Thousands came out for the Chesterton Hometown Holiday Celebration
Feature photo: Izzy Endsley
Story by: Matthew A. Werner
Chesterton, Indiana held its annual Hometown Holiday Celebration and Twilight Parade. Arriving before sunset, I walked down Broadway. Red Cup Coffee was filled with patrons. Residents and visitors streamed up side streets toward the main event. Small Business Saturday shoppers filled local shops. In Chesterton’s old movie theater, a pop-up beer garden served Mashcraft, Hoplore, and Aftermath Cidery. After a pint, I walked further and the scene at O’Gara & Wilson Books drew me in. “Richard Nixon” biography, “I Can’t Believe My Cat Did That,” and “Stephen Hero” by James Joyce lined the shelves. Across the street, the Holiday Market carried on as darkness dispelled the overcast sky.
Santa hats, elves ears, Christmas bulb necklaces, and illuminated sweaters were in abundance, but for me the smell of fresh Douglas fir Christmas trees for sale at the farmer’s market signaled the Christmas season was here. Nearby, the aroma from Ben’s Soft Pretzels overwhelmed visitors and the bright light under its tent beckoned visitors to line up. Fresh apples, kale, and lettuce from a LaPorte producer filled boxes in another stall. Heating stations sat in open areas, but the festive energy rendered them unnecessary. Cameras flashed as families posed in a sleigh and crowded together for photos in the park.
In the park’s gazebo, Enrico Ortega-Chick read his essay about his favorite Christmas and the young boy’s words touched the crowd. “I keep my momma’s memories with a smile,” he said. “This is what Christmas is all about—love, faith, family, and smiles.” Then the main tree was lit and at 5:15 pm, the emcee declared, “It’s off to the parade!”
Adults sipped coffee and carefully concealed cocktails, children carried glow sticks and flashing, spinning lights, infants and toddlers bundled up with anticipation, teenagers roamed trying to hide smiles. A crowd amassed outside Running Vines, awaiting the parade, sipping festive cups of Rudolph Red. People pressed to the curbs, a car straggled up Calumet just before the parade arrived, followed by a man on a Harley-Davidson, “Dancing Queen” blaring from his radio.
The parade reached the corner of Broadway and Calumet and turned right. The crowd inside Flannery’s Tavern spilled out onto the sidewalk and waved to the Grinch passing in a Beetle convertible. A school band played Christmas standards. Children danced and waved as 20 – 30 Star Wars characters walked by, a lit-up golf cart blasted Mellencamp singing his mommy kissed Santa Claus, horses and wagons, an illuminated tractor, and lights, and lights, and lights. There’s something magical about a parade after dark.
An antique tractor pulled local Lions Club members on a wagon and the driver wore a smile so wide, his face seemed about to break. A bevy of kids dressed like presents drew points and smiles. The parade itself was in high spirits too—women wearing light strings handed out candy and collided with an overjoyed Ginger Bread Man. Oops! No injuries were reported and they raced off down the parade route. Indiana National Lakeshore had a float, a Park Ranger in uniform waved. Floats—real floats—lit up. On one, elves battled with the Grinch in a wrestling ring. Onlookers laughed and cheered. The “Once Upon a Time” float with costumed actors moved about. A miniature CN train rolled past, blasting its air horn. Parade entrants tossed, candy. “This is the best parade,” the man next to men said. He brought his family from DeMotte.
Forty minutes later, the crowd greeted Santa Claus aboard a fire truck with a wild cheer. Parents packed up the booty of candy, patrons filed back into the tavern, the winery, Dog Day Ice Cream, and Red Cup coffee shop to warm up, boys and girls lined up to see Santa in his little house. The crowd murmured, people petted passing dogs, revelers scattered hither and yon.
Christmas season has arrived and you’d be hard-pressed to find a place that does a better job ringing it in than the little town of Chesterton, Indiana.
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