Valparaiso celebrates its popcorn heritage
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent September 7, 2013 4:06PM
All things popcorn were celebrated in downtown Valparaiso on Saturday, September 7, 2013, with floats and costumes made of corn and popcorn during the Orville Redenbacher Parade at the annual Popcorn Festival. | Michael Gard/For Sun-Times Media
For more on what Valparaiso Community Festivals and Events has to offer, go to www.valparaiso
Updated: October 10, 2013 6:21AM
VALPARAISO — Megan Buttke and her husband, Danon, stood on the courthouse square along Lincolnway on Saturday, watching the Popcorn Festival parade go by.
Son Zachary, 3, sat on Danon’s shoulders, while daughter Delilah, 5, sat at his feet, as local elected officials marched by, waving at the paradegoers.
The family recently moved to Valparaiso from Chicago, Megan said, and decided to check out the festival because it seemed like a big event.
“Moving from a big city, it’s nice to see such a gathering of community, and it’s a true gathering for families,” she said. “I really appreciate that.”
So did more than 50,000 other people, who flooded much of downtown to buy crafts, eat, listen to music and watch the popcorn-themed parade, which had about 80 entries this year.
The 35th annual festival, a celebration of all things popcorn in honor of the late Orville Redenbacher that’s put together by Valparaiso Community Festivals and Events, offered an array of popcorn treats, from the traditional salty snack sold by Boy Scout Troop 904 on the courthouse square, to kettle corn and gourmet varieties.
The Sunrise Kiwanis had their own take — popcorn balls. Biff Geiss, who said his wife, Barbara, organized the fundraiser, stood at Indiana and Washington, selling the treats.
“We ordered a thousand and sell them for a dollar. I don’t know if we’re going to break even this year,” he said as a woman bought five popcorn balls from him, then two more, bringing him that much closer to the club’s goal.
Over at Fine Arts Row on Washington Street, Jackie Leidelmeyer said she and her husband, Donovan, who makes sterling silver jewelry, have been participating in the festival for around five years, since the fine arts section opened up.
Leidelmeyer, who lives in Middlebury, enjoys the festival, the crowd and the city, and said interest in handmade items is increasing.
“Especially since the economy has turned around a bit, people are looking for the hand-crafted and unique,” she said. “They don’t want to buy stuff you can get at the dollar store.”