Photo compliments of the South Bend Mayor's Office

Africans Among Us by John Pinter

The University of Notre Dame has been hosting a group of 25 ‘Fellows,’ young African leaders in business from a wide variety of countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.  It’s been a wonderful and enlightening 5 weeks, and the group is getting ready to travel to Washington, DC, to meet up with the other 475 Fellows who’ve been similarly engaged at other colleges and universities.

The experience got me thinking about how many African natives live in and around South Bend, and the ways that I’ve had the chance to get to know individuals and families.  Though the overall population is quite small in Indiana, as well as the rest of the country (between 1 and 1.5%, according to statistics I found), there are pockets of vibrant communities of individuals from a number of countries.  Some of the members of the local African community came to the area fleeing war back homes, as refugees or asylees; our local Rwandan community has grown in this way.  Others came due to a religious ‘draw,’ such as the Malawian connections between First Presbyterian Church and their home communities.  Our town is big enough to have groups from Liberia, Sudan, Chad, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo as well.  Kenya has been the homeland for many in our area, and there are undoubtedly other groups that I’ve not have the pleasure of meeting yet.

As a whole, these individuals have quietly made their way to South Bend, and then become quite proficient at things that American society tends to reward: entrepreneurship, home ownership, education.

Chico learns baseball as part of his visit to South bend with the Young African Leaders Initiative
Chico & Ali  learn baseball as part of their visit to South bend with the Young African Leaders Initiative

Ali at Bat

As important, I think, are the ways that transiting culture and one’s home practice from one’s former land to one’s new home occurs.  For example, hospitality tends to be very important.  A check-in visit to a friend from Rwanda always included at least a cup of tea or a small snack.  A drop in to a party that was mostly members of the local Kenyan community always meant taking an honored seat and being introduced to everybody in the room.  If I ever need an ego boost, and I hope I don’t, I know where it would be easy to be accommodated!

I am of the firm mindset that South Bend will be greatly enriched in years to come by deepening connections between Africa and our region.  The Fellows came up with a great list of exchange ideas, and think our city should host an annual African Festival to promote the ties and our own tourist identity.  My first reaction: us?  But after some cajoling, they had me convinced that we should be out front of other cities and become known for this kind of affair.  I think it’s a great idea!

Photo courtesy of South Bend Mayor's Office
Photo courtesy of South Bend Mayor’s Office

South Bend’s a community that is turning its old strengths that became liabilities, such as unused buildings, into newly purposed assets.  Its collection of people, increasingly diverse in many ways, will be the important human catalyst to make it a great city in the future.  Maybe that sounds cliché, but the warm hospitality that the Africans among us show to all visitors will make South Bend a better place.

John is a South Bend, Indiana, consultant and salsa maker who works with a variety of public, private non- profit organizations. email:

Sounds of South Bend

Sound by South Bend (Blog entry #1)

The South Bend music scene is exploding with vibrancy.  The music coming from this region is original, diverse, daring, and unstoppable.  It is my pleasure to launch a blog with the hope of chronicling this movement.  Perhaps you’re one of the dozens of people who have spoken to me and stated something to the effect of “there’s something happening here”.  You bet there is!  With the established and ever growing success of events like the South by South Bend music festival, the Seitz and Sounds summer concert series, the Pool, the 420 Musical Festival, and the North Coast Social series, our community is creating a wonderfully cooperative and vital music environment.

Why is this happening now?  In a word: community.  Musicians and artists of all types cannot thrive in a vacuum.  They need support from venues and patrons and folks I like to call catalysts, people who serve to put it all together (more on this later).  Over the past three years I have witnessed a true awakening of venue support in the South Bend region.  The State Theater, The gMChtyrdE43rIvAPXn8FGLToYcjOvp5nrXEfOuQjUWL47SqoYHaYKaj785iT16mXJlU6IQ=w947-h487Pool, Chicory Café, Fiddler’s Hearth, The Well, McCormick’s Coney Island, Suite 11, and LaSalle Kitchen and Tavern are at the head of the class, though there are many others.  Though primarily a downtown South Bend movement, we are starting to see connections to surrounding communities. Most recently Evil Czech Brewery in Mishawka has started to book many of the local area bands that play original music.  The owners and managers of these locations realize that fostering local original music serves to form a symbiotic relationship.  By giving an artist a stage, and connecting her with her potential fan base, the venue becomes an integral part of the process.  In turn, we reward these venues with our patronage.

