Indiana Seaplane Pilots Association’s Annual Seaplane Splash-In.
Pokagon State Park, situated on Lake James in northeast Indiana, is where families go to gather, hike, and play. On one special weekend, Pokagon becomes home to the Indiana Seaplane Pilots Association and their annual Seaplane Splash-In. This event has become a tradition on Lake James as it is now in it’s 16th year with seaplanes arriving from Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, and all of Indiana.
Randy Strebig, President of the Indiana Seaplane Pilots Association tells me that what makes the Seaplane Splash-In so appealing is that it really has become a community event. “My local friends and neighbors from the Lake James Association and Steuben County Tourism, volunteers from the pilot community, from the lake community, they all got together and it really has become a community fly-in.”
When it began 16 years ago, Strebig really had no idea what was going to happen when he presented the idea to Pokagon State Park Manger Ted Bohman. “I wanted to do a seaplane fly in at Potawatomi Inn and he pretty much looked at me like I had three eyes in my head,” Strebig said. The first year, eight seaplanes showed up on a Sunday for lunch. They decided to start giving people rides and everybody loved it! It has become such a huge attraction that now tickets are given to interested individuals and there is a drawing for rides that take place during the event. They’ve increased their safety program and their number of safety volunteers; in turn Pokagon State Park has seen a rise in park admission and restaurants sales during the event.
On Sunday, I made the drive to Pokagon for my first time at this event. Held on the west lawn of the parks Potawatomi Inn, I made my way to the lake to photograph some arrivals. The seaplanes are nestled in awaiting the days activities. The number of seaplanes at this event has tripled in size since it began. Today, thirty or so seaplanes grace the lawn and Lake James. Soon, they will take to the skies over the lake giving rides, making people smile, and doing what pilots no doubt love to do: FLY!
“I want to keep it relaxed.” Randy Strebig speaks on. “There’s all these things in life we have to do all the time. They (the pilots) don’t have to do this. I don’t want them to pay. I want the pilots to put their wallets away. They pay to put gas in the their airplanes, they pay to buy their airplanes. They are the main attraction. They pay their way to come here. They’re helping me do the good work by showing up. We make people happy. We make people smile.” Isn’t that what aviation is all about?
Of course, next year… same time, same place, same smiles! Pokagon State Park, Lake James, Angola, Indiana… bring your family, bring your seaplanes, fly in, drive in, either way, we’ll love to see you there!