NWI Events in the Making Part 1: The Strategy

NWI Events in the Making Part 1: The Strategy
By: Jessica Campbell Last Updated: March 28, 2017

This summer take a drive. Head to Whiting for Pierogi Fest, then stop by Hobart for the Lakefront Festival, loop around toward Hammond to catch the RC Pilots Air Show, then relax with a concert in downtown Michigan City.

These weekend events take serious organization to schedule, plan, collaborate among the city, and execute smoothly, most of the time. Several Northwest Indiana event planners and marketers – Amy Frets, Director of Communications of Whiting, Nikki Lopez, Event Director of Hobart, Donna Muta, Special Events Coordinator of Hammond, City Controller Rich Murphy and Kesha Pate, City Marketing Director of Michigan City – discussed their roles in creating these special events for their city.

This four-piece How To series includes: How to draw people from the area to the city, How To keep the crowd coming back each year, How To round-up the businesses together, and How To stay “cool” when it rains on a Saturday. We will start with how these planners keep the community engaged with a 20-year- long event? Or with a July 4th parade that resembles the next city’s parade? These events require something unique to draw everyone to the area.

How To: Keep Current Events Fresh and New Ones Popular

How do you keep the community engaged with a 20-year- long event? Or with a July 4th parade that resembles the next city’s parade? These events require something unique to draw everyone to the area.

Whiting-PierogiFest-2013-1Amy of Whiting: Look at the Pierogi Fest from what it was 20 years ago to what it is now: I think that festival really helped put Whiting on the map to begin with. This will be our 98th July 4th parade and it is one of the biggest and oldest parades in Indiana. In 2014, it was the city’s 125th year, so we had Mickey and Minnie as the grand marshals of the parade, setting the bar pretty high. To keep that bar high, we asked, ‘How do we take events and grow them instead of creating new ones?’ Mayor Joe Stahura and his wife take day trips to other cities and brings back ideas of what we can do in Whiting. After an event we meet and talk about what can do to be better next year. It has taken a long time, but in past few years we look back and say ‘It’s good we got to this point,’ but we don’t stop trying. The planning is hard, everyone has opinions and we want to take all of the ideas, but you have to weigh the event and figure out how it fits into our city.

HobartMarket-3Nikki of Hobart: Everyone has different opinions, needs, and wants, but we need to find a common ground, which is to provide a safe, fun place to go. We incorporate themes in our Summer Market every Thursday. We host a free concert and movie afterwards during it. The movie, Moana for example, will be the basis of the theme, so then we have a surf machine and Hawaiian themed food. We bring in characters to take photos with, anything to get people in engaged. I also send out questions and surveys asking the community what movie do they want to see in the park this summer, so we are involving them as much as possible. I am not looking to find five new events each year, I am taking my events and making them the best they can be and tweaking them every year.

219-day-2017-2Donna of Hammond: Our 219 Day is an event that represents the region overall, but has its roots in Hammond. Each committee we convene for an event typically has several people who either know the audience (Cinco de Mayo) or have been involved for a long time (Festival of the Lakes) so they know what works and what does not work. We are a fearless group, and always are open to trying new things and Mayor Tom McDermott is very open-minded and supportive. If we like the idea of an event and we think it would work in our city, we go for it. On the bigger events, we do look at other cities and towns to see what they have going on in their calendars, but mostly we try to fit events in what we think would appeal to both residents and non-residents. The advantage of Hammond is that we are a very diverse city and we can try many different types of events that may not work in other municipalities.

uptown-arts-fashion-show-2014Rich and Kesha of Michigan City: Everything we are doing is moving the city forward. We just hired Kesha Pate, as the marketing and event direct and right now she is doing a lot of listening and understanding of how events are done here, and will help bring these events to the next level. We are really bringing Michigan City into the 21st century with the type of events and using social media to get the volunteers and participants. We have our signature events like the 4th of July parade, which is a favorite of Mayor Ron Meer. The departments, like the fire and police, put on annual events and then the community ones, like the Uptown Fashion Affair and the Taste of Michigan City are events that we help put on in any way we can. And, the Shelf Ice Brew Fest – that festival just keeps getting bigger and bigger every year. Plus, we have the First Friday Art Walks and we have the Artspace Uptown Artists Lofts, where we try to keep the art culture new and creative every week.

Next stay tuned for Part Two: How To Get the City on Board.