Monday, February 28, 2011

#138: Frank's Place

Three big screen TVs.  A menu of homecooking meets bar food.  Karaoke every other Friday.  Full bar, even an adjoining liquor shop.  If you could talk the owner into renting you the apartment above the bar, you'd never have to leave.

As a true "neighborhood bar" of South Bend, Frank's Place relies on the immediate neighbors of the bar as well as a smattering of loyal South Bend regulars.  Personally, I've viewed Frank's as the ideal place for group watch of anything from an NBA game to the President's State of the Union Address.  It's a great place to sit back, relax with friends, and watch whatever might be on one of the three big screen TVs.  Tucked into the neighborhood just northwest of downtown, Frank's can be an alternate to the downtown bars on a weekend night or a great place for a drink and a bite to eat after work.  Like a couple of the other bars we've featured for our pre-Mardi Gras pub crawl, this bar doesn't bother with frills or gimmicks.  It's simple, honest, and pure South Bend.

Where: 327 W Marion Street, South Bend
When: Open for lunch, dinner, and after-hours
Phone: (574) 232-2277
Tip: Rumor has it that there's 25 cent wings on Wednesdays.....but I've yet to verify this for myself.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

#137: Green Star Cafe

First it was the name, and then it was the cool retro sign and then it was just the bar itself.  Those being the increasingly compelling reasons to visit or frequent the Green Star Cafe of course. Oh and then there's the shuffleboard, but I'll get to that in a minute.

See what I mean?
Because of the reasons enumerated above, my friend (and actually fellow blogger) and I visited the Green Star Cafe for the first time several weeks ago. We had no idea what to expect in terms of bar atmosphere, but we were, or at least I was, surprised and pleased in a variety of ways.  You can't miss the cool neon-green sign that blinks above Miami Street, and when we entered, we were greeted by the friendly bar staff. Throughout the night it remained a lively but low-key place to hang out with friends (our choice), play darts, or even, as promised, play shuffleboard in the back. The bar is on the smaller side, but I would argue that that also is to its benefit; its size implies a neighborly friendliness that's hard to beat.

Location: 1605 Miami Street

Tip: As a heads up, the bar is cash only.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

#136: Ewing Cafe

[Writer's note: Sledding & skiing are no longer options since the snow has melted (somewhat), and we're a long way from being able to dine al fresco (comfortably).  Spring seems far off, and the next holiday to celebrate is Mardi Gras, so our answer to what to do in South Bend, at least for the next week, is to check out some local bars in the area.]
You can't miss the big letters and glowing neon signs covering the front of the Ewing Cafe.  It's one of those places where the sign for it is almost as big as the place itself.  The small size makes it a perfect stop for a low-key mid-week drink.  You feel at ease even if you're the only one in the place, but they still fit a single pool table in there for all you pool sharks.  The friendly bartenders/owners are another reason worth checking out this bar.  They'll make you feel like a regular, even if you're just passing through town.

Where: 111 Ewing Ave.
Tip: Although they do serve basic bar food here, if you're craving something breakfast-y, the Kitchenette is right around the corner.

#135: The Yarn Gourmet and Bead Creative

Today I got crafty (for the people who know me, I promise this is not a joke). I had an open afternoon and so I took the time to explore two stores in South Bend that will help anyone, from proclaimed novice to expert, learn several of the more unique and specialized artistic skills out there. I'm talking about knitting and jewelry-making, of course.

Some of the (many) skeins of yarn
First up, is the Yarn Gourmet in the River Park neighborhood of South Bend. The store has branded themselves as a "luxury yarn shop" and when I stopped in, they more than lived up to their name. The walls and aisles of the store are lined with brightly-colored yarns of overwhelming variety. For the experienced knitter, you'll have to visit and give me a quick primer on the differences between the various types. As an acknowledged beginner, or I would even prefer "observer", I was content to wander the store and browse their extensive selection of knitting books and already completed projects for sale.

After the Yarn Gourmet, I made my way over to Miami Street to visit Bead Creative. As their name implies, the store features vast quantities of beads in every shape, color, and size. Here too I was out of my league, but the friendly owner answered my questions and let me browse inquisitively for several minutes. Besides the beads themselves, all of the finished jewelry in the store is handmade by the owner and her daughter at the store which has been open for almost 5 years.

