Thursday, August 25, 2011

#218: Off Beat

Last year, we profiled the prolific Art Beat, probably the biggest festival of the South Bend festival season.  Imagine an artists' tailgate on St. Joseph Street in downtown South Bend, and that's the best comparison for the number--and energy--of booths around.   It lasts from 11:00am-6:00pm this Saturday, and you can spend anywhere from minutes to hours wandering around looking at everything.

Last year, I came, left, returned, spent another hour, and then, wandered home when the artists started closing up their booths.  Six o'clock is a bit early for the day to end, it felt, and I'm glad some others felt similarly....This year, stores across the river from downtown--CircaArts, Inspire Me!, Piser Designs, Junk Evolution/Carpenter Gothic, and Just Goods--will be hosting "Off Beat", a spin-off from the larger event.  It will start at 4:00pm and last until 9:00pm.

I assume it will have a similar atmosphere to the First Fridays celebrations, but some stores, in addition to the extended hours and appetizers, will be hosting artists.  For example, at Marigold's, Tim and Conner MacDonald, two local artists, will be displaying their work.

Check our previous post on ArtBeat for information about where to park and what other events are going on.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

#217: The Olive Branch

An Ode to The Olive Branch's Violet Balsamic Vinegar:

I am no cook.
I lack the time, the experience, the fancy ingredients necessary for that recipe.
Yet after a quick stop at a side store in Toscana Park,
I can fool you,
all thanks to its Violet Balsamic Vinegar.

Oil and vinegar come together in this bright idea, 
inspired by similar culinary creativity in larger cities.
Free samples, no rush -- downing Dixie cups of thick yellow-green oil and 18-year-old balsamic,
I criss-cross the store
before finally deciding on the addictive nectar of the gods
Violet Balsamic Vinegar.

Not knowing if or how I would use it,
I surprised myself when the bottle was half gone...

salads, marinades, pasta sauces disappeared fast as well...
anything that this vinegar touched.

Where: Inside Villa Macri's at Toscana Park, 225 Toscana Blvd, Suite #2, Granger
Also locations in Goshen and Shipshewana.
Call: 574.855.1059
When: Mon - Thurs. 10:00 am - 7:00 pm; Fri - Sat. 10:00 am - 8:00 pm; Sun. 12:00 - 6:00 pm

Thursday, August 18, 2011

#216: Third Thursdays

After making itself the destination for the first Friday of the month, downtown South Bend is now trying to take over the Third Thursday as well!  How dare they!  Offer special dining specials, similar to those available during Eat. Drink. Downtown South Bend.

Isn't going out to eat in downtown South Bend supposed to be a guaranteed night of disaster?  No parking, no one but bums around, expensive meals for little food?  What's this with a three-course dinner at Tippecanoe for $30...per couple?!?  Outrageous!  Who would do that?!  And beer sampling is just so trendy now, isn't it?!?!! ... Fiddler's Hearth and LaSalle Grill have already gotten in on that trend, and now, we have to deal with a new brewery in town too?!  Jeeeeeez.

If you want to read more, check it out yourself at the Third Thursdays website.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

#215: Green Drinks

Pardon the week-hiatus, but I'm getting back on the wagon...with a blogpost about "South Bend Green Drinks".  This innovative event is essentially a happy hour for anyone interested in making South Bend more sustainable. 
A slogan South Bend can get behind.

On the third Tuesday of each month, a different local business plays host, and the form of the event changes depending on the location.  For example, August Green Drinks is tonight at Junk Evolution, and each attendee was asked to BYOB or a snack to share.  And as a special draw, South Bend's new brewery, Four Horseman Brewery, is offering samples of their new brews before their tasting room opens to the public on Thursday!

Green Drinks happen across the world, from Argentina to Zambia, and their website advocates, "We have a lively mixture of people from NGOs, academia, government and business. Come along and you'll be made welcome. Just say, "are you green?" and we will look after you and introduce you to whoever is there."

Even if you aren't a vegan or an avid mass transit supporter, you are likely to meet some interesting people like yourself who are finding easy ways to be 'green'.  Like buying beer by the growler, not by the can.  Tonight's event lasts until 8:30 at Junk Evolution, so follow Queen's advice, and get on your bikes and ride.

Green Drinks website:
Click here to sign up for South Bend Green Drinks listserv.
Want to know more about the next meet-up? Visit the Facebook page.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

#214: Simeri's Old Town Tap

I said goodbye to South Bend at Simeri’s. We drove there past white houses and scruffy parks, past railroad tracks, the old Studebaker buildings, and kids on bikes tearing up cracked sidewalks as the sun went down. I hadn’t been before. Someone had once mentioned a bar with a great patio, and so after dinner I suggested we grab a drink.  It was, in that honest, Midwestern way, exactly as described.  Several people were playing dimly-lit pool in the main room. Several others sat by themselves at the bar. We ordered and headed outside, the only ones sitting around one of the small circular tables on that really great patio. There was music playing on distant speakers, and maybe I’m making this up, but I like to think we heard some Tom Petty, some Elton John.

When you’re young, people tell you that this is the time in your life to be adventurous. To try something different. To move somewhere far away. They say it with good intentions, but under the assumption that your life is always easy to give up or that you don’t yet understand what it means for things to be permanent. I didn’t feel that way when I left South Bend. Over beer and salty popcorn on a warm Indiana night, that assumption, that indulgence, felt almost cruel. 

