The Valpo Parks Popcorn Panic and Lit’l Kernel Puff Race are both highly anticipated events at the Popcorn Festival each year. A fun, local tradition that gets many out of the house, into the community, and moving through the streets, it’s been a long-standing event to which Valparaiso residents look forward. For many, the Lit’l Kernel Puff race is a fun novelty that they get to participate in each year. For others, though, the races have become something even more. The Lit’l Kernel Puff Race was something fun and exciting for Lisa Baisden, Youth Recreation Director for Valpo Parks, as a child, and now she’s directing it and helping others make those same memories.
Baisden ran in the Lit’l Kernel Puff race many times as a child. Starting out when she was four, she remembers running it every year that she could until she was too old to participate. Not only was the race exciting for her, but it created great family memories.
“I was fortunate enough to have my mom at the starting line, which was great because it was right in front of my grandfather’s drug store, Gil Drugs, and my dad would be down at the finish line,” said Baisden.
Watching the Lit’l Kernel Puff Race now, it’s obvious that children and parents are both excited for the experience. Children race down Lincolnway, laughing as they cross the finish line.
For Baisden, the opportunity to participate as a child was great, but now, she gets to direct the race, which is something that fills her with great pride.
“I’m so happy to be in Valpo working for the Parks and being able to give back to the amazing community I grew up in. I sat back and realized how incredible it was to have run the Lit’l Kernel Puff in one of the first few years it was available, and now to see how much it had grown. The nostalgia is pretty incredible,” said Baisden.
That nostalgia is something many are feeling as the Lit’l Kernel Puff Race was first offered in 1982, meaning that many adults ran it as a child. The Popcorn Festival itself is something many remember attending as a child and now they get the chance to bring their own kids.
“This festival attracts people from all over the region and neighboring areas, but Valparaiso is more than that. We’ve become a community that is visionary and vibrant. Not only do we attract new members to our community but also give a sense of home, and the festival is just one of those events that gives people a reason to come home. I’m just happy I can play a role in that,” said Baisden.
Bringing people together throughout Valparaiso is what events like these are all about. The Lit’l Kernel Puff is just one of the many ways Valparaiso works to bring people together and make sure the little ones are having their share of the fun as well. With 550 participants this year, plenty of children got their opportunity to create a lasting memory.
“Whether it is seeing family and friends and their children running the event, or simply seeing kids of all ages participate and motivated to run and have fun, it’s such a rewarding and special experience for me to be able to be a part of,” said Baisden.
As one of the participants in the first years of this event, Baisden has a unique appreciation for the impact these events can have. Watching things come full circle and now being able to direct the event, and participate on a level she never thought she would, is an amazing, rewarding experience for Baisden.