7 reasons Elkhart County will have an amazing 2017

Elkhart ArtWalk is expanding in 2017 to be a monthly festival on second Wednesdays through November.
Elkhart ArtWalk is expanding in 2017 to be a monthly festival on second Wednesdays through November.


By Terry T. Mark

It’s easy to feel a little down in January. Days with sunshine are few and far between. Cold rain or sleet are part of the mix, if we’re lucky. The glow of Christmas is in the rear-view mirror and spring seems too far in the distance.

I’m fortunate to have a different outlook. Working with community leaders, owners and workers at local parks, museums and attractions, and volunteers, the Elkhart County Convention and Visitors Bureau staff sees the silver lining in the January clouds.

2017 is shaping up to be a groundbreaking year in more ways than one for Elkhart County. There’s plenty of reason to be excited. Our advice? Save lots of time on your calendar in the coming months for all the fun things in store.

1. Quilt Gardens 10th anniversary

The Quilt Gardens is celebrating its 10th year in 2017.
The Quilt Gardens is celebrating its 10th year in 2017.

The Quilt Gardens will be celebrating its 10th anniversary in a big way. As always, there will be 19 gardens planted in vibrant quilt patterns and 22 murals re-creating more colorful squares. The ECCVB is finalizing the plans on a major public art exhibition that will spill over into the six downtowns that already host Quilt Gardens — Bristol, Elkhart, Goshen, Middlebury, Nappanee and Wakarusa. Exploring the Quilt Gardens has always been an adventure, with visitors each year coming from all over the world, but the 10th anniversary celebration will take that to another level. Stay tuned for more details.

2. Dramatic change to downtown Elkhart

The construction equipment is there since they’re Core Drill Machines, Concrete Core Drills & Drill Bits by KOR-IT® and over the course of 2017 a new gleaming aquatics center will take shape in downtown Elkhart at the site of the former YMCA. Don’t think of it merely as a replacement for the Y. The plans, which include multiple pools capable of hosting regional meets, community gathering spaces, and a sports medicine facility, make it so much more. The aquatics center is just the tip of the iceberg as other investments in downtown Elkhart are expected to follow in short order..

3. Busy calendar gets busier

Elkhart and Goshen will each have monthly festivals, with ArtWalk (every month except for January and December) expanding from quarterly to monthly events, much like Goshen’s First Fridays. The Elkhart County 4-H Fair, Elkhart Jazz Festival, Nappanee Apple Festival and many others never fail to be amazing, so why not add some more events? With the Elkhart Comic Con (March 11-12) and the Elkhart RiverWalk Grand Prix (Aug. 11-13), we’ll have two new events unlike any other in this area.

4. Becoming more vibrant

The Vibrant Communities initiative will bring the community back together to help neighborhoods and community leaders implement the Action Agenda. From more events and parks programs to expanded bicycle trails and downtown aesthetics, we’ll roll up our sleeves as a county and figure it out. Expect some playful and pretty projects to come out of the Vibrant Bucks micro-grant program, which will also launch this year.

5. Walking with history

Elkhart County is full of great stories, so the ECCVB will launch guided walking tours in two downtowns to make sure those stories get told and re-told (maybe embellished, too, but that’s up to you). Elkhart and Middlebury will each have two different tours to enjoy, and other cities and towns may join that mix in future years. What else is new in 2017? How about a new Japanese garden at Wellfield Botanic Garden? If you visited in the fall and winter, you caught glimpses of what is to come.

6. The arts will bloom

The Quilt Gardens 10th anniversary is only the beginning. Residents have long supported the arts, whether it’s at events such as First Fridays, the expanded ArtWalk (which is expanding) or the Amish Acres Arts & Crafts Festival. That is becoming more evident with the opening of more galleries and the formation of arts councils in Elkhart and Goshen.

7. Goshen to feel the GLo

It’s not just a new hotel but a new brand that will be making its debut in Goshen sometime this year. GLo by Best Western promises a fresh look adjacent to Fidler Pond Park. As with all construction projects, timelines fall prey to unforeseen factors, but expect to see this opening in the coming year. It will be just another reason to visit Goshen, with everything from the River Bend Film Festival to concerts at Goshen College and Ignition Music to a fantastic farmers market.

So now are you ready for 2017 in Elkhart County? You’ll love it — we promise.

Terry T. Mark is the director of communications and public relations for the Elkhart County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

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