Author Archives:

Yoder Popcorn Fun Fact

by Joanna King

What does Yoder popcorn and mint gum have in common? As it turns out…they have quite a history.

Did you know?

What started out as an accident soon became one of the most iconic names in chewing gum history… and it all started here in LaGrange County.

South of Shipshewana just before you get to Topeka, there’s a family business that raises and sells popcorn. Before there was popcorn in the 1930’s, the Yoder family raised mint in the 1910’s. This was a cash crop for many farmers in LaGrange County.

Photo of a mint plant
Mint was a cash crop for many LaGrange County farmers.

Here’s the rest of the story…

The year was 1936 when Tobias Yoder and his son Rufus who had been raising mint, started planting popcorn for their family enjoyment. They shared their popcorn with neighbors and family. It didn’t take long for word to get out that Yoder Popcorn was excellent popcorn.

Yoder Popcorn Entrance Sign
Yoder Popcorn located at 7680 W 200 S, Topeka, IN

Soon the Yoder’s were selling popcorn and mint. Years earlier Mr William Wrigley would come to the farm to buy the mint oil. One day, just before Mr Wrigley arrived it was discovered that the Yoders had inadvertently mixed the spearmint and peppermint oil. Tobias was nearly in a panic as mint was a cash crop and the family depended on the income from selling mint oil. Upon hearing about the mixup, Mr Wrigley’s response was “Well, I guess we are going to make a new kind of gum!” In 1914, Wrigleys Doublemint gum was introduced to the world.

Photo of Yoder Popcorn Store
Yoder Popcorn Store

Yoder Popcorn Today

Today, you can visit the Yoder Popcorn farm and store and purchase many different varieties of popcorn and popcorn oils.

Photo of a bag of Yoder's Tiny Tender Popcorn
Yoder’s Tiny Tender Popcorn

My favorite popcorn

Take it from me… Yoder’s Tiny Tender is my favorite and second to none. I pop mine with Peanut Oil, and finish it with sea salt and Lawry’s seasoning salt. Just YUM!

Learn About the Birds and Bees in Shipshewana

by Laurie Sherck

It seems that people are quite interested in the birds and the bees when they come to Shipshewana. I wanted to find out for myself the curiosity surrounding this interest, so I took a quick drive out into the Shipshewana countryside to talk with the experts themselves.  

Green Meadow Houses and Feeders

Green Meadow Houses and Feeders located in Shipshewana Amish Country.

My first stop took me to Green Meadow Houses and Feeders, located at 0725 N 840 W, Shipshewana. There I spoke with owner, Myron Hochstetler.   Myron’s father, John, never dreamed that his childhood interest in birds would eventually lead to a generational family business of building bird houses and feeders.   What started as a simple request to build a couple of birdhouses has led to a family operated business that makes approximately 60 units of bird houses and feeders a day that are sold locally, and shipped all around the United States.

Locally Designed and Hand-Made

Watch the making of bird houses and feeders at Green Meadow Houses and Feeders

John’s love and interest for birds has been passed down to his son, Myron who now owns the business. Myron has inherited his father’s love for birds. It was interesting to watch the bird feeders and houses being crafted, hear about how the business got started and to glean all sorts of bird facts from Myron and his father, John.    All of Green Meadow’s feeders are made out of long-lasting eco-friendly polywood.

Ask the Experts  

The Oriole Feeder is a popular seller. Feed Orioles with grape jelly and orange slices!

Myron shared with me all sorts of tips & tricks on what I can do attract the type of feathered friends I most enjoy.   Perhaps it’s songbirds like finches, chickadees, nuthatchers, or purple finches that you want to attract. Maybe you want Blue Birds, Gold Finches, Blue Jays, Cardinals or Woodpeckers to visit your back yard.  You name it. The Hochstetlers know exactly what type of feeder you need, the type of food to put in the feeder and the season that you are most likely see certain birds.    Put out your feeder with the right kind of food to attract the bird you want—and Waalaa…just watch what happens!

Select your Favorite

A large selection of bird houses and feeders to choose from.

The Hochstetlers have expanded their bird house production to include bat houses and butterfly houses.     Here’s something new I learned:  Place a Blue Bird house up in early April and Blue Birds will build nests up to 4 times a year.   I also found out, to control the insect population, put up a bat house. Bats feast on insects. And, did you know butterflies use butterfly houses to take shelter during the rain to protect their wings?

Plan Your Visit to Green Meadow Houses and Feeders

Green Meadow’s Shipshewana Flea Market location is booth 419

The more I talked with Myron, the more I appreciated and loved the idea of a bird feeder in my back yard.   His enthusiasm for bird watching is contagious.    Green Meadow bird feeders and bird houses are sold at various locations around Shipshewana, including booth #419 at the Shipshewana Flea Market.  However, if you have time, it’s a special treat to head to the location where the feeders and houses are actually made and talk with the bird experts themselves.

