There’s no shortage of winter fun in Steuben County! While our 101 lakes might be frozen, there’s plenty of opportunities to get outside and enjoy the season.
Pokagon State Park is home to Indiana’s only refrigerated toboggan. It’s open weekends through the end of February. When conditions are favorable, the cross country ski trails are open daily at the park. To get out of the cold, stop in at the nature center, where you’ll find a variety of exhibits along with the Woodland Window to watch the birds that call Pokagon home. The adjacent Trine State Recreation Area offers a quiet place to hike during the colder months.
The Outlet Shoppes at Fremont offers direct-from-the-manufacturer discounts at such stores as Coach, Bath & Body Works and Under Armour. If you’re looking for unique craft beers, Chapman’s Brewing Company in Angola has several on tap.
The Christmas season offers a few traditions that residents and visitors alike have enjoyed for many years. At Orland’s Booth’s Tree Farm, find pre-cut trees and wreaths. as well as fresh trees you can cut down yourself. Take a horse-drawn wagon ride out into the fields on the weekends to cut your own tree. Downtown Angola welcomes Santa and Mrs. Claus the day after Thanksgiving. Northeast Indiana’s largest Christmas tree (the Soldiers’ Monument) is officially lit that evening and stays decorated into the first week of the new year.
Santa Arrives at the Mound
When I was a little girl my parents took me to the mound the day after Thanksgiving to see Santa arrive and the lights around the mound turn on for the Christmas season. Back then I remember him arriving on the calliope and it was quite a sight to see. When I became an adult, I still enjoyed going there to see the lights turn on. Now that I have children of my own, I make it a point every year to continue the tradition because seeing that sparkle in their eyes makes me so happy.
We parked and walked up to the northwest quadrant where people were waiting to see Santa at the Brokaw Theatre. Santa no longer arrives on the calliope but the calliope was on site and was playing Christmas songs. It sure made me smile and made memories of my childhood come flooding back. We didn’t have to wait very long for the police to block off the roads and Santa appeared with Mrs. Claus and all the reindeer. It’s always quite a sight and the girls had the look of Christmas cheer on their faces. After Santa circled the mound a few times he stopped to say Merry Christmas to everyone and went into the Brokaw Theatre to start visiting with the long line of children waiting to see him. We did not stay to see Santa because we had plans to visit with him another day. This is a wonderful tradition the entire family can enjoy. If you haven’t been to see Santa arrive, definitely go next year because it’s a magical experience for both the young and old.
Hamilton Old Fashion Christmas Parade
I am originally from Angola and never really ventured to Hamilton until I met my husband because he owns a business there. Three years ago was my first time ever taking part in the Old Fashion Christmas Parade. That year we actually were in it and helped decorate a horse drawn carriage. Last year we opted to watch the parade because it travels right past my husband’s Marina. Since we enjoyed watching the parade so much, we decided to watch it again this year instead of riding in a carriage. This parade is like none other that I have ever seen. There are countless horse drawn carriages pulled by horses of all shapes and sizes that are elegantly decorated with lights and Christmas decorations. It is definitely a sight to see! The people riding in the carriage also throw out handfuls of candy for the spectators as well! If you haven’t traveled to Hamilton to see this amazing Christmas tradition it’s a must that you add it to your list of Christmas festivities next year!
Horse Drawn Carriage Rides Downtown
In 2014 Bryan and I took Baby Emi on a horse drawn carriage ride around town and little did I know, Bryan had a huge marriage proposal planned on the Mound with all of our family and friends present. That night meant so much to me so whenever the carriage/wagon rides are advertised I make sure to put it on my calendar! The carriages/wagons are pulled by these gigantic horses and are decorated with lights. It’s always an enjoyable time and the girls love seeing the huge horses.
