Posts by Steuben

Magical Night

By on Nov 26, 2016 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Angola, Indiana looks like it’s straight out of the movies about picturesque small towns. A lot of us do know each other. We have a perfect little courthouse and plenty of quaint shops. But one night of the year is just a bit more magical than others. It’s become tradition for families to gather on the night after Thanksgiving on the town circle. The monument, Columbia, plays host to lights that form a giant Christmas tree. A calliope is wheeled out to play holiday tunes, and various elves and Dickens like characters mingle with excited children as the hour approaches. As everyone waits with baited breath, the scream of a fire truck siren cuts through the night. The crowd jostles to get a good view of eight reindeer pulling Santa and Mrs. Claus’ sleigh. Two police cars, lights flashing, follow behind guarding the celebrities as they make their way into town. As tradition goes, they always circle the mound three times before getting out to greet the kids of Steuben County. Santa often knows them by name, and shouts out such things as, “there’s little Mikey,” and “has Dickey been good this year?” Excited children crowd around him as he laughs and pats them on the head or shakes their hands. But the excitement’s far from over. Though Santa has held court in many shops around the circle over the years, his latest hangout has been The Brokaw Theater. The line to see Santa often wraps around a block or more. But it’s a hot ticket and most kids are willing to wait. It is Santa after all. Who else are they going to share their deepest Christmas wishes with? Once they reach the inner sanctum of the Theater, elves serve hot chocolate and cookies to warm them up. Inside the dark warm doors, Santa and Mrs. Claus make their way to place of honor—two thrones on a small stage in one of the theaters. On the screen above them, old Christmas movies play to keep the long line of children happy while they wait for a chance to sit on Santa’s lap. When good little boys and girls finally reach the lively old elf’s lap, he always asks...

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All is Calm (Before the Storm)

By on Nov 22, 2016 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

All is calm at the Outlet Shoppes in Fremont, Indiana. But behind the scenes things are heating up. Decorations are already in place. The Christmas trees have gathered, soldiers stand at attention, and merry-go-round horses ready to ride. Not to mention shopkeepers are unpacking scores of holiday deals and readying the shelves for eager customers who’ll come knocking Thanksgiving evening. A few years ago, I had the pleasure of working at Bath and Bodyworks at the Outlet Shoppes during the first night of the Christmas shopping season. Writers often live very solitary lives. I wanted the chance to interact with people and experience some of the excitement of the season. We prepared for the night, days ahead with a meeting debuting all kinds of specialty items. Our stockroom was packed to the gills. The night of the big event we all got there early. It was all hands on deck. Customers lined the sidewalk hours ahead of time and pressed their noses to the window watching us switch out the latest scents and pile new items higher. At the appointed hour a human wave washed over the store. There was barely standing room for anyone as customers smelled the latest candle scents and vied for a limited number of specialty fragrances. I should have felt claustrophobic, but there was such infectious excitement in the air that it was difficult to be anything but joyful. The hours passed quickly—more like a party than a job. And from what I heard from workers at the other shoppes, the experience was similar. This year promises to be even better. The southern shoppes (those south of 120) are coming back. For those of you old enough to remember this is the site of the original shoppes. When I was a kid, it was the hotspot because KB Toys was there. These days that side of the road has gotten a facelift with a bright new coat of yellow and red paint. Everything from Rue 21 to Carters to Dressbarn and Kitchen Collection are there along with plenty of other great stores. Christmas music is already being piped throughout the area. Across the road, surround by protected wetlands, are two more areas to shop...