“B” Honey & Candles

“B” Honey & Candles located in Shipshewana Amish Country

My next stop lead me across US 20 and down another country road to B Honey & Candles, located at 2260N 1000W, Shipshewana.    Perry & Rosetta Bontrager own and operate this family owned business.    Perry chuckled when I asked him what made him decide to raise bees.   He smiled and shared that his interest in bees began with a “show & tell” project in 3rd grade.  He caught some bees, placed them in a jar with flowers, took it to school and shared what he knew about bees.   That was the “seed” that sparked his interest. Therefore, it didn’t take him long to say yes to a business opportunity to purchase his new wife’s family beehives nearly 35 years ago.  As the saying goes, the rest is history!.

Nature’s Natural Sweetener

Pure Honey

Today the Bontragers gather honey from approximately 50 different bee hives. Their products are sold around the Shipshewana area and shipped all over the U.S.    The amount of honey produced per year varies greatly depending on the weather. Perry told me they can harvest over 100 lbs of honey per hive in a good year.   Summer months are the busiest when it comes to producing honey.  The worker bees only live about 3 weeks in the summer. They literally “work themselves” to death gathering the nectar that makes the honey and then using their wings to fan the nectar in the honeycomb that causes evaporation creating sweet liquid honey.  “That’s likely where we got the term “busy as a bee’”, smiles Perry.   

That’s just Pure Beeswax

Handcrafted 100% Pure Beeswax Candles

The Bontragers operate a small family shop on their property where patrons can purchase the pure honey direct.   Honey production slows down in the fall and winter months, and that is when the Bontragers concentrate on making their all natural honey products.  They make pure beeswax candles, honey soap, chapstick & lotions and other all-natural products right there on “the home place”.   They also sell honey combs, beeswax, pollen and make and sell Apple Cider vinegar ( an all natural vinegar that take about 10 months to process).  

Visit the Farm

Small Store located at “B” Honey & Candles

I’m so glad I took the time to visit with Perry & Rosetta at “B” Honey & Candles.  It was a very interesting and informative visit, and gave me a new appreciation for Honey and Honey products.    If you visit Shipshewana in the fall you may find The Bontragers selling their honey and hand-made items at the Fall Crafter’s Fair in Shipshewana, and occasionally at other small fairs and markets. If you miss those opportunities, feel free to visit their little shop on the farm. 

So there you have it.  I certainly found out why people come to Shipshewana to learn about the Birds and the Bees.   The journey was fun and interesting, but don’t just take my word for it, come to Shipshewana and travel the backroads and discover all that awaits you.   

Laurie Sherck, Director of Shipshewana Retail Merchants, is a wife of 43 years, mother of 4, grandmother of 12 and loves to tell people why Shipshewana is so special…. Just ask her!

Shipshewana Spring Bucket List

by Laurie Sherck

Ready to say good-bye to grey skies and begin to celebrate Spring? I thought so! A road trip to Shipshewana just may be the ticket! Welcome and celebrate Spring with a few ideas of things to do from this Shipshewana Spring Bucket List.   

Ride Bike

Pumpkinvine Trail
Enjoy Amish Country by bike on the Pumpkinvine Trail
  • Pedal the Pumpkinvine Trail.  The ride passes through small towns, past Amish country schools and meanders past scenic farms.   Every third Saturday in June, around 1,000 people join in the annual Pumpkinvine Bike ride

Take a Horse and Buggy Ride

Buggy Rides & Tours
Tour the Amish Countryside in a horse and buggy
  • Buggy drivers have the best stories.  Rides and tours are available around Shipshewana and through the countryside. You can’t help but fall in love with the Amish country scenes. Even though I’m a local, it’s still one of my most favorite things to do. Check out all of the possibilities here.

Take in a Rodeo

Bull Fest at The MEC May 24th & 25th
Bull Fest will be at The MEC May 24th & 25th, 2019
  • The PBR Bull Fest is taking place at The MEC on May 24th & 25th. Top bull riders from across the nation are coming to Shipshewana!  If you can’t make it to Shipshewana those dates, there are some awesome equestrian events scheduled throughout the year.  I’m super excited about the upcoming Shipshewana’s Majestic Frontier!

Visit A Flea Market

Visit the Shipshewana Flea Market
You’ve never experienced shopping like this at the Shipshewana Flea Market
  • Shipshewana is home to the Shipshewana Flea Market, the midwest’s largest flea market filled to the brim with aisles and aisles of everything you can imagine!  The flea market is open every Tuesday and Wednesday, May through September and they will be open Memorial Day, 4th of July and Labor Day. This year they’ve added a couple of week-end markets as well (June 14th & 15th and Aug. 16th-17th).  I plan weekly trips to the Flea Market just to visit the awesome produce aisle.