By adding great artists and friendly venues to a mix that already contains a curious and entertainment hungry fan base you almost have all you need to make a successful music scene.  But what is needed is a good catalyst to get the whole reaction moving.  Without people like Dena Woods, Gus Bennett, Andrew Elegante, Manda Harris, Anival Fausto, David Matthews, the Dietz family, and all of the members of the Bridge Project, it would have been very difficult to get the momentum needed to launch the movement.  These folks work tirelessly and serve as the great facilitators of South Bend music.  You can definitely add the great people at the Music Village to this list as well.  Lately I’ve been hearing the term “incubator” in relation to the South Bend music scene.  As in, “South Bend is becoming a great artist incubator”.  In other words, South Bend is supplying all the elements needed to grow and develop musical talent.  If South bend is an incubator, these catalysts are looking over the eggs.  When you get a chance, thank them for their efforts.


In future postings I‘ll be profiling local artists as well as reporting on music events.  I wanted to use this first entry as a cornerstone.  It is the foundation of my Sound by South Bend blog.  I am greatly passionate about our local music and it is my hope that I see you at future shows and events.  After all, this growing movement will struggle without the support of the listeners.  So go catch a show. Buy the band merchandise.  Spread the word on social media.  Maybe you can be a catalyst yourself and host a house show or contribute to our local artists’ crowd funding projects.  I challenge you to frequent venues that support local artists.  Also, I remind you that you have a voice.  Use it to let us know what is working and what is needed.  This is your community, your local music scene.  Don’t just love South Bend, love South Bend music.

Matthew Teters

Teters, LLC Audio Production


Pure Patriotic Bliss by Jonathon Geels

Marquette Park is a small neighborhood, tucked near the downtown on South Bend’s northwest side. Anchored by the nearby schools, it is home to a true eclectic mix of backgrounds and demographics, always abuzz with plenty of children riding bikes and old folks tending to their lawns. In true American neighborhood tradition, Marquette Park has an annual 4th of July Parade that’s not quite as old as the 1920’s era houses that line the streets.

July 4th


For the last 40+ years, dozens of children decorate their bikes, skateboards, and roller skates to join members of their community, a historic fire truck, a contemporary fire truck, a couple of Studebakers, and an odd dog or two in a march around 6 blocks. It’s pure patriotic bliss. Lawn chairs usually pepper the route, with the thrill of walking down the middle of the street in the company of the SBFD highlighting the children’s experience. After the short trek, the neighbors gather for a festive breakfast potluck on a front lawn. The fire trucks park, to be explored by the kids, while the Studebakers park to be explored by the adults. It’s an uplifting experience and easy to see how such a tradition can survive so many transitions of families. To think the whole thing comes together year after year because of a sign and a few phone calls. It’s community building at its best.


Jonathon Geels enjoys solving problems by connecting people to new ideas through design, innovation, and advocacy. He is passionate about public health, the built environment, social equality, as well as resource management and he hopes to engage other people with the same enthusiasm. Check out 100 of these problem solving ideas at 

Photo Credit: OMG Photography

Pride in South Bend

Yesterday’s announcement of the overturning of Indiana’s ban on same-sex marriage was a huge milestone in the fight for marriage equality in Indiana.  As a passionate advocate I was very excited by this news, and proud of the state of Indiana as well as South Bend and all the couples who got married yesterday.  I’ve been mulling around the idea of writing about my experience with Pride Prom 2014 and it now seems very appropriate to do so

If you attended this wonderful event 2 weeks ago, you know how much fun it was. Dressing up, dancing, photo booth, fun, romance, DJ Chuck Fry, my evil twin Matt Teters..this event had it all!