Every year we make sure we catch up with Santa at least once during the Christmas season, whether it be at a local business or at a Christmas party we are attending. This year Santa was going to be at the local John Deere dealership, Kenn-Feld Group, so we opted to visit Santa there. When we arrived we were lucky that there wasn’t a line because the girls were so excited! Emi is the age where she is not afraid of Santa whatsoever, but MaKenzy wasn’t quite sure. Kenn-Feld had quite the set up and even had Santa’s elves there! The girls opted to sit in a mini John Deere Gator next to Santa and talked to him from there, which also made MaKenzy a little more comfortable. After they visited with Santa, they each got a goody bag, juice and a cookie.
The week before Christmas, the girls got a letter in the mail from the North Pole c/o Kenn-Feld Group. It was a long letter from Santa and Emi was in complete shock because she was so excited! I was also surprised and thought it was so awesome that the extra time was taken to send a letter. It was very special and enjoyed very much by two little girls!
Looking for that perfect Christmas gift with a local flare? Why not stop by the 4 Corners Art Gallery for the 6th annual open house? The gallery, located at 3765 N 300 W in Angola will be holding the free event December 1, 2, and 3 from 11am to 6 pm.
Approximately 10 tri-state area artists including Maria Coward, Rebecca Graves, Jaye Bumbaugh, Doug Feeley, Kathy Funderburg, and owner/operator/potter Steve Smith will be featured during the open house. This year the entire shop will be discounted 10 percent during the event.
4 Corners Art Gallery will be open every weekend Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 11 am to 6pm until January. Smith will then head to Central America for the winter and the gallery will reopen in late May of 2018.
This year was the first time that we have been able to participate in the many Halloween activities offered at Pokagon State Park.
MaKenzy and I weren’t able to get to the Nature Center in time to take part in the Bats Program that was offered, but we arrived at the Potawatomi Inn just in time lunch. Mak had to stop by and say, “Hi” to her buddy the Wolf in the Potawatomi Inn Lobby then we made our way to the Café for lunch and to decorate caramel apples! Mak and I shared a slice of pizza and we were given two (2) packages of sliced apples for our caramel apple concoctions. We ate our pizza and then took our sliced apples over to the large table where there was caramel, peanut butter and chocolate along with crushed Oreos, M&M’s, sprinkles, nuts and chocolate chips. Mak and I did not go light on the toppings and we both enjoyed the caramel apple treat!
After we were done with our lunch, we made our way to the Nature Center. Not only did they have a costume contest going on, the normal activities were available to enjoy as well. Once MaKenzy was done checking out the turtles and the other interesting items at the Nature Center, we checked out the pumpkin carving contest. They had different age groups, but because MaKenzy is only two (2) years old we decided to save that Halloween activity for another year. Once we were done exploring at the Nature Center, we headed home so MaKenzy could get a nap in before the Trick or Treating that was scheduled to start at 5:00 p.m. in Campground 3.
Around 4:15 p.m. we got back to Pokagon. Luckily, we had friends that were camping in one of the campgrounds so we made our way to their camper to get ready for trick or treating. Around 4:45 p.m. we headed to Campground 3 on foot. I have never been at Pokagon during the trick or treating and boy, was I shocked! When we arrived at Campground 3 I could not believe all of the people! Not only all of the children and adults that came out, but all of the campers, businesses and law enforcement agencies that came out to join in the fun!
We finally found the end of the line and waited our turn to enter the Campground. Volunteers were handing out goodie bags to the children from the Tourism Bureau and Smokey the Bear was even in attendance. I figured, since MaKenzy loves animals, she would be excited about getting a photo with Smokey the Bear, but was I wrong! She was not thrilled at all and ended up screaming. After the photo, we made our way through the huge campground! I was in shock with how the campers were so festive with their awesome decorations, lights and costumes!
It was so much fun looking at everyone’s costumes and one in particular caught my eye. There was a large dog being walked by her owner. Her owner explained that in past years the dogs that won costume contests were “teacup” doggies, so this year her dog was dressed up as a “teacup dog.” The costume was so adorable, she didn’t mind it one bit and even posed for a picture.
By the time we made our way all the way around the Campground, MaKenzy’s bag was overflowing with candy so we made our way back to our friend’s camper to warm up and enjoyed a chili and potato soup dinner.
