Independence Day at Pokagon
Despite temperatures climbing to the upper 80s, parking lots were full at Pokagon State Park on the nation’s birthday Wednesday morning, with license plates identifying travelers from as far away as Alaska.
Just outside the Potawatomi Inn, on the campgrounds of the park in Angola, families set up picnics, played volleyball and dove into Lake James.
Interpretive naturalist Nicole Ball was teaching children about turtles in the Nature Center. She said July 4 is one of the busier days in the summer.
Between July 1, 2016, and June 30, 2017, Pokagon had 514,868 visitors, according to the park’s statistics. That’s fewer than the 643,606 who visited the year before. The Indiana Dunes and Brown County state parks are the most popular in terms of attendance, according to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.
The docks were lined with boats, and many families started to go out onto the water around 11 a.m.
Megan Niese and her five friends were just climbing into their boat. Coming from Miller City, Ohio, the girls said they visit every year to celebrate the holiday.
This year, they were spending the day on the lake, but Pokagon’s endless activities are what keeps them coming back.
“There’s so many things to do,” Niese said. “You can go to the beach, play volleyball, go on bike rides or go shopping.”
Staying out of the water and finding a nice spot in the grass to sunbathe, Tammy Ellis and her daughter Taryn didn’t have many plans for the holiday.
“We’re kind of winging it,” Tammy said.
While the Fort Wayne natives had been to the park when Taryn was younger, it was the first time they visited for the Fourth of July.
“It’s close to home, but its far enough though that you do get a new scenery,” Taryn said. “We were just talking about how this feels like a mini-vacation.”
In addition to regular summer activities, Pokagon also celebrated Independence Day with the event “Honoring Old Glory.”
At the Nature Center, naturalist Dave Rowe gave a presentation about the history of the flag and spoke about flag etiquette, which he said is something people don’t pay attention to anymore.
“That’s what I hope to share with everybody this afternoon, is a reminder about the flag, that you can hang it on the Fourth of July and sing along to ‘The Star Spangled Banner,’” Rowe said.