I’m writing this post three months after that last night in town, in a small coffee shop in San Antonio, Texas. Several posts ago, Tracy mentioned my move and my current job, and I felt compelled to write something more. We started this blog in spirited defiance of those people and publications who might contend that our city is dying.  Along the way, at least for me, it stopped feeling like a crusade and began to feel simply like a lived-in life. So now I just want to say thank you. Thank you South Bend for your Farmer’s Market, your library, and your numerous diners, for your chilly St. Patrick’s Day parades, your dive bars, and your concerts in the park; but most of all, thank you for being that place where I learned what it meant to be a member of a larger community. It’s where I learned, as Tracy once said, to have an appreciation for where I am. Wherever I might be, that’s not something I’m likely to forget.

Simeri’s Old Town Tap
Location: 1505 West Indiana Avenue
Contact: (574) 289-1361
Note #1: On weekends in the summer Simeri’s has live music!
Note #2: I've heard from a regular that the bar menu is apparently quite good.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

#213: On the River

Ever wish you lived in South Beach instead of South Bend?  Well, for one weekend a year, on an unused plot overlooking downtown, On the River brings the beach to the Bend.  This event, begun in 2008, is a fundraiser for the Center for the Homeless and has grown into one of the biggest summer festivals in the city.
As opposed to many events, which tend to be either family-oriented or beer tent-oriented (and not even trying with the hard-to-please teen crowd), the multiple nights of On the River allows everyone* to enjoy the novelty of a sand beach and palm trees in DTSB.  Each night features a  DJ and live music, volleyball and cornhole, and tropical drinks and food, although on Teen night, the daiquiris are virgin and "Freaky Tiki Punch" is not available.  Family Day on Saturday afternoon gives kids the chance to build sand castles and enjoy a variety of carnival activities in an alcohol-free environment... more than you can say for most beaches on Lake Michigan.  Tonight's 21+ Beach Bash kicks off in only a few hours, and get your crew there early for the volleyball or cornhole tournament (3:00 and 5:30 pm start, respectively).
21+ Beach Bash
New this year was In the River, an organized group paddle of the St. Joe Saturday morning.  Organizers were aiming to get 200 boats out on the river.  Look for the follow-up to see if they made their goal!
When: Friday, August 5, 6:00-11:00 pm (Teen Night); Saturday, August 6, 11:00 am-3:00pm (Family Day), 3:00-11:00pm (Beach Bash)
Where: near Colfax Ave. Bridge on the east side of the St. Joe River, across from the Century Center
For tickets, to register for the tournaments, and for more information about parking and what to bring, visit

*Except for Senior night.  Perhaps it's the heat, the skill needed to maneuver on sand, or the loud music, but it would be great to welcome South Bend's eldest out to enjoy the beach!

Friday, August 5, 2011

#212: Lincoln Highway Adventure

Yup, it's First Friday again -- this month's theme: "The Dog Days of Summer".  Get downtown tonight to take advantage of the late hours and special dining deals.  Pets are welcome too -- check for information about all the events occurring tonight.

One special event is using tonight as its kick off -- the Lincoln Highway Adventure.  In April, we highlighted Jeff Blair's objective to walk the length of Indiana's Lincoln Highway, and this post drew my attention to the historical value of South Bend's Lincolnway, part of America's first transcontinental highway.  I didn't get a chance to walk along with Jeff Blair as he crossed through Indiana, but since then, I started to notice the blue "historical highway" signs along this main artery in town, and this weekend offers another opportunity to explore where else this road leads.

The Lincoln Highway Adventure takes participants across the northern part of the state, beginning in South Bend and through New Carlisle, LaPorte, Valparaiso, and Dyer (1913 route) and back to Plymouth (1928 route).  At each stop, registered participants can get their "passport" stamped, geo-cache and answer trivia questions, scavenger hunt style.  Those who complete the route will be entered to win prizes at the end of the day.

Tonight, to kick-off the event, there is a classic car cruise-in on W. Washington St. in downtown South Bend.  Everyone is welcome to vote for prize-winning cars, such as "Best in Show" and "People's Choice".
At the cruise-in
At the cruise-in
For more information, or to register your car for either event, visit the website

#211: Urban Adventure Games

While this is a retroactive post for this event, the Urban Adventure Games a) are too fun, b) support our mission to "have appreciation for where you are" too closely, and c) draw too much of the community for us not to highlight them.

The last weekend of July, when South Bend is often at its hottest and muggiest, teams gather together to race around the city, attempting to complete a set of challenges in 3.5 hours.   These tasks range from ziplining across the St. Joe to making paper airplanes on Notre Dame's campus to counting the number of doorposts in the new Kroc Center.  Biking and foot are the only transportation permitted.

Sound crazy?  It is.

The Urban Adventure games are unlike any other "race" in South Bend.  Part strategy, part teamwork, all good.  It's like a South Bend version of Nickelodean's "Wild n Crazy Kids".  Visit the website to learn more about the four different divisions of races and the rules for the event.  There's no faster way to see all parts of the city, as well as meet as many volunteers at all the stations, than through this event.
At the Cove, teams strategize during the 30 minute planning period before the start of the physical race.

The date for the 2012 Urban Adventure Games has already been scheduled for July 28, so mark your calendars and start training now!

We're back!

Loyal readers, we're happy to say that we're back on the blogging bandwagon.  During July, we travelled and developed new appreciation for hiking, busking, and postcard writing, respectively. 
Definitely not South Bend.
Our blogforce is normally three strong, with guest posts peppered in, but one of us has now relocated to the Lone Star state to join the forces of America's educators in San Antonio, TX.  She promises to incorporate South Bend into lessons, whether it's by learning how to approximate the number of festivals that occur in the month of June (probably in the hundreds, right?) or teaching 4th graders to submit editorials to national publications criticizing the criteria use to designate a city as dying. 

The beauty of the Internet allows for remote blogging, and we welcome submissions for guest posts.  Contact us at  And with about 150 posts to go, we're still working through all the suggestions that have been offered -- thank you for your tips and keep sending them in!