PORTER COUNTY, LAKE COUNTY (October 9, 2016) – It was day twenty eight of the Indiana Bicentennial Torch Relay on its 3,200-mile journey across the state. The torch relay is the most far-reaching event of the Indiana Bicentennial celebration and will touch all 92 Indiana counties. Today’s festivities in Porter and Lake Counties, were coordinated by local organizing committees comprised of community leaders and volunteers.
A picturesque view of Lake Michigan and the Indiana Dunes. It was the setting for the opening ceremony of the Porter County torch relay leg.
Lorelei Weimer, executive director of Indiana Dunes Tourism said, “When I think of our great state of Indiana, one word comes to mind: surprising.” Weimer added, “Visitors to our state quickly learn about our Hoosier hospitality and diverse landscape.”
Marlo Colburn, Porter County’s first torchbearer, is to date the state’s youngest torchbearer. She was nominated for collecting gifts of Play-Doh for her fourth birthday and donated them to Riley’s Hospital for Children in Indianapolis. There were ‘awes’ as the little girl in her pink shoes took off running down the sidewalk.
Marlo handed off to Robert Ordway. He ran down the beach and jumped in a kayak. He said the first wave really got him wet, but he forged out on Lake Michigan and returned back to the beach. He then climb up a giant sand dune before running down the other side of the dune.
Ordway handed the torch to Bill Pauley. The 81-year-old was nominated because he installed GPS enhanced 911 signs at parks throughout Porter County so that if someone suffers a medical condition on a trail, they can better report their location to help emergency responders.
The torch then went down the new Dunes-Kankakee Trail via other torchbearers before stopping at the welcome center.
The torch made its way to the campus of Valparaiso University. Robert Patterson will carried the torch in honor of his son, Christopher, a Valparaiso University student who died while serving in the National Guard in Afghanistan.
A series of other torchbearers carried the torch into downtown. One of them was Gail Tuminello. She’s the daughter of popcorn king Orville Redenbacher, carried the torch past a statue of Redenbacher. She even took a seat with him for a brief moment.
At a ceremony in Valparaiso’s Central Park, people gathered with small American flags and inflatable torches.
Mayor Jon Costas said, ” We have such a proud heritage in Indiana.” He continued, we have a melting pot in Northwest Indiana Full of history, hard-working and resourceful people.”
A classic Mustang convertible transported the torch between Valparaiso and Portage.
Duane Davidson was thrilled to be picked as a torchbearer. He said he wasn’t sure who nominated him, but suspected it was one of his friends.
Torchbearer Stephanie Crook has battled multiple sclerosis, but isn’t letting it thwart her love for running. She ran in front of Willowcreek Middle School where she used to be a student.
In Porter County, 55 people who were chosen for their achievements.
Under sunny skies and outside Oil City Stadium in Whiting, the city’s mayor was the first torchbearer in Lake County. Joe Stahura climbed in to a ‘Burn Perfection Oil’ horse-drawn wagon. Stahura has been mayor since 2003 and has received the state’s highest honor, a Sagamore of the Wabash.
Torchbearer Thomas Keilman was the second torchbearer, fittingly he works for BP Whiting Refinery. Others who walked with the torch along Indianapolis Boulevard by the refinery, Matt Valuckis, Jade Griffin, who had her fellow soldiers jog along the sidewalk with her, and Michael Griffin, who messaged the relay. Griffin said, “I am thrilled and honored to be a torchbearer. Another one of those torchbearers was Cavin Porter, who carried the flameless torch. Cavin was born in 2008, addicted to cocaine. Shortly after his birth, he was taken to a foster home in East Chicago, where the Porter’s volunteered and eventually adopted him. Cavin has been an advocate for the children there ever since and volunteers himself.
In East Chicago, Sister Barbara Kuper and Sister Peg Pindler were both torchbearers.
Driving the torch out of East Chicago and into Gary was Richard Hatcher. He is a former mayor of Gary and was the first African-American Mayor elected in the state of Indiana. Hatcher was known for being a national and international spokesman for civil rights, minorities and the poor in American cities. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at Indiana University-Northwest.
Carrying the torch out of Gary and into Merrillville was Bishop Dale Melczek. Now retired from the Catholic Diocese of Gary, Melczek is still a prominent leader in Gary. He enjoyed himself in the caravan Subaru, holding the torch out of the sunroof.
A series of walkers carried the torch through the busy streets of Merrillville. Clusters of family and friends gathered with torchbearers to cheer them on as they carried the torch.
From there it was on to Hobart. Patti and Andrew Nowaczyk carried the torch in honor of their son, Staff Sergeant David Nowaczyk. David graduated from Lake Central High School and enlisted in the Army. His first deployment was to Afghanistan. He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with Valor for his service.Deployed for a third time to Afghanistan in 2012, David was killed by and IED. Patti was emotional when talking about her son, but said she was honored to do it for him.
As the torch continued through Hobart, Sister Kathleen Quinn was honored to be a torchbearer. Quinn has been a leader in healthcare, co-founded two lifesaving ministries that serve women and children and has spent her entire career working with the poor.
Hobart Mayor Brian Snedecor was the final torchbearer. Culver Military Academy: Pipes & Drums played as he brought the torch to Festival Park.
“This is really history in the making for the State of Indiana,” said Snedecor.
The torch traveled 138.71 miles on Sunday, bring the total mileage of the relay to 2,841.9. The Bicentennial Torch Relay continues Tuesday, October 11, 2016. The relay will finish Lake County’s leg and then go through Jasper, Newton and Ben
The Bicentennial Experience will be in Hobart on Monday at County Line Orchard located at 200 S. County Line Road from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. (Central time)
On October 15, 2016, you’re invited to Hoosier Homecoming from Noon – 5:00 p.m. on the Indiana Statehouse Campus. Hoosier Homecoming is a free, family-friendly event celebrating Indiana’s 200th birthday. It is also the grand finale of the Indiana Bicentennial Torch Relay. The torch will be used to illuminate an everlasting light for Indiana that will serve as an homage to the state’s first 200 years and an inspiration for generations of Hoosiers to come. The everlasting light will be part of the new Bicentennial Plaza on the west side of the statehouse.