Watch a Musical

A Simple Sanctuary at The Blue Gate Theatre
A scene from A Simple Sanctuary now showing at The Blue Gate Theatre
  • Blue Gate Theatre has a brand new musical this year- A Simple Sanctuary. Part suspense, part romance, A Simple Sanctuary is a compelling story of love tested, the cost of freedom, and the solace found in true community. The musical is based on the best-selling books by Beverly Lewis.  If you’ve never been to a musical at the Blue Gate Theatre, you’re in for a treat.   The theatre is elegant and there isn’t a bad seat in the house.  Blue Gate Theatre also hosts a wide variety of shows throughout the year at the Shipshewana Event Center, soon to be the New Blue Gate Performing Arts Center.

Plant some flowers

Flower gardens
Stop to admire the Flower gardens in Shipshewana

Visit a zoo

Dutch Creek Animal Farm Park in Shipshewana
Feed & pet the animals at Dutch Creek Farm Animal Park
  • Dutch Creek Animal Farm Park opened May 1st.  Feed, touch and pet a wide variety of animals from farm animals to exotic while on a guided horse drawn safari style wagon ride.  My grandkids look forward to this every year!  They are open Mon-Saturday, and will be open Memorial Day.  This farm is Amish owned and will be closed May 30th  to observe Ascension Day.

Go on a Picnic. 

Going on a picnic at the park
  • LaGrange County is home to some gorgeous lakes and beautiful town and county parks.  A family favorite is to pack a picnic lunch, head to one of the area parks for a hike, and some good ole’ R & R.

Visit a museum

Menno-Hof in the Springtime
  • Menno-Hof is the best place to start your pursuit of learning the ins and outs of Shipshewana.  This interactive museum allows you to take a fascinating hands-on journey through the unique history of Amish and Mennonite Cultures. Here’s a little favorite part is the tornado room.

Take a canoe trip

Kayaker on Fawn River
Meander down the Fawn River
  • If you enjoy the great outdoors, you’ll enjoy a leisurely paddle down the Fawn River with T & L Country Canoes. Breathe in the beauty of the serene scenes along the Fawn River.

For more ideas to add to your Shipshewana Spring Bucket list, check out the things to do at   Plan your visit to Shipshewana and order your Visitor’s Guide here.

Laurie Sherck, Director of Shipshewana Retail Merchants, is a wife of 43 years, mother of 4, grandmother of 12 and loves to tell people why Shipshewana is so special…. Just ask her!

New Blue Gate Performing Arts Center Announced

Shipshewana, IN- (March 14, 2019) This week, Blue Gate Theatre announced the construction of a new 1500+ seat, $3 million dollar theater space at the Blue Gate Performing Arts Center. The new theatre is set to break ground before May and will be completed by January 2020.  The rapid expansion of the Blue Gate’s Concert Schedule, limitations of the current space and improving customer experience all played key roles in the decision to build. 

Lobby rendering of Blue Gate Performing Arts Center

The number of visitors discovering the Blue Gate and Shipshewana has continually been growing since its founding in 1984, with the combined businesses hosting over a half million people in 2018. A large part of those steady increases can be accredited to the Entertainment Division whose constant effort to increase and improve their offerings has attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors and led to an estimated $16.6 million-dollar economic impact for the new theatre. 

Rendering of new Theatre

The customers of the Blue Gate, known for its hospitality, were of course a key factor to the decision according to vice-president and co-owner Phil Heyerly, “What we really wanted to make sure we got right, above all else, is the customer experience. The new theatre will reduce the distance from the stage to the most distant seat by a third creating a much more intimate space, increase the number of patrons that can attend each concert and all while greatly improving the view from each seat.”

1500 + seating capability

The new space will also feature an increased staging area, allowing for the larger production shows many national touring acts often use.  “There are many performers who require the area above a stage and the mechanicals to support the lights and sound they travel with be a certain size or be configurable to their needs. Our current space fails to accommodate many of the more production-intensive shows, but the new space will solve many of these restrictions.” said Ryan Riegsecker, president and co-owner.

The project was also recently helped along with an economic development grant from the Town of Shipshewana and LaGrange EDC totaling $377,000 over 10 years. Town Manager Bob Shanahan stated the project, “is a good solid use of available funds… and this project will improve the community’s quality of place and create increased economic activity.”

Formerly known as Shipshewana Event Center

The Blue Gate Performing Arts Center was formerly known as the Shipshewana Event Center/Hudson Car Museum and is located at 760 S Van Buren St, Shipshewana, IN. Blue Gate Theatre, is a division of the Blue Gate Hospitality group. Sister organizations include the Blue Gate Restaurant and Bakery, Blue Gate Musicals, Blue Gate Garden Inn and Shipshewana Furniture Company.

