Culture & Science
The South Shore is home to one of the most diverse ethnic populations in the United States, welcoming people from around the world who immigrated to the South Shore during the early part of the 20th century. This regional melting pot is home to more than 40 nationalities and dozens of religions. The region's churches, mosques and temples hold regular services in Spanish, Croatian, Hungarian, Polish, Greek, Russian, Serbian and countless other languages. Eastern Europeans have long stamped their mark on the Calumet Region like no other group.
The waves of immigrants from the Eastern Block thrive in quiet neighborhoods and honor their heritage with summer festivals and celebrations steeped in tradition and history. One such festival is Whiting's annual Pierogi Fest®. The event, which is debatable as the wackiest event of its kind, is kicked off with a parade on Whiting's downtown corridor historic 119th Street. The parade includes the festival mascot Mr. Pierogi and the hilarious Babushka Brigade, a precision drill team of cleaning women. This once small festival held each summer on the last weekend of July has grown to garner national attention and has been featured on The Food Network and The Travel Channel.
The universe is at your fingertips at Northwest Indiana's educational space and science center. Challenger Learning Center focuses on teaching science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills through hands-on, interactive activities that will fully immerse people of all ages in space! With space simulation programs, a planetarium and missions, Challenger Learning Center aims to make learning STEM skills fun and exciting.
Spanning miles from the Miller Beach area of the South Shore east to the Michigan border are the rolling sand-scapes one of Indiana's most visited attractions, the Indiana Dunes National Park. The National and State Parks welcome nearly 4 million people each year and provide nearly 30 miles of sandy dunes and beaches. The dunes serve as protector for a unique bio-diverse plant and animal population inhabiting shorelines and inter-dune ecologies. Professor Henry Chandler Cowles of the University of Chicago used the region as his outdoor laboratory and research model in his development of his now proven theories on the subject of Ecology.
What was once a beacon to guide sailors along Lake Michigan, the Old Lighthouse now remains as one of the oldest lighthouses in Indiana. Transformed into a museum, visitors can learn the history of the lighthouse, its keepers as well as other exhibits. The museum is open from 1pm to 4pm Tuesdays through Sundays from April through October. Tours can be self-guided, led by audio or docent-led.
A little known scientific research project that took place on these same dunes was Octave Chanute's Glider Experiments, which took place just outside of present day Gary, IN at Marquette Park. The Chanute Glider is credited with being a key element to the Wright brother's successful quest for propelled flight and one of only a few exact replicas of the glider can be found at the Indiana Welcome Center in Hammond.