New area created to showcase local artists, businesses

Writer / Christy Heitger-Ewing

If you’ve spent any time in Noblesville, it’s likely you have a fond memory of Forest Park. It’s a gem of a park, complete with wooded trails, playground equipment, and a 100-year-old carousel.

This 150-acre park, established in December 1925, includes a skate park, swimming pool, picnic areas, tennis courts, horseshoe pits, shelters with grills and volleyball sand lots, a “Tom Thumb” miniature golf course, and a 9-hole golf course, the first built in Hamilton County. In addition, the Logan and Emerson Baseball Fields are located in Forest Park, as is the Forest Park Inn banquet facility.

“The park as you see it today is very different than how it used to be,” says Mike Hoffmeister, Assistant Director of Parks. There used to be more carnival games, including a .22 shooting range and some carnival rides. “We’ve made a number of renovations over the past 20-25 years to turn it into what it is today.”

For years the Fourth of July Festival has always been held at the local high school. Due to road construction, however, this year the planning committee proposed to Mayor Ditslear that they hold the festivities at Forest Park, which offers expansive space for activities.

“He was all for it, and I suspect one reason might be tied to nostalgia because years ago the Fourth of July Fireworks used to be shot off at Forest Park,” Hoffmeister says, noting that back in the 80s, when Mayor Ditslear was with the Chamber of Commerce, he lit off a firework with the hill and the courthouse behind him.

“I think he remembers how much fun that was,” Hoffmeister says. “And he wants to make sure others in the community have the chance to experience it.”

In addition to the regular park amenities, the festival will offer corn hole, a zip line, ninja course, and trackless train. It will also include a main stage with live music from a Milwaukee band called Road Trip. The night will open with the Fishers School of Rock. There will also be a beer garden featuring local breweries, as well as 25 food truck vendors. In addition, the local recruiting center with the U.S. Army will be there with inflatables and a rock wall. Additionally, for the third year in a row, on the most patriotic of days, they will have a swearing-in ceremony on the main stage at 8 p.m.

“It’s pretty cool. They have someone high in command come and give the oath,” Hoffmeister says.

Little ones can partake in the kid zone that will have inflatables, face painting, balloon artists, an arts activity, a roaming juggler, and a kids’ stage featuring a Dr. Seuss show, a pirate show, and comedy magic show.

For a price, the Nickel Plate Heritage Railway will run short train excursions that day on the hour between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m.

“This will be the first time the train has run in Noblesville for years,” Herrington says.

New this year, the committee has created areas with booth space inside the park to showcase local artists, merchants, businesses, and nonprofits.

The parade begins at 2:30 p.m. and the festival at 4 p.m. Fireworks will start at 10 p.m. and last precisely 23 minutes.

“We pay for 30 minutes’ worth, but we don’t like a dull show, so we’ll blast them, one right after another,” Hoffmeister explains.

To curtail parking difficulties, they are running trolleys and busses throughout the day from area schools. In addition, festival goers—especially those with strollers—are encouraged to park downtown and walk the short distance to Forest Park.

Robert Herrington, Communications Manager for the City and co-chair with Hoffmeister for this year’s Festival, has been a resident of Noblesville since 1994. Now that he has children, he enjoys watching them make memories as they relate to the park system.

“My oldest has been in summer camp for three years now, so every time we pass Forest Park, I hear, ‘That’s where summer camp is!’” Herrington says. “It’s great to see my kids have memories of local parks. That’s what we’re hoping the Fourth of July Festival will be for folks in the community.”

Note: The parade is sponsored by Gaylor Electric; the festival is presented by IDI Composites International, Inc. There is a cost for food, beverages, train, carousel, putt-putt, and pool. For more information, visit www.NoblesvilleFireworksFestival.com.