In my opinion, the biggest selling point of both stores is that they offer a slate of instructional classes so that anyone can take full advantage of the materials they have to offer. I know friends who knit to relieve stress and, really, who could deny the advantage of custom-making your own jewelry? If you visit either of their websites (linked to below) you can find a listing of the classes offered this spring.

Relevant Info:

Yarn Gourmet
2915 Mishawaka Ave
Hours: T-W 10-5, TH 10-7, F 10-8, Sa 10-3 

Bead Creative
2303 Miami Street
Hours: T-Sa 10-6 (Note: The website currently appears to be down, but I just visited earlier this morning, so hopefully it will be back up soon.)

Monday, February 21, 2011

#134: "Equality and Inclusion" at the Civil Rights Heritage Center

One of the most compelling events to happen in South Bend during the past year (and arguably in recent memory) was the re-opening and dedication of South Bend's historically-segregated Natatorium as part of IUSB's Civil Rights Heritage Center.  Opening in 1922 as a racially-exclusive swimming pool, the Natatorium remained segregated until 1950 and then closed, it appeared for good, in 1978. Yet, in the past several years, civil rights activists from the South Bend community have worked to restore the building as a museum, meeting center, and exemplar of change. The new Civil Rights Heritage Center opened for the first time in May of 2010.

The Center is currently featuring the exhibit "Equality and Inclusion" through the end of February. This exhibit itself features 20 separate works of art done by students at IUSB dealing with themes of race, gender, marriage, community, and related local and global issues under the wide banner of inequality and its hoped-for resolution. The art on display was selected by a jury of experts and ranges in media from poster to video. This post is a preview to my planned trip to the Natatorium later this week so I'm just as excited as you to see what this type of artwork looks like. Even more than that, I'm excited, even thrilled, to see what this artwork looks like in the context of its surroundings. For South Bend, the Natatorium, and now the artwork inside, is a lovely illustration of the thriving city we can be.

Location: 1040 West Washington Street
Hours: Tues, Wed, Fri, Sat- 10:00am-2:00pm; Thurs- 3:00pm-7:00pm

For more information on the exhibit go here, and for more information on the Center go here.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

#133: St. Margaret's "Walk a Mile in Her Shoes"

Sometimes just being to say "I've been there" is what counts.  That's the spirit motivating the event "Walk a Mile in Her Shoes", a fundraiser to benefit St. Margaret's House.  This non-profit assists women and children in economic poverty, and this annual winter walk is a way for the community to show solidarity with those who rely on public transportation and their own two feet to get around town.

Teams and individuals have raised money to be sponsored to walk a mile on this Sunday afternoon, and these funds help sustain the different programs and services St. Margaret's offers.  It's not too late to register, and just coming out to the event is a sign of support.  In addition, the center will be open afterward for a community reception, so you can meet some of the people who are part of this place.  The gratitude you'll feel for a place to warm up may make you think twice about those who are left out in the cold.

Where: the walk starts at the County City Building, corner of Jefferson & Lafayette, and ends at St. Margaret's House, 117 N. Lafayette Blvd.
When: 2:30 PM (registration opens at 1:30)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

#132: Victorian Pantry

I was looking for a locally-owned place to get coffee in the Granger/Grape Road when I remembered Victorian Pantry.  This operation has been given numerous awards for its full-service catering operation, but it also has a bistro in a strip mall on Cleveland.  I was pleasantly surprised by the warm atmosphere here -- an alcove of personality amid the 'big box stores' in this area.

Well-worn wooden chairs and tables make this place feel homey, almost rustic, and the owner/chef, Steven Stogdill, came around to check on customers and offer a warm-up for their coffee.  Speaking of which, is fantastic.  Their house blend, Walnut Roast, is my personal favorite in the area, a designation I don't toss around lightly.  A wide variety of flavored coffees and tea is sold at the store, as well as gourmet cooking supplies.

