For just under a decade fireworks have been set off a little early in Chesterton. For seven years and counting the Duneland Chamber has hosted their fireworks display for thousands of people on the Dunes Lakeshore, a whole three days before the 4th of July.
This year was no different, as around 10,000 Northwest Indiana natives flocked to the lakeshore on a mildly cold July 1st to celebrate our most patriotic holiday.
As the event celebrates its seventh year and one of its biggest crowds yet, there would not be fireworks on the lakefront if it weren’t for the Duneland Chamber of Commerce. Each year the chamber puts together the event, with the help of some others, to let their community experience fireworks a little differently.
Maura Durham, President of the Duneland Chamber, said that hosting the fireworks is something they take pride in each year.
“It’s a great opportunity for all of our towns - Porter, Burns Harbor, and Chesterton - to come together to put on and continue the patriotic tradition of displaying fireworks for your community.” Durham stated. “We really use this opportunity to bring the area together to help us thank all of the people that need it on this holiday. I hope they get that first burst of pride in their chest when they see the first firework go off and that they hold this night as close to them as we do.”
The Duneland Chamber weren’t the only ones glad to host the fireworks at the beach, but so were the people of the Dunes Parks Department. Brad Bumgardner, an Interpretive Naturalist for the Dunes, said that having the event on their lakefront is a great opportunity for people to experience the park.
“Having the fireworks at the Dunes is a natural answer to the three communities surrounding the park on where they should host the fireworks, but it’s also a great event to have the entire area come together and see fireworks in this beautiful location.” Bumgardner explained. “The park brings in a lot of tourists each year from the state and around the country, but this is the one real event each year that’s for the locals. We’re more than happy to have them join us here at the park and for them to experience a night on the beach in a different capacity than they might be used to.”
Bumgardner was right - the night brings together the Northwest Indiana community not only to watch fireworks, but to enjoy an evening on the beach. While families and friends bundled up and sat in the lawn chairs awaiting for the main show, there were also plenty of opportunities to get some great food and hear live music. The east lot was filled with various food vendors to cater to every kind of appetite, and music acts Justin Sumler and the Allen Wronko Band filled up the hours leading up to the fireworks. From side to side the beach was filled with people who were finding their own ways to make the most of their time, whether that be playing volleyball or flying a kite.
Many families have made fireworks on the lakefront a tradition, like some who have been coming back for seven years. Jean and Tony Sikora have coming to the event since its first year and have planned to do so for as long as the event goes on. Both credit the atmosphere and the time they get to spend with their family as why they love coming back.
“With the music, being on the beach at night, and even though the weather hasn’t always been great, it’s a good night.” Jean Sikora explained. “It’s unique to the area to have fireworks on the beach. This is a nice local event to come to, we don’t have to travel too far to experience something like this.”
By the time the sun went down and the first firework went off, it was clear why some have been coming to the event year after year. Though the weather was a bit cold, and it didn’t feel much like a summer night, when the first technicolor explosion filled the sky all worries were gone. One by one the fireworks dazzled the crowds and when the last one off many were probably wishing it could happen all over again.
And it will - next year there will be another Fireworks on the Lakefront event and surely another great 4th event to put in the books.