Shipshewana Carousel Co.- The Rest of the Story

Did you know this hand carved carousel is in the quaint little town of Shipshewana? It’s got quite the story behind how a carousel got to the third floor of the incredible Mercantile, the week The Davis Mercantile opened up….circa 2005

1906 Dentzel Carousel –
Third Floor of The Davis Mercantile

Meet Al. Our carousel carver.

Meet Al. Our Carousel Carver. Photo courtesy of LeRoy-Sylvia Miller

Al grew up in an Amish family near Shipshewana. As a young boy he would sit next to his Amish grandpa who would whittle small carvings out of native Indiana wood. Al learned how to carve with a pocket knife as a child and honed those skills until one day at the age of 26, Al was asked to carve horses for the Shipshewana Carousel.

1906 Dentzel Carousel History

Farm Animals chosen for the Carousel. Photo Courtesy of LeRoy-Sylvia Miller

The original part of the carousel was a 1906 Dentzel Carousel originally from Germany. That included the center pole, the gears and mechanisms. The Miller family wanted a carousel that would best represent the Shipshewana community, so farm animals were chosen and Al was asked to begin carving.

Ride Your Favorite Farm Animal

Painting Detail on the Farm Animals. Photo Courtesy of LeRoy-Sylvia Miller

Pigs, cows, chickens, horses and goats can all be found on this incredible carousel located on the third floor of the Davis Mercantile. Each one was carved and then painted

It’s All in the Detail

Detailed Carving . Photo courtesy of LeRoy-Sylvia Miller

On opening weekend in 2005 Al could be seen carving horses out of large chunks of basswood. When asked how he knows what to carve and how he knows where to chisel and where not to….Al replied “I picture the horse in my head and anything that I don’t need, I just remove it.”

Get a Bird’s Eye View from the 3rd Floor of the Davis Mercantile

Waiting a turn on the carousel. Photo courtesy of Linda Bontrager

Today you can ride this historic carousel for one golden carousel token available at the entrance of the carousel. For more information about how you can ride the 1906 Dentzel Carousel at the Davis Mercantile, call 260-768-7300 or visit

By JoAnna King

Whose idea was this Crazy Pajama Day Sale in Shipshewana?

That question has been asked numerous times. I don’t want to point fingers, but one of Shipshewana’s favorite merchants at Sarah Davis, Ltd. came up with the “crazy” idea 23 years ago, and WE LOVE IT! It’s such a fun day! It’s not uncommon for entire groups dressed in matching PJs to show up in Shipshewana for some great deals.

Ready. Set. Go. Ready for Pajama Day Fun!

Best Discounts before the Sun is Up

The best discounts are offered in the early morning hours, so with coffee in hand, and attired in PJs, bathrobes and slippers, ladies (and a few brave gents) scour the town of Shipshewana for the best deals they can find. The entire adventure leads to lots of laughter, several photos and some hot cocoa or pretzel breaks every now and then for refueling. 

A break to refuel for more Pajama Day Shopping

Pajama Day Sale Tradition

The entire morning is like a Pajama party on steroids.  23 years of this much anticipated event in the middle of winter has led to some incredible stories and memories.  Perhaps that is the reason people will brave all sorts of weather conditions to attend this event.  Maybe it’s the opportunity to gets deals on items that seldom go on sale in Shipshewana. Whatever the reason, Pajama Day Sale has become a Shipshewana Tradition.  I love seeing multi-generational families clad in PJ’s gathering around a table and showing off their purchases.  I smile when I witness life-long friends meeting up in Shipshewana, greeting each other with hugs, and just spending time “catching up” while searching for their purchases

Fun with friends at Pajama Day Sale!

The Genuis behind the Pajama Day Fun

So, who’s the genius behind all of this Pajama Day fun?   It’s our own Joanna King! Entrepreneur, small business owner, mother, wife and a lady who loves life and having fun!

JoAnna King (right) and husband, Levi King

When asked how she came up with the idea, she’ll tell you that it was either a Pajama Day Sale in one of the coldest months of year, or a Zucchini Day Sale in the middle of July.  While the idea of people bringing zucchini to Shipshewana to receive discounts sounded hilarious, she wasn’t quite sure what to do with all of the zucchini.    Discounts just for wearing your pajamas sounded equally hilarious, especially in the middle of winter. Thus, birthed the idea for Pajama Day Sale! The rest is history.    Joanna never imagined such a “crazy” winter adventure would catch on like it has, but apparently everyone enjoys a good ole Pajama Party!   I’m so glad she went with the PJ Day Sale idea, aren’t you?

Mark the Date. Join in the Fun.

Pajama Day Sale is always the first Saturday in February, and shoppers are up “before the rooster crows” as we say in rural Indiana.  This year, the fun takes place on February 2, 2019.   You can find the Pajama Day deals listed on   The list will keep being updated as the day draws closer, so keep checking back.