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Apples & Beer

By on Nov 10, 2016 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Nothing goes better with autumn than apples. Last week, I wrote about Stroh’s Orchard, but this week I want to concentrate on another kind of apple. Johnny Appleseed. As many of you know his real name was John Chapman. He dedicated his life to planting nurseries throughout the upper Midwest. While legend says he sprinkled apple seeds everywhere, he actually carefully planted orchards and put up well-engineered fences to ensure quality harvests. Today that same spirit of quality lives on in Chapman’s Brewery on Industrial Drive in Angola, Indiana. The company opened its doors in 2012. Though the tasting room and brewery is new, they are quick to point out that local beer crafting is an old tradition. Just a century ago, most towns of substantial size had at least one local brewery. There are a few perks and updates to the old way of doing things. For instance, precise measuring devices and stainless steel equipment, as well as a quality supply of steady ingredients makes for richly flavored and consistently drinkable beer. It’s their hope that customers will find the beer fresh and smooth, so that they’ll always want another. They keep the menu simple with just six main beers. Valiant, is an American stout with hints of chocolate and espresso. Enlighten, my favorite, is a Kolsch ale. It’s light and crisp. Undaunted is Chapman’s IPA. It has a more hoppy spice and pine flavor. (As a disclaimer: I make soap using these three beers as base ingredients. They are incredibly popular with customers.) Englishman, their most popular variety, is a southern brown ale. It’s a traditional pub beer, malty with a sweet caramel flavor. Wry American is a red rye and one of the brewery’s newer beers. Brighten Pale Ale, is a lighter beverage with a perfect combination of malty and hoppiness. Finally there’s the Rolette Series. These are small limited release beers. The idea is that it allows the brewery to work on new flavors while getting customer feedback. Sometimes the new brew work out so well, they become regulars like Wry American—which was originally called Red Ryeding Hood. (Cute. You should have kept it.) The simple menu has worked so well, it’s allowed Chapman’s to...

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Best Apples Around

By on Oct 28, 2016 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Michigan may have an apple named for it, but many Michiganders head to Indiana when they want the best apples. And they’re not alone. Customers often come hundreds of miles to visit G.W. Stroh Orchard in Angola. That’s because the Stroh’s grow many varieties of apples that can’t be found in grocery stores. Ginger Gold, Winter Banana, and Northern Spy are just a few of the off-beat varieties, at Stroh’s. The orchard grows 35 kinds of apples on a dozen acres. Gary Stroh was encouraged to grow his first apple tree by a high school teacher. But he’s quick to add that his dad was a big influence in his decision to go into the orchard business. It’s worked well now for almost 35 years. Today, he and his wife Susan have 3,000 apple trees, as well as 10 peach trees, 3 pear trees, and 1 plum tree. It isn’t hard to see that everyone in the family enjoys their orchard fruits. Even their big yellow dog, Kelly, who doubles as the shop mascot, isn’t above a few tricks to get himself an apple. While the orchard used to be u-pick, it’s popularity has made it too much of a risk for the trees. But all the apples are still hand-picked daily often by Gary. And it hasn’t stopped people from stopping by for favorites like Honey Crisp or Golden Delicious. This time of year the cider press is also going strong, churning out gallon after gallon of truly superior cider with a fresh from the tree taste. There are also plenty of pumpkins and squash to choose from at their shop along with jams, jellies, and Stroh’s own honey. After all, what would an orchard be without bees to keep it well pollinated? Stroh also furnishes the apples for Satek Winery’s award winning Autumn Classic wine. While it’s easy to attract customers with a great product, the Stroh’s may have a secret marketing strategy. They grow their own customers, by opening their orchard to schools for field trips. It doesn’t take long for the kids to taste the difference. Over the years those students return time and time again, eventually bringing their own children and whole new generation...

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Fall Fun

By on Oct 10, 2016 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

There’s a place on 20 North where pumpkins float in a sea of orange, ducks race down water pump streams, and kids swim through corn kernel pools. But it’s not one of the 101 Lakes in Steuben County. It’s Ridenour Farms. My family and I have made visiting this fall attraction an annual event. It may sound cliché but it really does have something for the whole family. For starters there’s a mini play area including a junior corn pool and bouncy castle for the iddy biddies. The main area consists of huge industrial pipe slides, a giant straw bail climbing mountain, larger corn pit, big kid bouncy castle and two race tracks—one for peddling contraptions and one for bouncy horses. The corn maze is great for older kids and even more hair raisingly fun at night when it and the surrounding woods become “haunted.” During the day families can enjoy the same area with a hayride or “train excursion” (tractor pulls several mini carts behind it). The fire pit is always lit and there are a variety of candy confections at the snack bar including something called caramel apple nachos. I’m not going to give away the surprise you’ll just have to go see them for yourself! Ridenour Acres is open through October 30. Admission is $7 per person, free for 3 and under. For more information visit Erika Celeste is an award-winning journalist who has worked in radio, print, television, and marketing. She owns and operates New Moon Media Group where she’s written several documentaries and books....

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