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Elkhart, Ind., known as “The City With A Heart” and epicenter to the nation’s recreational vehicle industry, celebrates its 150th birthday this weekend (Sept. 5-7) with a host of community events.
A committee headed by local businessman James Pettit, unsuccessful candidate for mayor in last year’s municipal election, has organized a host of activities for the three-day celebration, starting with a series of indoor and outdoor musical presentations Friday night. A 150-year overview of music will be presented in “American Songbook” that night in the historic Elco Theatre in downtown Elkhart, followed by outdoor concerts along the city’s RiverWalk and a laser light show.
The celebration carries a heavy dose of musical entertainment to mark the city’s contribution to the band instrument industry.
Saturday’s activities include a two-hour-long parade, children’s and adult spelling bees, a vintage baseball game, pet parade, street entertainers, band concerts, beard and mustache contests, art shows and fireworks. On Sunday, more concerts and a serenaded river cruise are on tap.
“As the saying goes, ‘We have come a long way, Baby’ is proven by what you see today,” Pettit said as an introduction to the weekend’s events. “Elkhart’s entrepreneurial attitude has made us known worldwide for its ingenuity, pride and quality of workmanship. With this desire and commitment, Elkhart will prosper today and well into tomorrow.”
Pettit, who formerly worked in the RV industry, noted that the city has enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship with the strong base of RV manufacturers, suppliers and distributors.
That relationship continues to this day, even as the RV arena awaits the next upcycle in the predictably unpredictable business. Pettit said he remembers how the community rebounded from past downturns, notably in 1973 and 1979, and knows a recovery will occur again.
“I don’t know that it will be to the magnitude that it was but the survivors will enjoy a nice success story,” he said.