7 Shipshewana Holiday Events That Will Dazzle You!

by Laurie Sherck

For me, the holidays in Shipshewana is the most wonderful time of the year.    This year is no exception. Please let me share with you 7 Shipshewana holiday events that absolutely dazzle me and are bound to dazzle you too.

 1. Shipshewana Light Parade and Lighting Ceremony

One of my favorite events of the year is the upcoming Shipshewana Light Parade and Lighting Ceremony.  This event takes place on November 10th this year.    It’s a great experience to enjoy with family and friends, hot chocolate, laughter and cozy blankets.   Take a peek at our Shipshewana Christmas video.  It includes shots from the Light Parade and you’ll get an inkling of what to expect when you visit Shipshewana during the holidays.

Christmas in Shipshewana

On Lighting of Shipshewana Day you’ll find things to do all day long throughout town leading up to the most magical time of the day—the lighted Christmas parade, the reading of the Christmas story, the singing of carols and finally the countdown to lighting the entire downtown of Shipshewana and the giant Christmas tree located in front of the Blue Gate Restaurant.   This year’s parade theme is “Christmas Lights and Winter Nights”.   Perfect, isn’t it?!!  The complete schedule of events, map and parking suggestions can be found here.   Hint:  Plan to make a day of it!

2. Shipshewana’s Lights of Joy Drive Through

Lighted Nativity at Shipshewana’s Lights of Joy

There are some new additions to the holiday festivities in Shipshewana this year.  The new event I’m most excited about is “Shipshewana’s Lights of Joy”.   More than two million LED Christmas lights will be displayed in a mile-long symphony of various light scenes.  This drive through adventure opens November 16th and will be open 6pm-9pm on Thursday and Sundays, 6pm-10pm on Fridays and Saturdays until December 30th.   I can’t wait to take my grandchildren through this holiday display and hear their exclamations!  You can bet we’re not going to miss this opportunity for family fun!   Check out the details here.

3. Chocolate Day Walk

The 2017 Chocolate Day boxes

What is there not to love about Chocolate?!  On my goodness! What makes the Chocolate Day Walk in Shipshewana extra sweet is that 100% of the net proceeds are donated to a local charity or cause each year.   This year in our Shipshewana community, a local school teacher and her family experienced the heartbreaking loss of their newborn baby.  Not only is this a chance for all of us (myself included) to be able to come alongside them and show them love, but this gives us the opportunity to tangibly help a hurting family meet some of their needs.  The owner of Aunt Millie’s Candy Shop, Linda Bontrager, who sponsors the Chocolate Day Walk has one of the biggest hearts of anyone I know!   I love that she “gets it” when it comes to understanding what Christmas is really all about.   It’s the perfect way to show love and support to those in need during this beautiful season of the year.

I highly endorse and support this event and encourage you to do the same.  This event takes place November 17th.   Beginning at 9am you can purchase & pick up your box at Aunt Millie’s Candy Shop located on the 3rd Floor of The Davis Mercantile and then travel around Shipshewana to various shops to fill your box with delectable chocolate pieces.   It’s a Win-Win in my book!

4. Christmas Shopping in Shipshewana

Carriage Ride around Shipshewana

Shopping in Shipshewana

November 24th is Shop Small Saturday around the Nation.   Our small town is made up of small family owned and operated businesses that offer unique products and a relaxed shopping atmosphere.   Not only do I get quality Christmas presents but I get to help families realize their dreams.  A typical shopping day in Shipshewana may look like this: shop a little, eat a little, shop a little, drink a coffee or hot chocolate, shop a little and eat again. I’ve discovered that the gifts purchased in Shipshewana are always the most unique and most appreciated.    In addition to Shop Small Saturday, there’s Shipshewana’s Wana Night Out on November 27than evening when shops stay open later for our friends and offer special deals.  It’s something a lot of locals as well as visitors look forward to every year.  Something new this year is LaGrange County Convention and Visitors Bureau’s Great Holiday Shopping Passport which is an opportunity to shop, fill out the shopping passport and be entered into a drawing for a $250 gift card.  Sounds fun to me.  Check out the details here.

5. Kids Day and Santa Visits

Santa arrives by Horse & Carriage in Shipshewana

Kids Day and Santa Visits is December 1st and is circled in Red on my calendar.  That is because my grandkids want to make sure I don’t forget about it.   They look forward to this day each year.   This year we will begin A Yoder’s Red Barn Shoppes, pick up our itinerary, participate in Reindeer games, chat with Elsie the Elf and then travel around town to take part in interactive holiday activities designed just for kids.   Santa parades though town in a horse-drawn carriage and this year will get deposited at the Farmstead Expo Barn where he will visit with children from noon to 3pm and distribute free goodie bags to the first 200 children.