This was a great day filled with fun Halloween family friendly activities. We missed the Bat and Owl program at the Nature Center and by the time Ghost Tales were being told at the CCC Shelter we were ready for bed. Hopefully next year both Emi and Mak can participate and we can attend more of the activities that are offered, but of those that we got to enjoy this year were absolutely great and we had so much fun!
In addition to the normal Halloween Trick or Treating around town and at the local businesses we attended a couple different “Halloween Happenings” around the area this year.
Fremont Public Library Pumpkin Trail
The first Halloween Event we attended was the Pumpkin Trail at the Fremont Public Library. In previous years, due to work schedules, I was never able to take the girls before, but this year it worked out and Grandma was even able to join us! As soon as we got there we realized how big this event was because the parking lot was packed, but we were able to find a close parking space and got the girls ready to go. They both got dressed up in their princess dresses and we headed down the trail. They had fun cut outs like Cat in the Hat and Captain Underpants which the girls absolutely loved. The Grinch was also there handing out candy along with several other characters. As we continued walking down the trail there was a photo booth with fun props, goofy minions and so many happy faces handing out candy. When we finished with the trail, we checked out the pony rides, grabbed some fresh apple cider and even got a piece of Bubba’s Pizza! After the girls ate their food we made our way into the library and went to the basement where they had a Book Walk and balloon animal artists! Emi and Mak immediately got in line for the balloon animals. Emi was very excited for the book walk so as soon as she got her balloon, she made her way over to the game. After several turns, her number was eventually called and she won a book to take home. We all had a very pleasant time full of smiles, laughs and of course a bunch of candy! As long as schedules permit it, we will be attending next year as well!
Angola Parks & Recreation Halloween Fun at the Selman Timber Frame
The second Halloween Event we had to make sure to catch was Halloween Fun at the Selman Timber Frame put on by the Angola Parks & Recreation. We went to this last year so we wanted to make sure we caught it again this year. The girls got all dressed up in their costumes and we headed to Commons Park. This is always such a great event for the family and there are so many things for the kids to do. This year when we walked in, they gave the kids orange glow necklaces and a huge bag of candy. They had a table with refreshments, several games set up for the kids to play, and even a coloring and pumpkin decorating station. After the girls grabbed Halloween themed snacks and did their share of coloring and games, we hopped in line for the hayride. The girls had a great time and really enjoyed the hayride! Once again the Halloween Fun at the Selman Timber Frame was a hit, it will again be on our list for next year!
The last couple years we’ve made it a point to visit Ridenour Acres at least once. This year I knew that they had added some new activities for the kids and I was sure that they would enjoy them. We got lucky once again and the weather was absolutely beautiful so we decided to head over to Ridenour Acres for the afternoon.
As soon as we got inside, Emi and MaKenzy took off to the huge tube slides. They both bypassed the mini tube side and went straight to the big slides! Mak moved from the slides and ran to the bounce house and Emi decided to play in the large corn box. Then they both moved onto the hay bale fire truck, they had so much fun going through the tunnel and climbing up top on the ladder.
I saw that all of the pedal cars on the track weren’t being used so I put both of the girls on one and I got on one too! Emi and I were racing while Bryan pushed Mak since her legs were a tad short to pedal on her own. After we raced around the track a couple times, we headed over to the barrel train. This year the barrel train was much longer than in years past. Emi and Mak sat in one barrel and I sat in the one behind them. After our fun ride, they ran over to the bounce ball track and the duck races. I went inside the barn and got us apple cider slushies and apple cider donuts to share. We sat down at a tic tac toe table, played a game and enjoyed our snack.
We noticed that the line for the hayride wasn’t very long so we decided that we would hop on the wagon. This was the first time that we’ve gone on the hayride here and the girls loved it! After the hayride was over the girls just had to get their faces painted! Emi picked out a rainbow and Mak got a butterfly on her cheek.
Before we left, the girls ran over to check out the new combine slide. It did not disappoint and the girls loved sitting in the drivers seat and going down the slide. Once again, we enjoyed our afternoon at Ridenour Acres and we really enjoyed the new activities that they added! We will be sure to keep this on our fall fun to do list for 2018!
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.