Every year my mom and I take the girls to pick out pumpkins at G. W. Stroh Orchard. That time of year is already upon us, so my Mom and I, along with my Aunt Becky, took the girls to Stroh Orchard last Monday for their annual pumpkin picking. Since Mak and Emi are getting older, they knew exactly what we were there for. They immediately ran over to the countless pumpkins surrounding the trees in the front. There were so many to choose from and they just couldn’t figure out which pumpkins they wanted! They crawled all over the pumpkins, like a jungle gym, thoroughly inspecting each pumpkin trying to pick out the perfect one. Emi then saw the huge crates full of the pie pumpkins and she had to search through those as well since she could actually pick those up.
Stroh’s also have a tree trunk sculpture of a dog in the front yard and the girls absolutely loved it. After they posed for a picture with the sculpture, we made our way to the “U Pick Pumpkin Patch.” Emi spied the little red wagon that is used to haul the pumpkins and once Mak saw the wagon she immediately jumped in so Emi took her on an excursion through the pumpkin patch! After countless laps up, down and around the patch, the girls finally found their two perfect pumpkins so we made our way to the store.
When we got in the store we were greeted by Gary Stroh. We took a look at the countless types of apples, gourds and snacks that they had available to buy. The girls and I decided to get some fresh apple cider and some caramel corn to snack on. The girls were so excited to finally have their pumpkins, they loved the cider and ruined dinner with the caramel corn (it was almost gone by the time we got home). As always, we enjoyed our trip to the orchard and we will look forward to next year’s trip!
In 1934 Company 556 of the Civilian Conservation Corps arrived at Pokagon State Park. One of their first jobs was to build the park’s gatehouse. The site was recently turned into a pocket museum to commemorate the men who built it.
A ghostly life-size image of a corpsman stands guard in the window to greet visitors. Inside the original fireplace still stands, along with many artifacts from the bygone days of the CCC. Photos and plaques line the walls of the tiny structure, bringing to life the story of the corpsmen
The CCC operated on a system similar to the army. Enrollees wore military style clothes and used military equipment. They slept in barracks. Each bed had a footlocker to store all belongings from clothing to their cleaning supplies, canteens and mess kits.
In addition to building a beautiful park, the men often learned skills to use later in life, from finishing high school to skills like carpentry and masonry.
The museum is free. It is open to the public whenever an attendant is at the front gate of Pokagon.
Last year we attended the Seaplane Fly-in later in the afternoon so we did not see many planes. This year, especially with Bryan starting the process to receive his pilot’s license, we wanted to make sure we arrived early enough to see all the action! The event began at 8 am at Pokagon State Park at the Potawatomi Inn beach on Lake James and we arrived less than an hour later. I was pleasantly surprised by how many seaplanes were on display, flying, landing and taking off! Bryan and I thought it was absolutely spectacular. I was used to seeing one type of seaplane, but there were several different types at the event. It was neat to see the differences and the varying sizes of the planes. Emi was very interested in the planes but MaKenzy was a little unsure of them and held onto Bryan pretty tightly at first. A water “landing strip” was marked off with buoys and there was a ramp on the beach made from wood and metal plates. Every once in a while a plane would land on the water and then move to the Potawatomi Inn front lawn to park so everyone could see the plane up close. The Indiana Seaplane Pilot’s Association had a tent set up with items for ssale and had a free raffle drawing for seaplane rides. The girls were both really excited by the mini foam seaplane from the Steuben County Tourism Bureau. The four of us started to get hungry so we went into the Potawatomi Inn and had a great breakfast at the buffet in the historic dining room. After we finished breakfast we made our way back down to the beach to see more seaplanes. It was a lot busier than before breakfast! We walked around some more and took a closer look at some of the planes and Emi played in the sand at the beach. We made sure we stuck around to listen to them draw numbers for free seaplane rides. Unfortunately we din’t win one, but there were a lot of lucky winners. It was an amazing event that included something that a lot of us don’t get to see all the time and we all greatly enjoyed it. The Seaplane Fly-in is held the last Sunday every September.
I had never been to the annual Civil Wars Days but I always heard the loud booms from the cannons during the reenactment, so I figured it was time to check it out! It wan an unseasonably hot day so we wanted to get there fairly early to beat the heat. We parked and started walking toward the Selman Timber Frame and immediately saw a pretty white carriage being pulled by two beautiful black horses. Emi made sure we stopped to watch the horses pass by. As we continued on, there were several vendors selling items ranging from locally made honey to clothing. In the first tent we came to County Commissioner Ron Smith, who was dressed as Baron Von Steuben (Steuben County’s namesake) and was giving a history lesson to a group of Girl Scouts. As we continued exploring, we came upon an area with all sorts of flags. It was neat to see them all displayed in one spot.