Their food offerings are strong as well -- you can try many of their acclaimed catering offerings, including their pasta salads, spinach & feta croissants, and cakes.  The croissant and quiche I ordered on two respective visits were fresh and tasty; their flavors or ingredients were gourmet in a way that distinguishes Victorian Pantry from other area "coffeeshop experiences".

This place is a great stop for shoppers at University Park Mall needing a refuel, and the standout  coffee and food, and welcoming feel, draws me to come from downtown.  I can't wait to go back for lunch to try a sandwich their signature foccacia bread.

Where: 226 W. Cleveland Road, Granger
Tip: On Fridays from Sept.-May, there is a $7.99 all-you-can-eat soup buffet.  Vegetarians, take note, because all their soups are vegetable-based!

If you're interested in the catering options, just ask!  The staff is very friendly, and when I mentioned to Chef Stogdill that I was visiting for the first time, right away he brought a stack of brochures and was happy to answer any questions I had.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

#131: Proof

Many of you might know this, but there are three of us who blog here. As of today, I'm claiming the title of "Resident Theater Blogger". South Bend's theater scene is broad, thanks to a great civic theater, the many universities in the area, and a state-of-the-art performing arts center, as well as incredibly varied. I've previously written about theater productions and related events from several of these venues here, here, here, here, and here. For some reason, I gravitate toward the stage and, well, I hope I'm convincing you to do so as well.

Today features another dramatic installment, this time thanks to the talented and thoughtful people in Notre Dame's Film, Television, and Theater Department. Their first show of this semester is David Auburn's Proof, and it opens tonight with a run that continues until Sunday, February 27. Proof only utilizes four actors to tell the story of the famed mathematician Robert, his daughter Catherine, and Hal, whose life intersects both of theirs in increasingly interesting ways. Proof offers commentary on the ideas of genius and madness, and as the advertising for this production highlights, it "suggests that developing trust and love can be difficult, and just as uncertain, as establishing the truth of a mathematical proof." It was first produced in 2001 and garnered an impressive array of awards that year including the Pulitzer Prize and the Tony Award for Best Play.

Location: Philbin Studio Theater, DeBartolo Performing Arts Center

Ticket Price: $10-15

For more information on this play and to order tickets, go here.

Monday, February 14, 2011

#130: Rocco's

Yes, it is Valentine's Day. If you're still looking for something to do, check out Downtown South Bend's impressive line-up of discounts, activities, and interesting events here. South Bend, as they might say, loves you.

But now that that's out of the way, I want to focus on one of South Bend's perennial favorites; a restaurant that is consistently great any day of the year. I'm talking about Rocco's of course. South Bend has been given an abundances of riches of the pizza variety (all lined up for subsequent posts), and everyone has their favorite. Mine is Rocco's.

I'm unfortunately not a deep-dish pizza fan which is why Rocco's thin, crusty slices are pretty much perfect. I prefer the classic pepperoni, but they offer a wide variety of toppings in addition to pasta dishes and some pretty great salads. The biggest selling point for Rocco's however has to be the owners and their fantastic service. Many of the restaurants and stores we feature here have great, friendly service but Rocco's really goes above and beyond. Every time I've eaten here, Warren, the owner, has stopped by my table to ask how the food and the evening were going. They were, of course, going great but sometimes it's just genuinely nice to be asked. Combine that service with the quality of the food and you've got my pizzeria winner.

Location: 537 North Saint Louis (574-233-2464)

Hours: Tues-Thurs, 5:00pm-11:00pm     Fri-Sat, 5:00pm-1:00am

Tip #1: Learn about Rocco's backstory as the first pizza place in South Bend here.

Tip #2: Give me a tip! I need to branch out, so what's your favorite thing to order at Rocco's?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

#129: WNIT's "Ask An Expert" town hall on "South Bend: Thriving or Dying"

Last Thursday evening, the three of us who write this blog were lucky enough to be a part of the audience for the live television town-hall style event on WNIT.  This episode of "Ask An Expert" focused on the question "South Bend: Thriving or Dying?" and featured a panel of experts on our city and economic development in addition to an audience full of community leaders and active citizens.  The idea for this television event was sparked by the Newsweek article that recently ranked South Bend as the 8th most dying city in the country, and the discussion that took place dynamically highlighted the multi-faceted nature of our response as a city, as a community, and as neighbors. 

