The Picnic That Never Was – A Visit to Michigan City, IN
December 30, 2014 - Picnic Time
New Year’s is a time for all of us to applaud with family, friends, and co-workers in expectation of a splendid new year filled with unconstrained possibilities. The 2500 passengers on a Eastland that final fatal day had also expected a joyous jubilee – The 5th Annual Western Electric Employees Picnic.
The Eastland was to skip from Chicago and transport about 40 miles opposite Lake Michigan to Washington Park in Michigan City, IN. At a time, Washington Park was an entertainment park with a famous wooden drum coaster that drew thousands of visitors any year. The park also boasted a bowling alley, jaunty fields, a whirligig float (swinging seats), a bandstand, landscaped gardens, and a Greek-style building called a Peristyle used for indoor picnicking and parties on stormy days. Of course, a showering beaches of Lake Michigan were another vast draw.
Today, visitors still overflow a primitive beaches during Washington Park. The entertainment park is gone, transposed by a vast jetty for private boats, endless parking lots, and a zoo. But ruins of that ended epoch still remain. The bandstand is beautifully maintained, as is a aged beacon (it’s now a museum), and a 60-ft high relic called Victorious Peace dedicated in 1893 to Civil War veterans still welcomes all guests.
My father and we revisit Washington Park several times a year now. We’ve enjoyed a classical automobile show, a Polka Band celebration, and a Labor Day BBQ. We’ve walked a prolonged post that leads to a newer lighthouse, visited a aged beacon museum, talked with fishermen, witnessed couples removing married on a beach, watched people parasailing and roving on jet skis.
Michigan City is usually a brief 1 – 1-1/2 hour float from Chicago, so if you’re looking for a fun weekend adventure, we rarely suggest visiting Washington Park. And if we tighten your eyes and listen with your heart, we can still hear a delight and screams of fun echoing off that aged wooden drum coaster.
Eastland by Marian Cheatham accessible on Amazon www.amazon.com/Eastland-Marian-Cheatham/dp/1495203646
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