What makes me the happiest about an event like this, though, is not how much fun it was, but the bigger context of what an event like this means to our city and its residents, especially in light of the ruling yesterday.

I arrived at the event, fashionably late, with my girlfriend Melissa, all dressed up and ready for a good time.  I even wore a jester mask from Mardi Gras to fit in with the theme of “Royals” because if there is a South Bend Royalty, I definitely consider myself to be the Jester.

One of my favorite things about South Bend is how friendly everyone has been and how many friends I’ve been able to make in 2 short years.  Even before we  entered the ballroom at the Palais Royale (beautiful btw), I started running into friends in the lobby and just outside the door.  When we went upstairs my friends were at the check in desk, in line at the bar, running the sound and dj’ing, dancing, frolicking and just having fun.  My friends were everywhere! In fact there were so many people that I knew and cared about in that grand space that I had to let Melissa go dance with her friends while I made my rounds for fear of overwhelming her (sorry Melissa!).

The best part about all these friends, and this event in general, was that nobody seemed to care about your gender identity or sexuality.  We were all just there enjoying the opportunity to be grown up and get fancy and dance, enjoying taking silly photos and romantic photos in the photo booth(thanks to OMG Photography), and enjoying our city.  That lack of distinction and the unity/togetherness of the group is what I loved.  It was definitely a #weAreSouthBend moment.

I remember last year when the first Pride Prom was held how the organizers were worried about public backlash. They were taking a risk with the marquee message asking Mayor Pete to the prom. Yet the event was well received, excellently executed (Mayor Pete even bartended) and tons of fun. This year, in contrast, there was no such worry, very little concern.  How great is it to have made such progress in just a year? How great is it to live in a city that is making such an effort to celebrate diversity?

I also remember when the HJR-3 fight was happening and Simon Radecki of Freedom Indiana came to town. We encouraged him to come to State Theater events to find volunteers and add signatures to his petition because we felt he’d find a lot of interest.  As the campaign wore on, Simon remarked how amazingly supportive South Bend had been, far more so than Fort Wayne which was supposed to be a bigger support base.   He was genuinely surprised but I wasn’t. This community is just a lot more Pride friendly than people think.

So to wrap it all up, I had a great time at Pride Prom. I went to the event, in some ways as an ally to the LGBT community.  But at the end of the night the best part of it was that there didn’t have to be a big fuss about LGBT and allies.  We were just South Benders, enjoying each other’s company and that of course that’s the way it should be.  Because there are plenty of reasons to have Pride in South Bend!


Veg Wish

Downtown Dining Wishes

Happy Restaurant Week! Share some thoughts on DTSB dining?

Survey HERE:

Last fall you may have seen stickers like those pictured above in the windows of vacant storefronts in downtown South Bend.  This project was a fun way to offer more community members a means of sharing their ideas for revitalization efforts downtown . We also sought to plant seeds for further civic engagement and broader ownership of the South Bend Renaissance. We got a lot of really great ideas (so many Trader Joe fans out there!) and a few that we can’t mention in decent company.  We were excited to see the ways people interacted with each other through the stickers, reminding folks that there WAS in fact a card shop in DTSB when it was suggested, for example. 

Several people responded that they wished for Vegetarian , Gluten Free or other specialty restaurants catering to  their dietary restrictions & preferences so this seemed like a great place to start in conjunction with Summer Restaurant Week. In taking the sticker information and actually DOING something with it we take another step closer toward our goal of creating a more dynamic downtown where everyone can find something that fits for them.  After talking to a few of the restaurateurs and some of the people who contributed this response, we realized that more information is required to really determine what the needs may be.  Some of the questions we’ve considered are; Is there a dearth of options available to vegetarians, vegans and gluten free diners, OR do we need to do a better job of identifying the options already available at restaurants? How do South Benders as well as visitors to our community find these options? And other questions as well. 

