Rooster and I went on an adventure on a dismal day to the Shipshewana Ice Festival. We had a very awesome time. #shipshewana #Amish #Ice Festival #Dutch Cafe
We are having a warm winter, but the sky has been overcast since October. There have been a few sunshiny days mixed in with the grey. The morning of the Shipshewana Ice Festival it was tempting to go back to bed and pull the covers up to our neck. Rooster and I made the decision to climb into the Sunshine Mobile and make the two-hour trip despite overcast skies which threatened to dump buckets of rain on us at any second.
A stop at the Dutch Cafe
Our mood was less than cheery when we pulled into the parking lot of the Dutch Cafe. This Amish themed restaurant located at 6639 US-31 #300 Peru, Indiana 46970. An easy way to spot the restaurant is it is located across the highway from the Grissom Air Museum.
If you are in the mood for comfort food, you’ve come to the right location. The breakfast buffet included bacon, sausage, biscuits and gravy, and other breakfast goodies. When we travel to northern Indiana, we always stop to eat at the Dutch Cafe if for no other reason but to see the Amish quilts on the wall. They are covered with plastic to keep the fabric free from dust, but you can still see the artistry which went into each of these creations.
Once we’d been fed, we shook off our lousy mood and headed north. The sky overhead seemed to brighten by the time we got to South Bend.
A journey into Amish Country
We knew we were getting close to the ice festival when we started sharing the road with Amish horse and buggies. The event is held every year in the small town of Shipshewana. Not every citizen in the community is Amish, but a vast majority of the population is of that persuasion.
We have Amish where we live in central Indiana. Occasionally you can see a horse and buggy clomping down the street or see an Amish family in plain dress shopping in the grocery store.
In Shipshewana, it isn’t the case of an occasional Amish sighting. There is a constant stream of buggy traffic as the Amish go about their daily business.
One night in Shipshewana after attending a concert at the Blue Gate Theatre, we had an eye-opening experience. Our GPS took us down a side road. The narrow country lane was busy with horse and buggy traffic at twelve o’clock on a Saturday night. I’d always operated under the mistaken notion the Amish were in bed as soon as the sunsets. Our late-night ride down the dark country roads changed my mind.
Rooster and I observed several dozen buggies making their way to town. The parking lot outside their favorite gathering place was filled with carriages. The clerk at our hotel said the Amish are known to be out and about at all hours of the night. It wasn’t unusual to see them riding down the Indiana toll road in the wee hours of the morning with lights blinking on the rear of their buggies to warn motorists of their presence.
Amish tourist trap
The town of Shipshewana has become a tourist attraction. People from all over the country come to seek out everything Amish. This can range from Quilt and candle making to high priced Amish made kitchen cabinetry.
Visitors can eat at the Blue Gate Restaurant before they attend a show at the Blue Gate Theatre. For the more adventurous, an Amish horse and buggy tour through the Indiana countryside. You can go to the Menno-Hof which offers presentations on the life and history of the Amish and of the Mennonites, or you can spend an afternoon wandering from shop to shop. Wherever you decide to ramble in Shipshewana no visit would be complete without seeing the carousel at the Davis Mercantile.
Our Ice Festival experience
Our reason for venturing into Amish country was to attend the Ice Festival. It’s a yearly occurrence for sculptors to show up in Shipshewana with chainsaws in hand to chisel away at a large block of ice until a crystal image appears. The warm temperatures this year interfered with the competition. Instead of doing the sculpting in front of the businesses sponsoring the event, the carving was done in a secondary location.
We didn’t find the site until it was too late to witness any of the actual chainsaw work. However, we were able to see all the creations in one place. The plan was to move the sculptures into place at around 2 p.m. Craftsmen were waiting at several locations for blocks of ice to show up so they could get to work creating new melting pieces of art.
Rooster and I expected to watch one of the demonstrations, but the ice delivery never happened. We gave up and decided to go to lunch.
Discovery of a Liar’s Table at the Shipshewana Ice Festival
After a fifteen-minute cruise down the small town’s main drag, we decided to pull into the Subway restaurant. It was the most logical choice. Every eating establishment we drove past was full. We could tell by the number of cars in the parking lots. Subway was the most logical choice for us to make as far as our wallet was concerned. We’d already spent more money in the shops than we intended.
Rooster bought a locally handcrafted leather belt, and I purchased a small jute rug, candles, and patches for a future memory quilt. Several Amish buggies parked outside the chain restaurant. It didn’t take us long to figure out we’d stumbled onto the local Amish version of the liar’s table.
We have one back home. It’s a restaurant where the old guys hang out and spend hours weaving tall tells and dispensing local gossip. It’s so ingrained in our local culture I even included it in the imaginary city I created. Citizens of the fictitious town of Tecumseh, Indiana can find their liar’s table over at the Cup & Spoon.
You can’t get any better than a snarly waitress.
I knew this was the well-established point of origin when the lady working behind the counter moved to the table. She said, “Why don’t you guys make yourself useful. Give this young lady some directions to the street she’s looking for. I’m sure you know how to get there.” The men gave the poor woman on three different ways to reach the address. She staggered from the Subway more confused than when she walked in the door. One life lesson I learned early on was you never ask people sitting at a liar’s table for directions.
The trip home was uneventful. I was a little disappointed I couldn’t watch the sculptors chiseling at giant blocks of ice with chainsaws. That will be something I can reserve for 2020. It’s a price we Hoosiers must pay for having a freaky warm winter. This adventure started off small but grew in magnitude as the day wore on. It’s funny how even a cloudy sky can brighten when you add a pinch of sunshine.
Molly Shea is an accomplished fictional short story writer from Indiana, who writes short stories and novels about a fictional town called Tecumseh. To read more of her short stories and adventures click here.
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