We were honored to be a part of this audience and more importantly a part of the discussion, especially since we believe our blog makes a pretty compelling case for the striving-side of the debate.  No consensus was reached that night as to whether our city is thriving, dying, striving, or fighting, but rather we all learned a little bit more about what our city has been through and what issues must be confronted next.  You can find more information about this program here on WNIT's website.

Watch, reflect, discuss, debate, and hopefully act. 

Saturday, February 12, 2011

#128: "Changing the Way We Eat" TEDx Webcast

South Bend may be a "dying" city in a landlocked state, but in no way is it limited in its access to the innovative ideas and policies that are being discussed in cultural centers on either side of the coast. 

TED, the annual conference in Long Beach dedicated to 'Ideas Worth Spreading', has spun off smaller, self-organized "TEDx" events, most notably the one being held today in Manhattan about "Changing the Way We Eat".  This one-day event "will highlight several aspects of the sustainable food movement and the work being done to shift our food system from industrially-based agriculture to one in which healthy, nutritious food is accessible to all."  From 10:30 am - 6:00 pm, this topic will be discussed by speakers such as Laurie David, producer of An Inconvenient Truth; restaurant and farm owners; Josh Viertel, president of Slow Food USA (just to list a few). 


But we aren't IN Manhattan, nor in Long Beach, so how could South Bend ever be part of this conversation?  The information superhighway enables the "Crossroads of America" to keep up the flow of intellectual traffic. 

IU South Bend's Center for a Sustainable Future and the Purple Porch Co-op (featured previously) are hosting a live webcast on IUSB's campus, and not only that, have set up for local food resource tables so area farmers and restaurants can collaborate. 

Although you can watch the broadcast online from the comfort of your home, stopping by the viewing party gives you the chance to enter into the conversation and meet the people who most directly affect your eating habits.

Where: Weikamp Hall Rm 1001, click here for a campus map
When: Feb. 12
9:30-10:30am is registration and local welcome, before the TEDxManhattan webcast begins at 10:30.  There is a break at 12:15 for a sandwich bar lunch with local speakers.

Check here for a list of the TEDx speakers in Manhattan, and here for an explanation of the local event.

Friday, February 11, 2011

#127: Battel Park

You have to understand... I'm not one of those wimpy its-below-freezing boo-hoo type of people.  I don't get scared of three inches of snow on the road or two months straight of below-freezing temperatures.  I love winter.  I love snow.  Heck, I love wearing coats and scarfs and mittens - the whole thang.  I can handle cold, wind, snow, and basically any unholy combination of it (which we affectionately called "wintry mix").  And I like to think that we, Midwesterners, are tough and hardy people because of our winter....but jeeze, it's really really cold right now.

So this is for you, chilly reader, wearing glittens as you type on your laptop - and for me, looking forward to spring for the first time this winter.

Sometime in the middle of last fall, on an especially leisurely Saturday afternoon, I wandered around Mishawaka's oldest park, Battell Park.  In just a couple hours strolling around, I felt like I had walked through decades of Mishawaka history.  This 11 acre piece of land has had many faces since 1880, when it was first established as a city park.  Four years after its park designation, a 32-foot tall Soldier's Memorial featuring a 8-foot tall bronze Civil War solider was added to the original elements of the park, which included a wooden fence, rustic bridge, and a handful of planted trees. 
The real transformation of this land on the north bank of the St. Joe River occurred during the 1920s and 30s.  In 1927, the impressive Neoclassical bandshell complete with ornate cooper roof and griffins was constructed.  Hopefully, we'll be able to post about some of the summer concerts and performances that take place here.

Then later during the early 1930s, the Works Progress Administration built the mind-blowingly awesome 5-tiered rock garden that leads from the green space of the park down to the river. The various elements of this rock garden were finished just a couple years later in 1937, but it will take you ages to wander around the calm pools of water and wonder at the stone waterfall.

