Northern Indiana

Northern Indiana (Regions 1,2, & 3)

Historically, steel mills, recreational vehicle manufacturing, meat packing plants, and other types of industry lured immigrants from all over the world to Northern Indiana. In this part of the state, ethnic diversity comes to light in local traditional arts. Macedonian dance, Mexican Baile Folklorico, Serbian kolos (circle dances), African American sweet potato pie, Mennonite quilts, Filipino adobo (meat stew), and fiddle playing come together for a rich cultural texture. The Calumet Region’s most famous migrant, Bill Monroe, was among many who worked for a short while in the steel mills. Thirty-four year old bluegrass fiddler Kenny Stone learned fiddle tunes in Schererville at the knee of his neighbor, a steel mill worker and fiddler from Tennessee.

Northern Indiana is also home to one of the country’s largest Mennonite and Amish communities. Elkhart is headquarters for many Mennonite national organizations. On any given Sunday morning, one can visit a Mennonite church and hear the congregation burst into four-part harmony, a cappella singing.

The Elkhart County Fair is the largest county fair in Indiana. A quarter million people attend this nine-day event, which features over 9,000 4-H exhibits. During the final days of the fair, 4-Hers sell livestock at auction. In some cases, as a good-will gesture, local businesses purchase the calves only to donate them back to the children.

The Latino community in Indiana has grown tremendously during the past twenty years. Industry, family ties, and a supportive social infrastructure encourage Latino migration. Latino-owned restaurants, grocery stores, auto repair shops, and car dealerships populate much of Elkhart County. On a Saturday night, it’s not unusual to see a young Amish family, a Latino family, and local Anglo high school kids eating at the Goshen Burger King. In the more established Latino community in the Calumet Region, fourth or fifth generation Latinos are documenting and promoting their own history and cultural traditions. The Señoras of Yesteryear, for example, have compiled a community history book. Others are leading youth Mexican dance and mariachi bands.

Fort Wayne’s ethnically diverse communities have been growing rapidly over the past decade. According to the 2000 census, the Asian/Pacific Islander population in Allen County has grown 74% and those of Hispanic/Latino descent, 138%. More Burmese live in Fort Wayne than anywhere else outside of Burma itself. They came to escape human rights abuses, and they brought their arts with them. Macedonians are among Ft. Wayne’s larger old ethnic communities. Some 2,000 Macedonians live in Fort Wayne, which is the national headquarters of the Macedonian Patriotic Organization and home of the Macedonian Tribune.