You may have noticed a new organization take up residence on Lafayette Street in Downtown Valparaiso; it's bright blue sign drawing eyes as people passed by. But this organization isn't new to Valpo, just new to the location. Valparaiso Events (formerly known as Valparaiso Community Festivals and Events) has gone through some big changes recently, and the new name and move to their new location on Lafayette Street were two of many.
Executive Director Tina St. Aubin and Marketing Director Jennifer Peek of Valparaiso Events sat down with me in their new digs and told me about the organization's transformation. First thing that was touched upon was the new title. The aim was to create a name that was cleaner, more precise, beneficial to the reputation for Valparaiso Events.
"We used to refer to ourselves as VCFE as it was the acronym for Valparaiso Community Festivals and Events, and that became a bit of a mouthful," St. Aubin said. "So we wanted to shorten the name enough so that it would resonate better for people and therefore help our brand to get stronger."
Having had previously set up shop in the Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce building on Lincolnway, St. Aubin and her staff believed that the transition to their own space would help them to establish a separate and singular identity that would be more accessible to their clients and the community.
"Having our own space and the extra signage out front and being able to differentiate ourselves is important," Peek explained. "As we continue to grow we are needing more volunteer meetings and lots of preparation takes place when events roll around and and this allows us the space that we need and the privacy that we require."
Since moving, there has been a lot of foot traffic coming through their door. People curious to know about upcoming events for the summer and what is new and exciting that is happening. Having a physical place to go makes people more likely interact with a business because of the person-to-person contact. Plus, the new location is a short walk away from the Central Park Plaza, the place where all of their events occur.
"It's great because we have everything up here for when people come in so we can really take care of our customers," St. Aubin said. "And the space is perfect! The proximity to the park is great. We can literally stick our heads out the door and see our events in action...the physical location makes a lot of sense to us."
As for what they think of their new home:
"We love it. We're really growing into it quickly," Peek said. "We are the first faces that our vendors see when they come in the door so that is important for them to have that instant connection."
"I think it shows our personality," St. Aubin added. "When people walk in the door they get an instant sense of who we are and what we're about."
The new location is spacious and welcoming. The brightly colored walls are adorned with large panoramic images that are the favorite moments from past events that Valparaiso Events has captured. They show the hard work and impact that this organization has on its community. And with a new space and a new year means lots of new and fun things that Valparaiso Events is able to bring to the people.
"We have over 80 days of events planned this year," Peek said. "We added two brand new events last year and what we are looking to do this year is expand on those events. We really found success with what we've established thus far and so I think we have a really great hold on what what the community is looking for and we're always looking for new things that people might like to see."
A third and very important change taking place soon will be a website revamp. This new site will have a huge focus on the great events that Valparaiso Events is known for, but there will be the addition of things that people can see and do while in Valparaiso like dining, shopping, culture, parking locations, etc.
"About 50% of the people who attend our events are from outside of Valparaiso," Peek said. "So if it's their first time we want them to come and enjoy their time here. They will know what restaurant they can go to, what stores are around so they can shop before or after events. We want people to enjoy Valparaiso as a whole so this website is really going to help us make that happen for them."
And these big changes are going to keep things fresh and fun for Northwest Indiana. Valparaiso Events always has something interesting up its sleeve.
"There's always something exciting around the corner," Peek said with a smile.