Something new this year, that I’m excited to “spring on” the kiddos is the Winter Wonderland Walk Thru experience, located on the 2nd floor of the Expo Barn, which is where Santa will be greeting kids.  Rumor has it, the theme for the walk through is “What Christmas Elves do the Day after Christmas”.   Sounds hilarious to me!  I’m not sure who has more fun, my grandchildren or me.

6. Ship-Chic Craft & Vintage Show: Holiday Bazaar

Shopping at the Ship Chic Craft & Vintage Holiday Bazaar

This is a ME day!   I love going to this event and picking up Christmas decorating ideas and hand-made Christmas gifts for my family.  This event takes place on December 8th this year.  This indoor handmade and vintage market is a pop-up market featuring vendors who specialize in antiques, crafts, handmade items, primitive, artisan goods, furniture, salvage, home & garden décor, baked goods, gifts and the list goes on.    There is a $5 entry fee, but worth every penny.  Check out the info here.

7.  Shipshewana Ice Festival

Ice Sleigh at Shipshewana Ice Festival

The Shipshewana Ice Festival  takes place during a great time of the year for our family, right between Christmas and New Year’s, December 27th & 28th.  This 2 day festival is AMAZING!  .   On December 27th,  professional ice carvers will descend on Shipshewana and turn big chunks of ice into works of art!  It’s fun to bundle up, grab a mug of hot chocolate and watch this interesting transformation!   I always tell people to come and stay, because on December 28th an ice carving competition takes place in the Wolfe Building Parking Lot.   Professional Carvers are given a large piece of ice and 3 hours to create spectacular sculptures.  Bragging rights and cash prizes await the top three winners at the end of the competition.  Wow! Is all I can say!  They turn out some very complex and amazing art.

During the ice carving competition, the Shipshewana Chili Cook-off is a great way to take a break from the winter elements inside the Wolfe Building.  A $5 entry fee (or free if you’re wearing an Ice Festival Pin) gets you into the cook-off and gives you the opportunity to sample all the chili you like and vote on your favorite.   The votes are tallied and the winner is announced.   The winners receive trophies and cash prizes.   This festival is a family favorite!

Shop owners and their employees do their best to make the holiday experiences in Shipshewana unforgettable.  I have to admit, what I appreciate most about Shipshewana at Christmastime is that our small town still holds to our small town values and pauses to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.   Other than the hotels and gas stations, everything else is closed on those days so that everyone can take time out of their otherwise hectic schedule to spend time with their families and loved ones to celebrate the true meaning of the holidays.  I don’t think it gets any better than this.

Laurie Sherck, Director of Shipshewana Retail Merchants, is a wife of 42 years, mother of 4, grandmother of 11 and loves to tell people why Shipshewana is so special…. Just ask her!

The ABCs of Amish Schools

By Marcia Eichhorn

Prior to moving to Shipshewana to build my home and operate Bright Morning Star Bed and Breakfast, I taught 4th & 5th grade students for 30 years in Elgin, IL, so it’s not a hard stretch to understand why I have found Amish Schools and Amish education so fascinating. Education of Amish children is often a topic for discussion around the dining room table with my guests.

Dining Room at Bright Morning Star B & B where guests love to ask questions about the Amish in Shipshewana

Reading, Writing and Arithmetic

Families in the Shipshewana area decide if they want their children to go to public school or an Amish neighborhood school. The Amish school is a one room school house, with two teachers, who also attended an Amish school. The school is for 1st through 8th grade. An average school size is 32 children. Reading, writing, and math are stressed. Some children entering school speak only Pennsylvania Dutch (a slang of German), the spoken language at home. By the end of 2nd grade they speak English very well, totally bilingual.

Amish School in Shipshewana area

A one room Amish School in Shipshewana area

Education-A Family thing

Parents are very involved in their children’s education. They take turns being on the school board. The board make decisions regarding curriculum, guest speakers, and selecting teachers. School is in session from 8:30am to 3:00pm. Riding bikes or driving buggies is the mode of transportation. There is no problem getting parents to attend parent conferences, or taking turns providing a hot lunch once a month. Usually teachers do not give students homework, because chores are waiting for them at home. Their test scores are above average and time on task is excellent. Reading is enjoyed, along with creative arts; such as memorizing for skits, singing songs, and learning a bit of German. They love playing softball at recess. At the end of the year there is a school picnic. Often the 8th graders challenge the fathers in a game of softball. They usually get out of school by the end of April, but start in August.
Public Education and Amish children
Not all Amish children attend parochial schools, about half of the children in our area, attend public school. Just like “English” children, they take the school bus, learn computer skills, and participate in after school sports. Amish young people love to attend public school basketball games. One evening I counted 75 buggies parked in the school parking lot.