To that end, we’re kicking off a DTSB dining preferences survey in conjunction with Restaurant Week to get more information from all of you and your friends and family. This short survey looks at dietary needs and restaurant preferences. It also gives you a chance to share your contact info if you’d like to be further involved in implementing projects aimed to make the downtown dining scene easier to navigate for vegetarians, vegans, and gluten free folk.  We’ll follow up with a survey to the restaurateurs and figure out what options and systems are already in place. Then we’ll make recommendations for moving forward toward accommodating the needs identified through the surveys.

This is an exciting opportunity to figure out how to get more people eating downtown as our City continues to undergo a Renaissance of awesome proportions. DTSBHead over to: DTSB Dining Preferences Survey shouldn’t take more than a few minutes. Please also share with your friends and family, we want all the diversity of South Bend to be represented in the data, whether you eat meat or not!



The State of South Bend is Strong


As part of the State Theater team working passionately to restore it to be the Pride of South Bend this past year and a half, I have to be honest in admitting I’ve been a little apprehensive about the change in management. Change is something I’ve never been fond of anyhow, I’ve found it brings uncertainty and disrupts routines to which I’ve become accustomed. But I’ve also been reminded that it brings  opportunity and growth in new directions as well. As we transition our social media to focus on the State OF South Bend, a city I’ve come to love dearly, I’m reminded of Mayor Pete’s most recent State of the City Address. As he noted, “The state of our city is growing stronger by the day, and our future is bright”. And so it is with both the State Theater, and with us here at the State of South Bend.

My commitment to the State Theater was fueled by a desire to build a community hub, where folks from all walks could find something that interested them. We saw that in the diversity of events we hosted and in the increasing numbers of seats filled at them over the past 18 months. The enthusiasm and buzz at May’s First Friday Rockne celebration was palpable and outweighed the stress of all the late nights, early mopping mornings and random frustrations in between.  The photo from that event above, and framed beside my bed, is a great reminder of all the ways We Are South Bend!

Thinking of all the strategies Drew and I and many other awesome people have discussed for building this ‘hub’ at the Southern end of Michigan St. in DTSB, I return to the words of Mayor Pete:

 The first and most important of our strategies is to form lasting partnerships that help us to achieve common goals… The enormous things that can be achieved by community members stepping up represent the best in our city, and they add up to something bigger than all our volunteers put together. It’s what we should come to expect in a community where residents understand that the city is what they make it, and that they can be the change they would like to see in our neighborhoods, our downtown, our hometown.

These partnerships are the meat of the matter. In coordinating the StateSB’s social media these past few months, it’s been in building these relationships and sharing stories that I have been most enthusiastic.  Therefore, as we transition, it is the continued development of these outlets that I see as the most exciting opportunity. Widening the lens  beyond just the theater, we will continue creation of a virtual hub for community building and celebration of all things South Bend.  Looking ahead we plan for the State of South Bend channels to share the We Heart SB stories  not just in our words, but  in those of like-minded community organizers and leaders from all walks as contributors as well.

One example is the I Wish This Was stickers popping up in vacant DTSB storefront windows last fall. You may have heard me talk about them at Ignite Michiana.  This is one community project I look forward to sharing with our ‘friends’ and ‘followers’ as next steps are taken toward doing something with all the suggestions. Simply collecting ideas on stickers was never the intent. Keep an eye out on the State of South Bend Facebook and Twitter for more information on this endeavor and several other initiatives making the State of South Bend Stronger.

And so we enter optimistically into change with our friends and partners pursuing the common goal of building Pride IN South Bend for everyone. While the lights of the marquee at the State Theater will continue to shine, the State OF South Bend will be illuminating all the areas where the future is, indeed, very bright.

Check us out on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!


The End (and a new beginning)

Hard to believe it’s been almost 2 years since my State Theater dreams first took flight.  Crazy to think of how it all started, with a startup weekend I didn’t attend and a casual suggestion from my friend Brendan that we go check out this cool theater in downtown. It was almost love at first sight!  How had I missed this beautiful building during my 2 years at ND? Really it doesn’t matter because for me, The State HAS been a South Bend Love Story (like how I did that with the marquee?).

