Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is a length of preserved land stretching along 15 miles of the southern coast of Lake Michigan, weaving in and out of industry and civilization to give a bustling metropolitan area an escape into nature. Lake Michigan – derived from the Ojibwa word “michigami”, meaning “lake” – contains over 22,000 square miles of water surface and is the second largest great lake. Still unsalted and shark-free, the lake is home to fish, fun, and sport. The dunes for which this park exists are hills of sand, built by wind. Each dune is unique to the carving of the wind, and they exist here because of the retreat of glaciers 14,000 years ago. The unique combination of water, sand, and climate create an extremely biodiverse environment just an hour outside of Chicago.
This past weekend, Indiana Dunes helped the National Park Service celebrate our 100th birthday. And the Dunes celebrated our 50th birthday. As well as Indiana’s 200th birthday. That’s a lot of birthdays to celebrate in one park! But we raised our batons to the occasion.
The National Lakeshore collaborated with the Dunes Learning Center, a non-profit associated with the park, to bring in the Northwest Indiana Symphony Orchestra for an amazing performance at West Beach, one of our most popular visitor locations. Bringing in over 1,000 people for this event, the majesty of the orchestra in front of the dunes was a sight to behold. We also had three food trucks available so that attendees could enjoy a homemade sandwich or a walking taco if they wanted to, and many brought their own picnic dinners. After months of planning, all the employees felt the gratification of a crowd turnout that was three times the size of our expectations.
The orchestra is made up of professional musicians from all across Northwest Indiana and is under the leadership of Music Director and Conductor, Kirk Muspratt. He was an excellent entertainer, managing to blend classical symphonic music with Indiana schools’ fight songs, then made an even more unique blend with Michael Jackson and Star Trek for a moving theme about the Earth and all the opportunities and adventure we have yet to find in the universe. The audience and NPS workers were enraptured with the magic of the night as the sun set and the music took us around the world and into the stars.