Once the kids were finished at the nearby playground, we made our way down the path and passed a dress shop, a fudge shop, a surgeon and candy shop. Emi and MaKenzy had never had the pleasure of enjoying rock candy, so while were checking out the candy shop Emi picked out a cotton candy flavored rock candy while Mak chose green apple. We go back on the path and made our way past the surgeon’s tent. Em was particularly curious but the mannequin on the cot scared MaKenzy. Next we saw several cannons lined up. While they weren’t shooting them off, it was neat to see them up close. There were several tents down the bike trail a bit, but we were starting to get a little warm so we turned around. We peeked in the dress shop that had pretty dresses displayed and for sale. We even passed a lady spinning yarn for her handmade rugs.
Before we made our way home, we walked through the Selman Timber Frame where they had food for sale, storytelling and raffles. At the very end of the pavilion, there were several articles of women’s clothing on display. The dresses and jewelry were absolutely beautiful and I took a photo of the girls with one of the dresses. Overall, Civil War Days was a lot bigger than I expected and it was enjoyable seeing everyone in their well-made outfits. It was definitely a great experience and we will go back next year. Check the calendar on the Steuben County Tourism Bureau site . Civil War Days is usually the fourth Saturday and Sunday in September.
Last year the girls and I attended the annual Cruise to the Monument in downtown Angola. We had a great time so we wanted to make sure we attended again this year. In addition to the cruise-in, there was a special celebration for the 10oth birthday of the Soldiers Monument. When we arrived, we were able to park in the community center parking lot and witness the service honoring our veterans. We continued to walk toward the Monument, looking at the unique cars while enjoying the traffic being blocked off for a few hours. The girls first saw a fire truck and just had to get a picture with it. As we made our way to the mound we saw everything from an old van that converted into a camper, to a lime green hearse all the way to a fuchsia Cuda. Cars were everywhere-parked all the way around the mound, in the parking lots in all the quadrants and lined up on Wayne and Maumee streets. There were several organizations selling food and popcorn and there was even a live band up by the Brokaw Theatre. The girls absolutely loved taking a moment to listen to the music and danced a little bit. I enjoyed running into old friends and co-workers while checking out neat cars, both old and new. Before we left, Emi spotted one car with a huge stuffed monkey in the back seat and she had to go see it. When we got up to the car the owner of the vehicle made sure Emi was able to touch the monkey and give him a high five. I think that made her night! Once again the annual Cruise to the Monument didn’t disappoint and it seemed like everyone in attendance was having a great time. (Cruise to the Monument traditionally is held annually the third Wednesday in mid-September.)
Labor Day may signal the unofficial end of summer, but here in Northern Indiana Lakes Country there is still plenty of great camping weather to enjoy. Whether you want primitive camping or full RV hook-up, you can find it in Steuben County!
Circle B Park and Cabins on Hogback Lake will have its closing weekend October 28. However, the owners always keep a few RV hook-up sites close to the front of the resort open for those campers who might need them later in the year.
Pokagon State Park is open for camping year round and offers fall/winter tent and RV sites.
Manapogo Park near Orland maintains its tend and RV camping sites until October 8. However, there will be activities at the campground Halloween weekend.
Yogi Bear’s Jellystone in Fremont closes on October 15
THE END OF SUMMER NEARS!
I had been looking forward to the End of Summer Concert at Commons Park all week. Not only to unwind from the week, but there was there going to be great music by Hubie Ashcraft, Shigs n Pit BBQ was going to be serving food and Mad Anthony’s was going to be serving adult beverages. Mak and I waited for Bryan to get home from work and we hooked up the bike trailer to my bike, jam packed it with our lawn chairs and a cooler, put Mak on the seat on the back of my bike and we rode down to Commons Park. We got there right before Hubie Ashcraft hit the stage, locked our bikes to a small tree and found a great seat not too far from the stage and concessions. We enjoyed the music for a little bit first before venturing over to Shigs n Pit BBQ. Bryan and I both got a pulled pork sandwich with sides. Mak had already eaten at home so she grabbed a bag of Cheetos. They had 3 different BBQ sauces to choose from and the meal was delicious! We went back to our seats, enjoyed more music and then decided to grab a drink from Mad Anthony’s which tasted great on a warm summer evening.
I had seen Hubie Ashcraft before but the way that they interacted with the crowd and the children this evening was quite the experience. They would take instruments into the audience and get up close and personal with people. About 15 minutes before the concert was supposed to end, MaKenzy finally mustered up the courage to go dancing in front of the stage with the rest of the kids. Since they had a fiddle player in the band I kept saying “It’d be great if they would play ‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia!'” And they did! It was the last song that they played! It seemed to me that 9:00 came way too fast because we were all having so much fun! After the last song, we packed up our bike trailer again and rode home. It was definitely a great way to unwind from the week and it seemed like everyone in attendance had a great time! I sure hope there’s another End of Summer Concert to enjoy next year!
Nature sings at Wing Haven! The Acres Land Trust site encompasses almost 255 acres. Helen
Swenson donated the land and its 19th century log buildings to the Trust. The property features
a ravine, several spring fed lakes, and a restored prairie meadows and grasslands.