I’ve worked extremely hard at the theater for the last two years.  Sometimes I call it a passion, sometimes an addiction.  I’ve laughed, I’ve cried, I’ve bled, I’ve change the marquee in blinding rain and I’ve danced the time warp.  I’ve learned a lot about this city, the theater, and, most importantly, myself.

This role has challenged me in every possible way and I’ve been blessed to have so many passionate supporters and volunteers, particularly Mara and Trish.  We’ve done some amazing things here at the old State Theater, things that we hope the city can be proud of.

I’ve also learned that I can’t do it all.  I can’t run a restaurant, an attraction, and a shop.  There simply aren’t enough hours in the day for me to do it all and live the happy & healthy life I aspire to.  My time here has made me realize the value of doing one thing and doing it well.

So it is with a happy heart that I announce my retirement from the theater to focus on and pursue my South Bend Brew Werks dream.  This project has been in my mind for 2 years and almost into the world for nearly a year now. It’s time to give it the attention it deserves. I owe that to my business partners and the people who have been so excited to see it come to life.

Trish Gehring, one of our most passionate volunteers will be succeeding me.  It has been a dream of hers to run the theater since she was a child so I’m thrilled to be able to get out of the way and watch her pursue it.  She has some big plans so watch for more information.

This website, and the various social media properties Mara and I have built will be transitioning away from a focus on the State Theater to a more community wide focus, from The State, South Bend to The State OF South Bend. We’ve always been about the community, telling stories outside of the boundaries of the theater, and we’re excited to be able to share even more of what makes this, in our opinion, such a great place to live.  If you’d like to be a partner with us, please let us know.  We’re looking for more content creators!

The best part of all this? I get to stay in this city I love and be an active part of a downtown that is arguably far more vibrant than it was 2 years ago.  I’ve been asked to be on the events committee for the SB150 Sesquicentennial celebration so I will still get to be involved with events.  I’m also looking forward to spending more time volunteering and mentoring, through organizations like Big Brother Big Sister and also exploring the area to better understand what it means to be a Hoosier. All in all, this is a very exciting time for me and I’ve been renewed with energy and enthusiasm since I made the decision.

I say I chose South Bend over Seattle, but it was never really in doubt. I was always going to end up here because this is where I belong, my home .  Thank you to everyone for being so welcoming and supportive.  I am very much looking forward to seeing what the future brings.


Thea Great #dtsbpowerout of 2014

The Great #dtsbpowerout of 2014

Sometimes things happen that you can’t foresee. Things like the popularity of Hanson or the great #dtsbpowerout of 2014 which has left us with a dark theater and a beeping fire alarm.

The theater has been out of power since around 12:30 a.m. this morning.  Since the power is forecast to be out until Sunday evening, we will have some difficulties hosting the 2 events we had this weekend, the debut of the dis-Dress Dolls and our May edition of Rocky Horror Picture Show. Beginning this morning we jumped on the phones and the Facebook and sought out new venues and alternative times for these two shows.

At the end of the day our best option looks like rescheduling so we want to announce that the dis-Dress Dolls will now debut on May 31st at 8p.  Tickets are still valid and if you need to return them because you can’t make it, please contact the Dolls on Facebook.

Rocky Horror is moving to this coming Friday the 23rd.  Doors will open a half hour later than normal, 11:30.  If tickets need to be returned or exchanged please contact the cast member you bought them from.

Thanks for your patience and understanding.  #weareSouthBend!

Fr. Bob Pelton

Rockne Remembrances

Fr. Robert Pelton began Notre Dame as a lay student in 1939, and after world wide travels, is living on campus in Corby Hall at the ripe old age of 93.  He’s the only priest on campus that was there for the 1940 Knute Rockne: All American filming, and for the World Premiere in October 1940. He was also the only man, other than Rockne’s son, at the 2005 dedication of the Jerry McKenna statue in Downtown South Bend who had seen Rockne in his lifetime. Fr. Bob’s career was renowned for his humanitarian work and publications, but his face lit up with the memories of Rockne and his undergraduate years at Notre Dame.