Since the Depression-era, a number of new elements have been added, changed, or rebuilt in the park.  Tennis courts, a play ground, a basketball court, and a fun-looking water works "splashpad" thing added a sports and recreation feel to the park.  The Shiorjiri Garden, on the other hand, offers a Japanese zen haven right in the middle of the park.  In recent history, Battel Park has also been linked up to the Riverwalk trails that connect almost all of the area's river front.

Location: 301 West Mishawaka Avenue, north side of the River north to Mishawaka Avenue, Forest Avenue on the west and at the end of Ann Street on the east
Tip: Bring a camera.  This park will make anyone feel like an amateur photographer.

Hopefully, these images of a 67 degree day in late September will warm you up even for just a moment and remind you that not even a windchill of -25 degrees can keep spring away forever.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

#126: Indulgence Pastry Shop and Cafe

Maybe it was its proximity to the movies or its location on the thoroughfare towards Target or just a particularly adventurous friend, but Indulgence was one of my earlier South Bend discoveries. Regardless of whichever reason it actually was, I consider myself lucky. I remember walking in the front door and instantly spying the rows of beautifully-decorated, individual cakes containing such varieties as the "Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake" described as "a layer of Chocolate Butter Milk Cake, Chocolate Mousse with a center of peanut butter and Chocolate topped with a peanut butter rosette" or the "Lemon Chiffon Cake" topped with a "Burnt Meringue Topping and Lemon Curd." It was only after several minutes of ogling the cakes display that I realized it was surrounded by an even wider variety of cookies, brownies, cupcakes, and other pastries.

And yes, after settling on the "Signature Chocolate Dome" (topped with no less than a glazed "chocolate ganache"), it was as delicious as it sounded (and has continued to be ever since). Yet, perhaps more importantly, Indulgence is a true South Bend story. It was the dream of two local chefs who decided the area deserved a great pastry shop, and they subsequently opened the store in early 2007. Contrary to what I've highlighted so far, Indulgence also offers a full menu of cafe fare such as soups, sandwiches, salads, and coffee drinks as well as a catering service and specialty cakes made-to-order.  Combine that with friendly service and free wi-fi, and there's no reason not to stop by.
Signature carrot cake, in perfect snack size
Visit their (well-designed and easy-to-use!) website here for the menu, and more information.

Location: 3622 Edison Road
Hours: Mon-Wed, 6:30am-5:00pm; Thurs, 6:30am-9:00pm; Fri, 6:30am-10:00pm; Sat, 7:00am-10:00pm; Sun, closed  

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

#125: Oldies 94.3

Yes, we live in a world of iPods, iTouches, iPhones, and iPads (not to mention digital radio) with even CD's shrinking quickly in our rearview mirror, but I'd like to take today to make the case for good, old-fashioned FM radio. And honestly, when you have a station as great as this one, the case becomes much easier to make. We've previously mentioned one of our favorite radio stations, but 94.3, out of Plymouth, Indiana and serving the Michiana area, is also a gem. 

For many years, I didn't think oldies were my cup of tea, and it's only recently that I've discovered that not only is the term misleading and incredibly broad, but that "oldies", per se, actually encompass some of my favorite music and musicians. Maybe this only became apparent after listening extensively to 94.3 which never fails to surprise me with its fun, energetic, and nostalgic selection.  This selection, like the term "oldies" itself, is noticeably broad, and, in general, the station plays music from the 1970's and earlier, in a variety of genres. Sure, you're not going to get obscure B-side tracks from lesser-known musicians of the era(s), but some days, tuning in to hear Franki Valli's falsetto on "Oh What a Night" isn't such a bad thing. Since I've been listening, 94.3 has struck me as one of the best stations of its kind, and, well, supporting local radio isn't such a bad thing either.

For more information on the station, visit their website here, and I'll leave you with the song that was playing on my drive home from school today.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

#124: Tom's Restaurant

Roughly 5 months ago, I was attempting to make a quick exit from the parking lot behind Itsy-Prints, Tom's, and St. Joe Democratic Headquarters.  I was leaving 10 minutes late for an event that I was already 20 minutes late to.  I jumped in my car, frantically grabbed at my seat belt, put my car in reverse, and of course...backed into a car parked behind me.

It gets worse.

