At the 11th annual Northern Indiana Lakes Festival, more than 6,400 community members and visitors celebrated the start of summer and honored fallen veterans.

The three-day celebration began May 24 with a live concert by The Indigos and ended on Sunday with a performance by the Lake City Skiers. Throughout the day on Saturday, visitors competed in the Lake Games Spikeball tournament and Beat the Sun 5K; learned about lake and land ecology from six education booths, including the Lilly Center, Hoosier Environmental Council and ACRES Land Trust; and enjoyed kids’ crafts and activities, like bouncy houses, face painting, and two animal shows from Silly Safari.

New this year, children donned life vests and raced across the Aquaglide, a floating obstacle course off the pier on Center Lake. At lunch and dinner, families grabbed a meal from Ben’s Pretzels, Holy Smokes BBQ and other food trucks. Families attended the rain barrel and native plant workshops to learn from local experts. On Sunday, attendees honored fallen veterans with a ceremony and special World War II-era plane fly-over by the Hooligan Flight Team.

Visitors said they especially enjoyed and learned from the experts at the lake education booths, with over 80 percent saying they are now more likely to protect the lakes, according to a news release from the Lilly Center. Other favorite returning activities included the petting farm, fireworks and the bouncy houses.

The Lilly Center team is eager to begin planning for Memorial Day Weekend in 2020. Do you want to join the mission and be a part of Kosciusko County’s largest Memorial Day festival? Visit lakesfestival.org or call 574-372-5100, ext. 6452.

This year’s festival was sponsored by 212 Media Studios, City of Warsaw Stormwater Utility, DePuy Synthes, Kensington Digital Media, Kosciusko County Convention, Recreation and Visitors Commission, Kosciusko County Community Foundation, KREMC Operation Round-Up, Mad Bomber Fireworks, Maple Leaf Farms, Sodexo, Warsaw Parks and Recreation, WNIT and Zimmer Biomet.

The Lilly Center for Lakes & Streams at Grace College conducts research, provides resources, engages and educates residents, and collaborates with local organizations to make the lakes and streams of Kosciusko County clean, healthy, safe and beautiful. To date, the Lilly Center has conducted scientific research on over 30 streams and 40 lakes. The Lilly Center is driven to create a legacy of stewardship by equipping community members, visitors and future generations to understand and enjoy the county’s natural beauty. For more information, visit lakes.grace.edu.