the great music.” Sheaffer stated. “We’re definitely all for the community initiative and this festival is supply kids with a great experience. We came out here last year and it was a wonderful day and this year has been as well. It’s a wonderful thing to have here.”

In the end, the Lightning Bug Music Festival is a bright and shining beacon of what truly great things can happen within our community. How many places can say that they have a festival at a beautiful location (Sunset Hill’s gorgeous facilities), a day with an world class and award winning line-up (5 amazing bands), delicious food (all from popular local food trucks), and all of the money goes towards a great cause? It’s an easy thing to say that the Lightning Bug Festival will continue to grow and continue to become more popular within our community - because it should. It really should be something that everyone looks forward to each Fourth of July weekend. As the years go on it will be, and that’s all it takes for the festival to become a strong and awesome presence in our own backyard.