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WEDNESDAY: Art in the Park Season Finale

Lafayette Parks and Recreation hosted the 1st annual “Art in the Park” summer art and music series this year, a free family event held in Lafayette’s historic Columbian Park. Located on the recently fancified Memorial Island in the center of the Columbian Park pond area, Art in the Park features local artists, musicians and food trucks. It’s kind of like a mid-week mini-Mosey (without the drunken shenanigans) but with a focus on the arts and on family entertainment. It’s a great regular Wednesday evening event, one where you can take the kids, get a snack, play on a gorgeous playground, and catch a live music show in one fell swoop.

I asked Parks Coordinator Alex Dewitt what the Parks Department wanted to see when they started this free event. “[We] wanted to bring families together outdoors, inspire creativity in children and build an appreciation for local arts and culture,” she said. Early in the season, the Parks Department decided to clean up the old Memorial Island area, and discovered that under all the old craggy shrubbery were networks of lovely old rock gardens and flower beds. They revived the old gardens with new landscaping, generally cleaning up the island and stage area. It’s a handsome venue today. This was definitely a goal for the Parks team. But most importantly, Dewitt said, “we wanted to provide a safe, beautiful environment for the community to come together” and appreciate the arts.

On a personal note, it was great to see city-sanctioned events held in this public space. Growing up in Lafayette in the 80s, Columbian Park was kind of a dead area in town, but after years of development and imagination, Columbian Park is a clean, vibrant community hub again. Folks wandered in and out of the event area with kids big and small, tapped a foot to music, got some shaved ice from the Kona Ice truck, or a taco from the Lkora truck. On the nights I was there, my family saw a special 1960′s cover set from local cool kids Popular Ego, and on another night, a vibrant and smooth session from Clive Caribe. Folks like artist Stacy Bogan and the sublime crafters from Blue Monday were out selling their wares. Really, it is a stellar way to spend a Wednesday evening over the summer.

Art in the Park’s season finale is happening this week, and the Parks team plans to end the inaugural season with high fives all around, more great bands, and more great art and food vendors. Get out there and support the local arts.

THE DETAILS:
Wednesday, August 20, 2014, from 6:30-8:30pm
Cost: FREE
Memorial Island Stage, Columbian Park
Featuring: Traveling, Broke, and Out of Gas & The Prannies

Follow Art in the Park on Facebook to stay current on future information and dates.

Big Latch On Lafayette, 2014

 

Celebrating Big Latch On 2012 in Lafayette. Photo by Alexis Roberts.
Celebrating Big Latch On 2012 in Lafayette. Photo by Alexis Roberts.

For the third year in a row, mothers and children in the Greater Lafayette area will be joining a worldwide record-setting event called Big Latch On. Part of World Breastfeeding Week, Big Latch On is a  simultaneous breastfeeding event to promote breastfeeding awareness and the development of support networks for breastfeeding mothers. Local experts will be on hand to answer questions.

Big Latch On started in New Zealand in 2005 and has since become a global tradition. The global record for Big Latch On currently stands at 14,536. Local and international organizers hope to break that record again this year.

In addition to building a personal support network, women have the opportunity to learn about their legal rights. Indiana law has a specific provision permitting breastfeeding anywhere a woman has a legal right to be. In addition, breastfeeding women have rights regarding expression and storage of milk while at work.

This year, Big Latch On will be observed locally on Saturday, August 2. Participants are asked to arrive around 10 AM in order to be ready for the official breastfeeding count that will take place at precisely 10:30. Space for Greater Lafayette’s observation of Big Latch On is being provided by the West Lafayette Public Library.

RSVP on Facebook or contact Angie Cotton for more information.

 

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The Hoosier State Rail Line’s Privatized Future

Corridor Capital, LLC, a Chicago-based passenger rail development company, has been selected by the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) to operate the Hoosier State rail line between Indianapolis and Chicago. Corridor Capital and INDOT will now negotiate the terms of the transfer away from Amtrak, which currently operates the Hoosier State. Service will be transferred to Corridor Capital on Oct. 1, 2014.

Lafayette mayor Tony Roswarski was one of the panelists evaluating proposals submitted by four companies. Corridor Capital narrowly beat out Iowa Pacific Holdings, a British American Railways subsidiary with a long history of commuter rail service. In fact, Roswarski rated the Iowa Pacific Holdings offer slightly higher than Corridor Capital’s. 

What does Corridor Capital have to offer? Mainly older (like 60 years old), refurbished train cars.  Everything else looks to be done on the fly with contractors, according to CC’s website at least:

Like most businesses today, Corridor Capital stays nimble by owning as few assets as possible and using contractors to provide specific services, facilities and products on an ‘as-needed’ basis. 

