Escape to Elkhart

by on March 7th, 2015
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Our friends at the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce have a terrific travel tip for those of us who cannot afford to go to Florida this winter: Visit nearby, affordable Elkhart,Indiana instead.

Drive east an easy distance on the Indiana Tollroad and:

-Take in a show at the beautifully restored Lerner Theatre at 410 S. Main Street,

-Visit the Midwest Museum of American Art across the street for a gallery tour, film, or exhibit,

-Dine at a downtown establishment,

-And then walk it off along the Elkhart RiverWalk as you watch two historic rivers, the Elkhart and Saint Joseph, come to a meeting of the waters in as scenic a setting as you could hope to find on any vacation.

So take a cure from cabin fever this winter and follow in the footsteps of your intrepid day trekkers as we return for yet another foot tour of the city that never lets us down:

(Elkhart, Indiana) . . . For starters, we parked for free in a lot just off Main Street and then hiked across the street to the box office of the Lerner Theatre where we learned that the Lerner would be staging great entertainment all winter long. They were just about to put up a 1940’s musical revue fittingly called In the Mood, and they offer their Crystal Ballroom for small meetings, large banquets, weddings, and business conferences (www.crystalballroomcatering.com). We camped out at the Lerner in June for the Elkhart Jazz Festival, and we will be back in June 2012 for three days of the best live jazz to be found this side of Monterey, California. And we’ll probably take my mother to a show at the Lerner this winter; so expect to see us comfortably settled in that grand auditorium some day or night this winter. And for more information, please contact the Lerner Theatre at 800-294-8223 or on-line at: thelerner.com.

After getting ourselves in the mood for more live entertainment at the absolutely gorgeous Lerner Theatre, we stepped smartly back across the handsome streetscape that is Main Street and slid into the Midwest Museum of American Art (MMAA) to help Brian Byrn celebrate 30 years as Curator of the true treasure of American art museums.

Ladies and gentlemen, please know that Brian Byrn knows all there is to know about the American art scene and living and deceased American artists. But be further informed that he is generous and totally entertaining with his knowledge.

We were blessed to be in Brian’s presence as he prepared to say a fond farewell to the 33rd Elkhart Juried Regional Show and welcome the paintings of Gwen Gutwein in a show called Barns of Indiana. The latter opens December 9 and continues through February 26, 2012 and features 50 paintings by Gwen Gutwein who, according to Brian Byrn, “grew up on a farm in Northwest Indiana and understands the beauty, heritage, and nostalgia contained in barns. When she began to notice the disappearance of these structures from her landscape, she made a conscious decision to capture some forever on canvas.”

We then made the right decision by following Brian Byrn into the 33rd Elkhart Juried Regional Show before it closed on December 4 to behold the 172 works of art by 141 artists from 22 counties in northwest Indiana and southwest Michigan. Brian was pleased to note that Branch County, Michigan had been added this year as a result of an appeal from artists there. This year 269 artists entered 471 works of art in all media, and though he was not a judge, Brian Byrn was particularly partial to Steve Hansen’s hand-built ceramic piece titled “Venus 2011.”

We were clucking happily after we encountered Quinton Fletcher’s bold oil on canvas called “Big Angry Chicken,” and we just basically lost ourselves in the Juried Regional Show and the permanent collection. I tell you, folks, the Midwest Museum of American Art, which is open every day but Monday, is your sure cure for cabin fever this winter.

And, after you have brightened your spirits with Gwen Gutwein’s barns and such pieces from the permanent collection as Harold “Tuck” Langland’s bronze “Muse of Music 2003,” you will want to follow your nose to one of the nearby food emporiums for lunch or dinner. We settled warmly and happily at a place called the Daily Grind and ate a hearty lunch and had some gourmet coffee and tea before striking off on the nearby RiverWalk to watch the Elkhart River literally run into the Saint Joseph River. You will find, as we did, a 10-foot wide concrete walkway that follows the river’s course as well as informative markers along your way that tell of the importance of the two rivers to Elkhart’s growth and development. Plus, you will see, as we did, plenty of Canada Geese and many Mallards. And who knows what else might turn up this winter along one or both rivers?

So take it from us, and take a delightful day trip to downtown Elkhart this winter. We can’t promise you any pink flamingoes, but we can assure you that will receive all the budget-minded travel tips you will need to bust your mood by contacting the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce in care of: 574-293-1531, or www.elkhart.org.


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