It would be one thing if this car belonged to an employee of the printing shop, a patron of Tom's, or even some influential political operative stopping into the Democratic HQ.....but no, I had instead damaged the property of arguably the most powerful person on that block....the cook at Tom's.

Suddenly that event that I was increasingly late for mattered very little, because the future of my over-easy eggs and hash browns was in peril.  Tom's is one of downtown's classic cozy small town dinners.  It's the breakfast place for those who spend considerable time in the immediate area - which includes some of our city's more significant and prominent offices: the County-City Building, the new WNIT building, St. Joe Democratic HQ, the Trigon Building, or the South Bend Building Department office a couple doors down.  It's nothing too fancy, but it's comfortable and I clearly wasn't ready to lose my breakfast place because of my idiotic driving.

Location: 131 South Lafayette Boulevard, South Bend, IN
Hours:  very early until 2 pm 7 days a week
Phone (574) 237-9401
Tip: Well... for starters, try not to crash your car into anything, namely cars belonging to the people who make your food, which creates a new saying from an old familiar one.  Don't crash your car where you eat.

Thankfully, that cook is as forgiving as her food is good, so I didn't need to worry about shards of my tail light finding their way into my scrambled eggs.  Maybe it helped that I tipped like a Rockefeller for about a month afterward...

#123: PetsConnect!

As of today, we are a month and half away from Christmas, and in a nod to our holiday series on  nonprofits in the area, this post features a local organization that is particularly appropriate to this time of year. 

At this time, many pets given as holiday gifts have outstayed[/-grown] their welcome, and area shelters find themselves swamped with new guests.  There are many area organizations that combat the pet overpopulation problem--Michiana Pet Advocacy Center, Pet Refuge, South Bend Animal Care and Control to name a few--and all are typically at full capacity, especially now.

However, even though a dog may make those new year resolutions to exercise stick, or a cat or two would be nice to celebrate with on Feb. 14th, aka "Screw This, I'm Going to Be a Cat Lady" Day, thinking of the challenges that come with adopting a shelter pet quickly chase away those warm n' fuzzies. 

Never fear.  PetsConnect! is a volunteer-run operation that works with these shelters to facilitate adoption of their animals.  Trained volunteers take on 'foster' pets for basic training, temperament screening, and medical care to ready these animals for a permanent home.  They'll do a lot of the difficult work for you so that it's less intimidating to adopt a shelter pet.

They also are always looking for volunteers, so just stop by one of their events to talk to someone about helping out.  And if you need an immediate boost of puppy love, get tickets asap for their 4th annual "Tails of Love Island Bash" benefit on February 12th.  Music, dancing, frozen drinks, possibly parrots and definitely Parrot Heads. Click here for details and tickets.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

#122: The Vine

There are certain classic restaurants in downtown South Bend that we've so far neglected to include on our growing list. The Vine is certainly one of them. For me, it also holds the special significance of being the very first restaurant I visited in South Bend when I was moving to the city on a hot afternoon in August. My parents had come with me to help with the transition, and for dinner that first night, we somehow found The Vine.

I've been back several times and have never not been impressed. The Vine's atmosphere is perfect for many occasions: the aforementioned "dinner with family", a date night, or even just dinner with a group of friends or business associates. In their own words, it's "casual but upscale".  The menu too fits within that description, serving specialty pizzas alongside filet mignon. While I have not personally tried it, a friend swears by their Baked Brie appetizer, and they are known around the city for their extensive wine selection. The same friend who made the appetizer recommendation also noted that The Vine is a perfect dinner choice before any show at the Morris Performing Arts Center, as it is just around the corner.  I couldn't agree more.

Location: 103 West Colfax

Visit their website here for more information and the full menu.

Tip: If you live closer to Elkhart, there's a location there as well!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

#121: Little & Big 3 Short Film Festival

This Saturday, cinephiles of all ages will have something to watch at the Little & Big 3 Short Film Festival.  Now in its second year, the 3 Film Festival has expanded to three segments, one featuring short films appropriate for all ages, another for high school aged film fans, and the last for audiences 18 years old and up.  Regardless of your age, you don't need an attention span longer than 3 minutes for this event.  All of these short films are 3 minutes or less, making it quite a celebration of brevity and pithiness.  This year's 3 minute cinematic masterpieces were produced by filmmakers from such exotic places as Tasmania, Australia and Elkhart, Indiana.  Local students from Pearly Elementary and Penn High School also contributed films, as did out-of-towners from Utah, California, and Massachusetts among others.

