Valparaiso popping with festival excitement
VALPARAISO — The 36th annual Popcorn Festival includes more booths than ever before, headliner band the Spin Doctors, and four days of lead-up activities, including meals that benefit nonprofits, cute babies and Hot Wheels cars.
The festival itself takes place from 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Saturday throughout downtown Valparaiso, with the parade kicking off at 10 a.m., and the Spin Doctors taking the stage at Central Park Plaza at 5 p.m.
Though the festival has a new sponsor, ChicagoLand Popcorn of Merrillville, and the food tent and parade are now named for the company, much of the event is the same, said Tina St. Aubin, executive director of Valparaiso Events, which puts the festival on each year.
“We had to move a few things around,” she said, adding the children’s play area will be located at Michigan Street and Indiana Avenue, though that freed up room for more booths. “It enhances the festival a little bit.”
While last year’s festival had a little more than 300 booths, that number has increased by at least 50 this year. Half the booths are sponsored by Valparaiso residents, and a high overall percentage are by people from Porter County, St. Aubin said.
As in past years, all of the food booths are sponsored by local nonprofits, she added.
The festival draws about 50,000 people to downtown Valparaiso each year.
“We want people coming back, vendors and attendees alike,” St. Aubin said.
A full festival schedule is available at www.valparaisoevents.com, but pre-festival events include lunches and dinners Tuesday through Friday at the ChicagoLand Popcorn Food Tent.
The tent also is the site of the Hot Wheels “Race of Champions” at 5 p.m. Tuesday, and the Cutest Baby finals at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.