Meet Alvin & Katie

Amish Neighbor's Canned Good

My Amish Neighbor’s Canned Goods

If you have read my previous blogs, you know I like to introduce you to my Amish neighbors. I want to introduce to you my neighbors Alvin & Katie. They live on a farm just south of me and have 12 children.  Katie walks by my house two times a day to the phone shanty, where the Amish call and receive messages. We find a little time to visit as she passes by.
They have an organic dairy farm. I am fortunate to get eggs from her for my breakfast dishes. Katie cans apples, peaches, vegetable, meat, rhubarb drink, and much more in 2 quarter containers.  The whole family is busy peeling, chopping canning all summer and fall. When getting ready for their daughter’s wedding they had over 70 quarts fresh strawberries in the freezer over winter to use at the spring wedding. (I rent freezers to some of my neighbors.) They have 6 boys and 1 daughter living at home. Their boys are employed at a buggy shop and a hardwood flooring shop. The daughter is a big help to Mother. They all provide many helping hands to plow, plant, cut hay, and harvest corn.  What Amish children learn at school is applied to their every day life in the skills that they are taught at home.

Katie has shared delicious recipes with me. This pie is my favorite:

Shoe String Apple Pie
2 ½ c. white sugar
2 T flour
3 eggs, well beaten
4 T. water
4 c. shoe string apples (This is the way you cut them)
¼ t. salt
Unbaked pie shell (1 large or 2 small)
1. In a bowl, mix sugar, flour, eggs, water.
2. Fold in shredded apples and salt.
3. Pour in unbaked pie shell. Sprinkle with cinnamon on top. Makes 2 small pies or one large.
4. Bake 400 degrees for 15 minutes, then 325 degrees until done.

Families are very important in the Amish community, and that is why you’ll find that Amish parents are involved in their school education, as well in educating their children in life skills at home. It makes for a well-rounded education, and children with good work ethics, something that this retired teacher appreciates very much.

Marcia Eichhorn is the owner of Bright Morning Star Bed and Breakfast which is nestled in Northern Indiana Amish country among beautiful Amish farms. Her guests often ask questions about the Amish & Amish recipes and she is happy to share what she has learned throughout the years from her Amish friends and neighbors



Part 4 of 12 Amazing Things To Do in Shipshewana

by Laurie Sherck

I’ve known Shipshewana all my life and it is shear pleasure for me to share with you what I find so special and amazing about this little town.  For me to narrow my focus to just 12 Amazing Things To Do In Shipshewana seems so confining. The truth be told, there are way more than 12 Amazing Things to do in Shipshewana.  It is for that reason I want to extend an invitation to you to come to Shipshewana to discover and explore for yourself the charming, simplistic place that is dear to my heart.    For the purposes of this blog, however, I will narrow my focus and give you just 3 more “things to do” ideas gleaned from the Shipshewana video released earlier this year.

Shop the Historic Downtown Shipshewana

Shopping in Historic downtown Shipshewana

Shopping in Historic downtown Shipshewana

The allure of the quaint, charming stores that line Harrison Street and Morton Street, located in the historic portion of Shipshewana is hard for me to resist.   Charming stores filled with all sorts of shopping surprises makes shopping fun.   Turn of the century homes and store fronts are filled with everything from antique furniture, glassware, collectibles, hand-crafted and repurposed  or reclaimed items to delightful ladies boutiques and beautiful Home Décor items.  The Davis Mercantile is also located in the heart of the historic downtown and houses 21 uniquely different shops. Nearly all of the shops here in Shipshewana are independently and family owned, so when you visit these shops, you’re supporting local families and their dreams.  The stores are open all year round, 6 days a week.  I think you will love what’s in store for you when you stroll the sidewalks of historic downtown Shipshewana.

It may be a little old-fashioned, but in keeping with local religious and family traditions you will find that most businesses are closed Sundays.  We locals have discovered that Sundays and evenings are a great time to enjoy the beautiful parks and take scenic drives.

Enjoy a Show!

Blue Gate Theater Box Office

Blue Gate Theater Box Office

It’s hard not to notice the Blue Gate Theater ticket booth in the video.   Blue Gate Theater showcases quite a variety of programs throughout the year: Southern gospel, family-friendly comedy shows, bluegrass, country and contemporary Christian artists.   I have laughed and cried, and laughed again watching the entertaining, delightful musicals produced by Blue Gate.  If you are able—you really need to see the musicals Stolen, Half-Stitched, and Josiah for President, just to name a few of my favorites.  The musicals are based upon popular books whose stories are staged in Amish communities.   Holiday-themed shows are always offered and enthusiastically anticipated.   The theater is elegant, the shows are top-notch and there isn’t a bad seat in the house.   Blue Gate also hosts well-known and loved artists at the larger venue of The Shipshewana Event Center.