When:  Saturday, February 5th
Little 3: 3-4 pm for the all-ages show and 4-5 pm for the high-school show
Big 3: 7-9 for the grown-up show & band

Where: Perley Fine Arts Academy, 740 N. Eddy Street, South Bend 

Interestingly, film workshops were offered as a part of the film festival through the South Bend Parks Department, and elementary students at Perley Fine Arts Academy also took part through classes.  I've made a mental note to keep an eye out for these workshops next year.  Let us know if you took part in the workshops or even submitted a film for this year's festival.

PLEASE NOTE:  The Little 3 Film Festival was scheduled for today, February 3rd, but has been rescheduled for Saturday due to the snow and school cancellations.  We posted it today so that anyone planning to attend it tonight might see that it's been rescheduled, and so that you can get a jump on planning your weekend.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

#120: Tubing and Skiing at St. Patrick's Park

I don't think anyone will wonder whether or not the groundhog saw his shadow today.  Here in South Bend, we have several weeks of winter left to enjoy.  When the roads become passable again, take advantage of what our mamma (nature) gave us.  Go tubing at St. Patrick's Park.

This county park, just off Auten Road north of the city, does not close down after picnic weather is over; rather, it offers several reasons to get outside in the cold.  First, the inner-tubing hill.  It's open on weekends from 11am-5pm, and for $3, you can rent a tube for the afternoon.  (Sleds aren't permitted -- head south of town to Marion's hill for that.)  If hurtling yourself downhill doesn't appeal to you, take advantage of northern Indiana's topography for some cross-country skiing on St. Pat's many (flat) trails.  You can rent ski equipment for $10, and a trail fee applies.

For more information on inner-tubing, click here.
For more information on xc skiing, click here.
Check conditions at -- there's even a webcam!

For readers residing a bit more on the Mishawaka side, Ferrettie/Baugo Creek County Park also offers inner-tubing, and snowshoeing.  Check here for details.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

#119: Fire Arts

You know the feeling when you've driven past something often enough that you sometimes forget it's even there? Well, I'm ashamed to say that's happened to me.  I've passed by the Fire Arts Gallery countless times on my many (many) trips up and down Colfax, but somehow it's never really registered and I've never had the inclination to visit. Until today.

On this empty afternoon before the impending "blizzard of the 21st century" I stopped in on a whim and was pleasantly surprised in many ways.  Fire Arts features a small gallery in the front of the building which houses the work of the 13 (soon to be 15) in-house artists as well as special exhibits. The special exhibit currently features the work of Wayne Harshberger and his stone carvings. The gallery as a whole boasts significant display pieces as well as smaller items such as jewelry (I particularly loved the key necklaces), vases, and mugs (more on that later). The work featured is eclectic yet all collected under the banner of three-dimensional art.

This becomes more apparent if you're lucky enough to get a tour of the expansive artist studio space behind the gallery. I was apparently curious enough and inexperienced enough that the owner offered to give me one. I can't recount his entire tour, which is why you should go and visit yourself, but the studio features spaces for jewelry-making, silver-smithing, wheel-throwing, slab-carving, bronze-casting (the only space in Northern Indiana that offers this possibility), and much more.  For an artistic beginner it was merely fascinating to see the work in process.

They've only been in existence for six years, but it's clear that Fire Arts has established a close-knit community of artists in the area. Not content to simply sell and display the art, these artists also offer a variety of classes for the beginner to the expert in many of their areas. So visit; maybe you'll discover your inner artist or maybe you'll just buy yourself a locally-made mug to drink hazelnut coffee out of on a wintry afternoon. Like me.

Location: 305 East Colfax

Hours: 12:00pm-9:00pm, Tues. and Thurs.    11:00am-4:00pm, Sat.

For information on classes or more information about the gallery, visit their website here.