There are no photos of these refurbished train cars on their website, but this brochure gives an idea of their amenities. I’d be more enthusiastic if I could actually see the trains.

Corridor Capital's car amenities.
Corridor Capital’s fleet amenities. 

There are several challenges Corridor Capital will have to overcome to be successful with the Hoosier State, the biggest challenge being creating a viable alternative to driving I-65 to Chicago. In my view, the Hoosier State should target travelers who make frequent day trips to Chitown. What needs to happen to attract those riders?

Reliable Service 

Currently only 66% of Hoosier State trains arrive on time. That number needs to be much higher. Most of the delays are due to freight trains having priority on the tracks between Indy and Chicago. Corridor Capital was selected by INDOT partly because of its close relationship with rail operators in the Chicago area, but it’s a mystery as to whether it will have any success getting the Hoosier State to Chicago faster.

Ultimately, a new route might have to be rehabbed on abandoned lines, which would require federal money. Anecdotally, I know there is a seldom-used railroad that runs between Lafayette and Wanatah which could be upgraded.  The next connection between Wanatah and Gary was removed in the 1980s and would have to be rebuilt.

Faster Train Speeds

The average speed of a Hoosier State train running from Indy to Chicago is only 48 mph. Serious investment or a new route would be need to improve the track to allow faster speeds, and faster trains wouldn’t solve the congestion problem in the Chicago area. Right now, it takes about three hours to drive between downtowns Indianapolis and Chicago while the Hoosier State takes five. That gap needs to be closer to one hour and not two to increase daytripper ridership.

More Convenient Schedule and Better Amenities 

Among the documents released with the bid selection was an analysis of four scheduling options to increase ridership on the Hoosier State. These four options are listed below.

Possible schedule options for the Hoosier State
Possible schedule options for the Hoosier State

All of these options include reducing trip times by 30 minutes by increasing allowable speeds on the route, which may not be possible. WiFi and a snack car are must-haves as well.  People have to be able to be comfortable and get work done if they’re going to be repeat riders of the new Hoosier State.

What do you think needs to happen to make the Hoosier State viable? What amount would you pay to ride it? Will Greyhound and Megabus always be better alternatives? There are so many unknowns regarding the future of rail service in Lafayette, but change is coming for better or for worse.

 

Wabash National Lab at MatchBOX coworking studio

Membership Growth, New Sponsors Spur MatchBOX Coworking Space

Ashley Scott was nervous.

“I always stress out before these things,” said Scott, the operations manager at MatchBOX, downtown Lafayette’s new coworking studio.  But it was the good kind of stress. Scott took to the podium Wednesday morning to announce that MatchBOX had reached its two-year membership goal in its first 90 days of operations and introduced five new corporate sponsors.

With its $25,000 donation, Wabash National was given naming rights to MatchBOX’s workbench space, now known at the Wabash National Lab.  Another new sponsor, Harbor Freight Tools, will donate tools and production equipment of all sizes to the fabrication area, which already sports a MakerBot 3D printer and scanner. Nanshan America  and Duke Energy pledged funding of $15,000 and $10,000 respectively. Tipmont REMC also committed financial support.

We’ve written about MatchBOX a few times at Think Lafayette and what it means as a place for incubating startups and the entrepreneurial spirit. What’s so exciting about Wednesday’s announcement is how eagerly the community and local corporations have pledged to support the studio.

A big theme from yesterday’s press conference MatchBOX is a critical tool to retain recent Purdue grads and young professionals in Greater Lafayette. Lafayette Mayor Tony  Roswarski said that MatchBOX was “being talked about all over the state” and “has put Lafayette on the map.”

With 56 members signed up in 90 days, MatchBOX is well on its way to becoming a professional hub in downtown Lafayette.

(Photo credit: James Britton)

 

 

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Turning Sagamore Parkway into a Complete Street

Sagamore Parkway was in the news last week as the city announced plans to repave the road from the railroad tracks north of South Street south to McCarty Lane. However, this is just a temporary patch job before a major construction project starts in the next couple of years which will span from just north of Greenbush Street all the way to Main Street.

I recently stumbled across a website run by BF&S, the civil engineering contractors responsible for the rebuild.  Beyond just rebuilding the road itself, the plans call for turning Sagamore into a ‘complete street’ with facilities for pedestrians, bicycles, and busses. The planned upgrades include:

  • A multi-use trail
  • Sidewalks
  • Streetlights
  • New drainage
  • New traffic lights and signal timing

BF&S also created an nice animation showing what all these upgrades would look like.

What do you think of the plans? Not enough? Just right? Too costly? If you have a comment, contact the engineers on their website.

