Val­paraiso pop­ping with fes­ti­val ex­cite­ment

Post-Tribune - - Local - BY AMY LAVALLEY Post-Tri­bune cor­re­spon­dent

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.

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