If you’re looking for something to do in the evenings, you should definitely check out what’s showing at the Blue Gate Theater.   The performances are always family-friendly, and matinee shows during the peak visitor season mean everyone gets a chance to enjoy the show.

Wrap your lips around a buttery pretzel

There is a saying- that if you want to find the best places to eat – follow the locals.   Following the locals in Shipshewana would lead you to pretzels.   Featured in the video is JoJo’s Pretzels.  Better than 25 years ago, Levi & JoJo (Joanna) King started rolling dough, and now on a busy day, it is not uncommon to see a line of people  winding and twisting (pun intended) throughout the building anxiously awaiting  their turn to bite into a salty, buttery pretzel.  JoJo’s Pretzels is a destination well-loved by many people.   School groups often come in to hear the history of the pretzel and students try their hand at pretzel making.  There is nothing like the aroma of baking pretzels hitting your nostrils when you enter The Davis Mercantile.  Even better yet, is getting that yummy pretzel treat in my tummy!

We are so blessed in Shipshewana to also be home to Ben’s Soft Pretzels, started by Ben & Elizabeth Miller.   What began as a business selling home-made pretzels at farmers markets has now expanded to opening their own storefront in 2016 at the south end of Shipshewana.   In 2013 they also began franchising their pretzel business.  Their pretzel recipe comes from an old Amish recipe and is a uniquely different pretzel experience.   Ben’s Soft Pretzels Barn is a favorite after-school stop for many locals, as well as visitors.  I also enjoy their yummy Pretzel dogs.

If you asked me which pretzel you should eat, I’d tell you Both!   They are uniquely different recipes and both amazingly scrumptious pretzels.   Never say no to scrumptious is my recommendation!

I hope you have enjoyed some of the ideas I threw at you in the four part series of 12 Amazing Things To Do in Shipshewana.   If you didn’t get the opportunity to read the other blogs, but would like to, check them out here: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.  Looking for even more ideas for amazing things to do in Shipshewana?  Visit

Laurie Sherck, Director of Shipshewana Retail Merchants, is a wife of 42 years, mother of 4, grandmother of 11 and loves to tell people why Shipshewana is so special…. Just ask her!

Shipshewana-A Caring Community

by Marcia Eichhorn

My guests at Bright Morning Star Bed and Breakfast are often interested in our small community and I’m always quick to share how caring and supportive the Amish and Shipshewana community are.   I like to share how I’ve watched my neighbors and community pull together whenever there is a crisis or need.

Helping meet needs

Amish buggy parking at a benefit auction

Amish Parking at a benefit auction

There was an awful accident in the Shipshewana area a few years ago.   Two Amish men and an English man were killed in a car accident.  (If you are not Amish, you are called English).   The community, both Amish and English, held a benefit auction where people donated furniture, campers, food, quilts, etc.   Each widow received closed to $100,000.00 to help with their expenses.   This is an example of how Amish and English community work together.

Supporting Those Who Serve our Community

Bake Sale at a local benefit auction

Bake Sale at a benefit auction

Another example just happened recently when the entire community pulled together a benefit auction to help our local fire department with purchase of a new tanker truck.   Amish and English businesses alike, furniture companies and individuals donated items ranging from small household items to large sheds and RV’s.  In addition there was a large bake sale, and delicious community meal.   Everyone pitches in.   It’s a great time to visit with neighbors that you haven’t seen for a while, and it just feels good to know you’re supporting a worthy cause.

Amish Haystack Supper

Haystack Supper

Haystack Supper

For those of you that have not heard of this, an Amish Haystack is a very popular carry in and often served at fund-raisers.  A small portion of each of the following ingredients is layered on a plate, usually as people pass along in a line.   You start out thinking it doesn’t look like it’s enough food, but by the end the entire plate is stacked, almost to overflowing.   A Haystack meal is something everyone looks forward to.  This recipe can easily be increased to feed hundreds of people.   Occasionally ingredients will be substituted, but the basic traditional Amish Haystack recipe is as follows.

Traditional Amish Haystack

4 c. cooked rice
3 lbs hamburger browned with taco seasoning
2 heads shredded lettuce
5 c. tomatoes, diced
3 green/red pepper, chopped
3 c. chopped black olives
3 c. chopped onions
3 c. sunflower
2 lb. shredded Cheddar cheese
6 hard-boiled eggs, diced
48 oz Nacho cheese sauce
2 bags crushed Taco or Dorito chips.

If you are ever in the Shipshewana area and there is a local fundraiser occurring, be sure to join in and learn firsthand about the Amish culture and our close supportive community.

Marcia Eichhorn is the owner of Bright Morning Star Bed and Breakfast which is nestled in Northern Indiana Amish country among beautiful Amish farms.  Her guests often ask questions about the Amish & Amish recipes and she is happy to share what she has learned throughout the years from her Amish friends and neighbors.