Indigo Girls Amy Ray and Emily Saliers

Indigo Girls deliver folk rock greatness to downtown Lafayette

The strangest thing that happened on-stage Sunday night during the Indigo Girls‘ epic set of their legendary folk rock tunes and a surprise cover was a shout-out by IG co-founder Emily Saliers. The blonde half of the duo name-checked downtown greasy spoon Sunrise Diner. She ate there not once but twice during her 36 hours in Greater Lafayette. And she wasn’t even drunk. “I love a place where they call you ‘hon’ when they bring you your food,” the guitarist and vocalist said. “It reminds me of the South.” Astonishingly, Saliers, an Atlanta native, even got Sunrise’s Fifth and Columbia address correct. From opening act Hannah Thomas‘ first song to the last Indigo Girls’ tune, a surprise cover of the Charlie Daniels’ classic “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” the crowd of almost 600 were loud all night. They jumped up when Saliers and fellow Indigo Girl Amy Ray strode onto the historic Long Center for the Performing Arts stage. They rose out of their seats during the opening chords of their favorite songs and danced. They appreciated the youthful exuberance of Thomas, an Atlanta singer-songwriter that is better and more country than 90 percent of the so-called stuff on pop-country radio.

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A big first win for One Too Many Beers Productions, Indigo Girls were sporting a big, tight rhythm section and fiddle player while Ray and Saliers swam through decades of material with ease. Ray’s low voice and rock star-like stage presence was balanced by Saliers high harmonies and frenetic fretwork on guitar and electric banjo. While she was in no way close to stealing the show, Thomas made a favorable impression with the excitable crowd with her energy and engagement. With songs that celebrate classic country topics of drinking beer and whiskey, Thomas did her job as a warm-up act and then some. Sporting a fantastic voice, Thomas’ lyrics were most celebrated. Lines like “I drank the devil’s water/ And kissed the preacher’s daughter” and “Don’t drink too much of the hard stuff/ And watch out for the deer” got the crowd hooting and hollering.

The future of live music in Lafayette

We spoke with Ken McCammon, president of Friends of Downtown and organizer of Mosey Down Main about his first show for One Too Many Beers, LLC. The goofily named production company appears to be the money-making next step for the community organizer. McCammon and his partner, Stephen Bultinck, have many acts “on the list” that they would like to bring to Lafayette including Nashville rockers The Wild Feathers, R&B group Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, and The Rides (Stephen Stills and Kenny Wayne Shepherd).  The latter just announced a tour next year. As McCammon pointed out, $40 a head was a bargain for Indigo Girls considering “you’re not driving to Indy, spending money on gas, and paying eight bucks for a beer.” For the record, People’s Sgt. Bravo was on tap for the relative bargain of $5.

One Too Many Beers partnered with experienced concert organizer Seema Choudhary from Our Motivation For Change to bring Indigo Girls to Lafayette. McCammon collaborated with Choudhary, founder of the recently revamped nightclub Carnahan Hall, because she “knows how to do it.” She ran Summer Camp music festival last month in Illinois and is experienced with booking artists, said McCammon.

While the venue was slightly less than half-full, the Long Center crowd was plenty loud enough, especially during the encore sing-along (video below). The cheers seemed to energize both Indigo Girls and young and rising Hannah Thomas.  McCammon, Choudhary, and the Ray-Saliers fan club have given hope for attracting more top notch music to Greater Lafayette.

Encore featuring Galileo, Closer to Fine, Devil Went Down to Georgia

Story, photos, and video by James Britton and Tim Brouk. 

West Lafayette Mayor John Dennis on funwiththemayor.com

West Lafayette Mayor John Dennis is a Rising YouTube Star

Outfitted with a wireless mic and an overly blue-tinted camera, West Lafayette Mayor John Dennis has taken to YouTube to speak to the people on funwiththemayor.com.

Currently a redirect to the city’s YouTube channel, funwiththemayor.com features Mayor Dennis interviewing city government agency directors on topics such as trash talk, wastewater utilities, and city planning and development.

I’d like to see this insider’s look into life in West Lafayette city government evolve into more community engagement. Our city has a lot going on with the recent annexation to include Purdue University’s property, the State Street Master Plan, and the New Chauncey Neighborhood Plan.  Stick around for the full 10 minutes; the mayor’s snark and humor is highlighted in the outtakes reel.

Mayor John Dennis on funwiththemayor.com
John Dennis, with a little less blue and a little more green.

Mayor Dennis, I think you’re on to something with these video briefings, but could you check the settings on your camera? The blue tinge brings down your upbeat, onscreen demeanor. We look forward to your next vlog that hopefully includes some residents’ perspectives.

Purdue, Lafayette & West Lafayette, Indiana: All things Weird, Wild, and Interesting in the Arts, Music, Food & Culture. Also featuring discussions on #LafCoC & a free Community Calendar.