Good Times Were Had at the 34th Annual Popcorn Fest

Please tell me that you made it out to the 34th Annual Popcorn Fest. If you did make it out, then you already know that it was awesome! If not, then let me have the pleasure of keeping you informed.

Let’s go chronologically, shall we? Throughout the week preceding the Popcorn Fest, events were held in downtown Valparaiso to get ready for the main event. Local restaurants and charities served lunch or dinner, there was a Corn Hole tournament, a race, and a cutest baby contest finals. Also, a spiffy new statue was unveiled at Central Park Plaza on Tuesday morning. It was Orville Redenbacher lounging on a park bench. It has a good likeness indeed.

Then came the day of the Popcorn Fest. In the early morning hours runners and walkers from all over came to participate in the Popcorn Panic -a 5-mile race that took participants on a scenic course through the streets of Valparaiso. There was also a 5k (3.2 miles) race for walkers only. Over 1000 people participated in the races. After that there was the Lit'l Kernel Puff Race in which children ages 2-9 were able to participate. When the races were all wrapped up, the Orville Redenbacher Parade began. This was a huge parade and there was a wide range of participants from high school marching bands throughout Porter County to Shriners to Valpo Pop Warner teams, and since the theme of the Popcorn Fest is popcorn, many of the floats were creatively constructed with popcorn! Lots of fun was had and lots of candy was thrown.

After the parade, onlookers, spectators and shoppers milled about the downtown area. There were over 200 arts and crafts booths and over 30 food vendors, so there was something for every taste and taste bud. The Boy Scouts were right in the thick of the crowds.Troop 920 led by Scoutmaster John Stocks was serving corn on the cob, a favorite at the Popcorn Fest. I stopped and spoke with Stocks in the early afternoon as the Troop shucked, cooked, and buttered ear after ear of corn.

“We had 35 bags, so that’s like four and a half dozen a bag. And we’re on our last bag,” Stock said with a smile. “When we sell out we’ll serve beverages until the festival is over! The proceeds go to tents and camping gear for our Troop.”

The smells that wafted from different food vendors finally got to this writer, so I hightailed it over to an ATM so that I too may purchase some goodies. There I met a festival-goer with the same idea.

Mark Hall has lived in Valparaiso all his life. He has also attended many Popcorn Festivals. We chatted easily about why Hall comes to the Popcorn Fest as we waited for our turn at the ATM.

“Before it was just to have a good time and drinking with my friends, but now it’s all about the arts and crafts and the food. Stuff like that,” Hall said. “I saw Kelsey’s over there and that ribeye looked pretty good and smelled real good, but I’m going to get some popcorn, obviously. When I started here Orville Redenbacher was still around, even his son. His son would be out there, too.”

Besides the delicious food and interesting arts and crafts, there were other things for people to see and do at the Popcorn Fest. Live bands such as Rusted Root, The Crawpuppies, Killer Ray Alison and The Acousticats played throughout the day . Inflatables and games were available for the kids’ enjoyment, too. People of all ages could be found at the Popcorn Fest. Some are seasoned festival-goers like Hall as mentioned before, and it is a first for others. I came upon three young ladies inside the Valpo Velvet Ice Cream Shoppe in downtown Valparaiso. Tess Galviati, Lexi Bluhm, and Alyssa Dillon, all seniors at VHS, were hanging out and enjoying the day at the Popcorn Fest.

“I originally came to see the Valpo band in the parade, then we just kind of ended up staying a while longer. We went to lunch at China House, met up with some friends, and we went to a few of the booths,” said Galviati. “My favorite part is probably all the different music stuff that you see downtown. I’m a big music fan.”

This is Bluhm’s first time attending the Popcorn Fest.

“I’ve had a lot of fun,” Bluhm said. “It’s just like walking around downtown Valpo but with a lot more people, and no cars.”

“I’m planning on getting a deep-fried Oreo,” Dillon stated. “I’ve had one once before and I remember it was really good, but I think I can only afford one per year. My favorite part is definitely seeing everyone coming out. You never see it this crowded. I think that this is the most crowded time of year.”

It was crowded, but that just shows that the Popcorn Fest was a huge success! I know I speak for many when I say that I can’t wait for next year!

To find out more about the 2012 Popcorn Fest click here! Or click here to see the Facebook page!!

Click here to see the photo gallery for the Popcorn Panic!

Click here to view photos of the Lit'l Kernel Puff Race!!

Click here to see more photos of the Popcorn Fest!!

Click here to see the full gallery of the Orville Redenbacher Parade!!

Sponsors and Partners of the 2012 Popcorn Fest: Teachers Credit Union, NIPSCO, Grieger’s Motor Sales, Lakeshore Bone and Joint Institute, The Times, NITCO, Town & Country Market, Urschel Laboratories, Inc., Con Agra Foods, Art Hill Ford, Lincoln & Mazda, FEAA, Country Inns & Suites, Centier, Bison Financial Group, North Coast Distributing.