For Northwest Indiana planners, Amy Frets, Director of Communications of Whiting, Nikki Lopez, Event Director of Hobart, and Donna Muta, Special Events Coordinator of Hammond, and City Controller Rich Murphy and Kesha Pate, City Marketing Director of Michigan City, there is never a dull moment when it comes to planning and executing an event. There is constant activity, like Hobart’s 2017 city-wide construction project. So, how do these planners pull off a successful event amidst other issues and how do they use them to their advantage.
Here’s a hint, when it comes to these planners and their cities, there is nothing more rewarding than promoting the greatness of their hometown.
Part Four: How to Construct the Future
Amy of Whiting: In 2014, Mayor Joe partnered with Raymond Entertainment Group to build a 25,000-square foot building for the country’s first late-July opening of the Mascot Hall of Fame. Al Spajer is heading the project as the executive director, along with Director of Events Mark Hayman’s efforts in the city. If we are going to be a weekend destination, a family get-away, we need a way to brand the City of Whiting even more than just with the Pierogi Fest. We want something for a year-round place for families from all over the country to come.
Nikki of Hobart: We are going through a shift, and finally turning things around for our struggling downtown. We have new coffee shops, someone bought the old police station building, a toy store in Crown Point is opening a second location in Hobart. We are ripping the band aide off at once and going through a facelift: The whole lakefront will be under construction and the downtown is getting a new streetscape design. We decided to do it all at once and have a brand new fresh start in 2018.
The Parks Department has a new master plan, with 13 new playgrounds being installed, a new splash pad, upgrades to the community pool, and new interactive water features on the lakefront. Mayor Brian Snedecor truly cares about the community and gets involved by getting everyone involved while living up to his expectations. He is really good at coming up with new ideas, but saying ‘Nikki, this is what I am thinking, let me know what you need to make it happen.’
Donna of Hammond: Hammond is currently working on building a 136,000-square foot athletic facility that will break ground in May at the site of the old Woodmar Mall on Indianapolis Blvd. It’s expected completion date is May, 2018. As an event coordinator, I cannot wait to get my hands on that venue! There are many things we want to hold there and we want to bring back the Hammond Outdoor Sports Show (hunting/fishing/outdoor sports) and the Pampered Woman Show.
The venue will be available to the residents during the week, but there will be athletic events booked over the weekends. We are also working on growing and building our biking community and event sin Hammond. Since Mayor McDermott is an avid cyclist, we have fantastic bike trails and biking events: WHAM, Race to the Rescue, and now we are adding the Region Riot Criterium bike race on May 13.
Rich and Kesha of Michigan City: We are working on building a large plaza in our downtown off Franklin Street. We are in currently figuring out what events will be programmed for the area and we are going to actually build the plaza around those events. We want to see what the residents and visitors want to see here and how we can keep building out downtown into a premier lakefront experience. The plaza will be a place for everyone. We can put on a great event with a $175 ticket, but then people won’t be able to go, we won’t be able to go!
We want everyone to go there and bring their family and friends. It is really important to bring people to Michigan City, so they can see it for themselves! We can talk about what a great place it is, but you have to come here and experience the stores, see the artwork, stand on the water front and see the lighthouse, then go to the zoo. We want people to be proud of their city and if they do leave, the come home bring their skills and talents to help keep the city moving.
So how do they do it? How do they put Whiting, Hobart, Hammond, and Michigan Cith on the map and not just as a drive-through on the way to Chicago?
Amy drives into Whiting and instantly gets that feeling – that never-ending sunshine, butterflies flying around as you pass the waving, smiling Mailman, feeling. For Donna, her Hammond hometown – the parks, playgrounds, and the businesses – make up her personal playground.
Amy asks, “Does everyone get that feeling when they get to Whiting, Indiana?”
“That’s what we want!” Nikki responded, who now watches her own children splash around in the pool she grew up in. “That is why we do what we do! I want to see people love the community as much as I do.” Kesha returned to her city recently to see how much the area has changed. She brought back her skills to work for the city that Rich has been putting all of his efforts into to make it a number one destination spot in the region.
The events held in Whiting, Hobart, Hammond, and Michigan City may overlap some weekends or may display the same princess theme on others. Yet, overall, they are planned, organized, and executed with the same end goal in mind: To bring people to Northwest Indiana and see how much they enjoy the activities brought to them by the region-ers.