There are several trails of varying difficulty tucked between the kettle lakes which were created
by glaciers during the last Ice Age. Stairs and bridges link the trails treating hikers to a wide
variety of landscapes from moss covered rocks and streams to neatly sculpted fallen trees.
Wildflowers including a little blue flower known as the fringed gentian cover the banks of the
lakes—two of which, Gentian and Little Gentian take their name from the flower.
A great place for photography, birding, and studying foliage, one only needs to look closely to
find hidden treasures. From dragon flies and water striders, to rabbits, squirrel, sandhill cranes,
and raccoons, Wing Haven has it all.
While some of the 19th century log buildings are used by the caretakers, others may be reserved
and rented out for such weddings and other events.
Wing Haven is located north of Angola just off I69/US 27 North. Take exit 154 to SR 127S. Then
turn left on CR 400 N and head east (left) the preserve and parking is a short distance back on
the left (north side of the road).
I check the back ribbon of my Minnie Pearl straw hat before leaving the house. I gingerly step into Kathy’s car ducking my head wondering how did women drive with these hats? (Perhaps they didn’t?) I notice we are both wearing summer cotton dresses and sandals. This is not an ordinary outing for a Sunday afternoon. No, we are headed to the Collins Schoolhouse to participate in the fifth annual Ice Cream Social.
The drive is once again beautiful as we meander over country roads. We pass the schoolhouse and have to turn around. Once Bart Collins helps us find parking, I feel we have been transported to another century. Tents are set up with tables and chairs for the social. Another long table is filled with home grown and homemade cobblers of peach and berry and rhubarb followed by a tub of ice cream. Whereas we are anxious to sit in the shade and visit with folks, we are, of course, drawn into the schoolhouse itself.
It is not my first visit. I used to bring my Hamilton students to the schoolhouse when June Collins was still on this earth and giving her glorious tours. We always came in the Autumn. I can remember June ringing the bell and my students, in awe, taking their seats. My wandering eyes followed the trees in the windows…tree leaves of ruby and scarlet and tangerine. It was enchanting. Once in a while I would be pulled out of my daydreaming state as June reprimanded one of my students.
Now the tours are given by other members of the family. On this day is it Claudia Smith who welcomes us smiling from ear to ear. We all comment on the glorious weather and step over the threshold into 1877. It is as it was. Perfect. The books are lined up on bookshelves, lunch pails ready to be taken out to sit under the old trees, cursive writing on the board (is that still June’s handwriting?) and desks waiting for students. It is magical. It is beautiful. It wasn’t always so. This school, along with most one room schoolhouses in America, fell into disrepair and neglect. The Collins School was saved by the Collins family. They had donated the land originally for the school and in 1947 June bought the property and restored it with her family and friends. It is now a non-profit 501(c)(3) which means it can accept donations for preservation.
I walk quietly amongst the past; reading the names of all the former teachers, smile at the class photos of those long gone, and pull out a McGuffy reader to check out the lessons. We thank Claudia for the tour, but I turn back and ask if she would ring the school bell for me so I can record it. She goes in to ring the bell, but I fumble too long and miss it. She comes out with a thumbs up, and I ask her nicely to do it again. She does.
We walk across the lawn and choose fresh peach cobbler with ice cream. We place our donations in the old-fashioned ice cream bucket at the end of the table. The tables are in the shade and we sit and chat with folks. I combine the old with the new as I put up a photo on Facebook inviting everyone to come out and share in this event.
Thomas Jefferson had the first ice cream social in the White House in 1802. It caught on in the late 1800’s in the mid-west as a social gathering with fund raising in mind. When I bought my house fifteen years ago this summer, the home owners, Randy and Shannon Wallace, had an ice cream social in their/my garden to welcome me to the neighborhood. It was a lovely occasion. Perhaps it is time to have another one?
Kathy and I are reluctant to leave, but there are other obligations on this beautiful day. As we walk back into the sun, into our century, I turn back. The Collins family is still smiling, serving, talking, preserving.
This beautiful school house sits in the summer sun and the snows of winter waiting for you to visit. Take the kids and the grandparents. The doors are open from 2-5 on August 13, 20, and 27. We are so fortunate to have a piece of American history just a few miles up the road.
And maybe, just maybe, Claudia will ring the bell for you.
We were looking for something to do on this overcast Sunday, so we thought we would head down to Pokagon State Park’s main beach and scope out the 40th Annual Sand Sculpture Demonstration and Contest. Yesterday the artists created their sculptures, but we were very happy the sculptures were roped off and they were all still standing for us to check them out. They ranged from a sea serpent, to a castle and all the way to Lightening McQueen from the movie Cars. After looking at all the sculptures, MaKenzy had to test out the temperature of Lake James. We walked up the stairs that brought us to the CCC Shelter and had to stop by the playground as well before getting back in the truck. Next year we will try to make it to the beach when the artists are creating their pieces of sand art. I think the girls would get a kick out of that. ?
Make sure to check out the Steuben County Tourism page regularly for events around the area!