Thursday, May 5, 2016

A spot in the shade along the courthouse lawn and Main Street helped bring a little extra coolness for the throngs of people gathered July 6, 2012, to watch Goshen's Cruisin' Reunion at First Fridays. (Truth Photo By Mark Shephard)
The things that make us strong in Elkhart County

Posted on June 28, 2014 at 6:34 p.m.

Summertime, and the urge to get out of town for a few days grows strong.

Funny thing, though. No matter where we go, no matter how long we’re away, we find ourselves coming home to Elkhart and Goshen and all the little towns that dot Elkhart County.

We come home to affirm our sense of community.

Thousands of us — an estimated 15,000 — gathered downtown last weekend for the Elkhart Jazz Festival. We came to dance, to eat, to mingle with the crowds, as we always do. But we also came for the chance to see a pair of New Orleans jazz legends, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Aaron Neville. They helped drive ticket sales to a record $160,000.

Thousands more of us will fill the streets of Goshen for Friday’s sixth annual Cruisin’ Reunion, an event that attracts hundreds of muscle cars, both classic and modern. “American Graffiti” comes to life for this one night each year as small-block V-8s rumble up and down Main Street, Baby Boomers reflect on their youth and teenagers instinctively turn away from their friends to watch as a slammed Subaru WRX shimmers past.

And then, two weeks after that, we’ll throng to the Elkhart County 4-H Fair — about 280,000 of us, altogether.

Some of us go to enjoy a lineup of rising country music stars. Others go to eat deep-fried foods they never knew existed. Still others go to see the animals and their young 4-H owners, anxiously preparing for the show ring.

But in the end, we stroll the Midway at the fair for the same reason we dance on Civic Plaza or line the sidewalks and watch vintage hot rods — because we need one another.

We needed one another over the last five years as our friends and families lost their jobs. We needed one another just to make sure that the kids had school supplies and that people had enough to eat.

We needed one another as we slowly, steadily rebuilt our economy, as we laid the groundwork for a downtown Elkhart renaissance and established Goshen as one of the most vibrant, attractive small towns in the Midwest.

None of it was easy. But for the past five summers — and, of course, summers before that — we gathered every few weeks as a community to bolster our resolve, to comfort each other, to celebrate our progress.

Black, white, Latino, Asian, rich, poor, young, old, gay, straight — it did not matter. We all danced. We all ate. We all needed companionship.

Our sense of community makes us strong. It allows us to overcome our challenges.

And that is worth celebrating.