Fr. Bob Pelton
Fr. Bob recounting the excitement of the world premiere of Knute Rockne: All American in South Bend and at Notre Dame.

Fr. Bob came to Notre Dame from Chicago where his father worked at Northwestern.  At the age of 9 Fr. Bob and a friend managed to sneak past the barricades for the Notre Dame vs. Northwestern football game at Northwestern.  Although he wasn’t cheering for ND, he fondly remembers seeing Rockne on the sidelines. An animated coach in his trademark fedora, he led the Irish to victory over Northwestern disappointing the two young boys watching from beneath the bleachers. Flash forward 10 years and Bob Pelton, a first year a lay student at the time, is given the opportunity of a lifetime as a member of the Glee Club. Warner Brothers was filming Knute Rockne: All American on the Notre Dame campus and selected the Glee Club to sing the fight song throughout the film, and provide the music for the funeral mass that concludes the movie. Fr. Bob is not bashful to admit it was exciting to be in a real Hollywood movie.

The 1940 Notre Dame Glee Club with Robert Pelton in the 2nd row and a clipping from The Scholastic magazine 10-4-40.
The 1940 Notre Dame Glee Club with Robert Pelton in the 2nd row and a clipping from The Scholastic magazine 10-4-40.

That excitement was later amplified when South Bend was chosen for the October 4th world premiere of the movie, to bring all the pomp and circumstance of a true Hollywood fete to the community and the tiny ND campus of 3000 students.  Truly a collaborative effort between the city and the college, the Premiere involved events at venues around the city and at Notre Dame. Fr. Bob especially remembers the thrill of meeting Pat O’Brien, the star of the movie, in an elevator at the Joyce Center. Although he stuttered when trying to speak to O’Brien, he recalled that he was a “stand-out” guy, and a “really nice fellow”.

The other highlight of the great Premiere week for Fr. Bob was performing at South Dining Hall with the Glee Club on the Kate Smith radio show.  A popular entertainer in Chicago, Kate Smith brought her show on the road and broadcast it live from the Notre Dame campus.  With his family and friends back home listening, Fr. Bob and the Glee Club performed as part of the program, and were blown away by the beauty of Kate Smith’s performance of God Bless America, “she was something else!”.  The shadow of WWII was stretching to the United States and the event celebrated the patriotism of the US, an echo of the “All-American” image portrayed of Knute Rockne in the film.

“This was a big deal for South Bend and Notre Dame, to have all these movie stars come to town, and all the people!” It was the place to be Friday night as 200,000 people flooded the streets of downtown South Bend (population 100,000) to catch glimpses of the stars. Bob Hope emceed, Ronald Reagan, Pat O’Brien and Gale Page spoke to the crowd and the iconic photo below was snapped by the South Bend Tribune’s staff Photographer.  When I asked if he saw the movie downtown Fr. Bob replied, “Sure… that’s what you did, everyone did. We couldn’t go to the fancy events, all those tuxedo events but it was a really exciting time.”

This is what we hope to re-create this Friday night as part of Vintage First Friday.  An exciting time that highlights the energy of the city and creates memories for generations to come.  Fr. Bob noted that “the world premiere of a movie was a great way for Notre Dame and South Bend to come together. Like today, we have another great chance with this young Mayor (South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg_). It’s a good time for it.”

We look forward to sharing these memories 70 years from now with grandchildren, students and anyone who will listen.  Join us for the photo, and stay for the movie if only to hear the sweet songs of the Glee club performed. No matter what accomplishments we achieve, or wherever we may travel, we will have a picture of our community- brought together- and fondly remember that #weareSouthBend.



Cheers to South Bend: The State

In honor of Knute Rockne week, we made several videos with the folks from Indiana Rug Co.  Terrifically hilarious (at least we think so), these videos highlight a few of the many things in South Bend that have changed for the better since 1940.

In this grand finale, we explore downtown movie houses and find out about The Bet.  Enjoy!

Be sure to add your name to the list of folks who will become part of history!  Invite your friends, family, etc.. to be part of the fun!

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