WARSAW – Growing up, most kids heard their parents bellow ‘leftovers’ when asked what’s for dinner. The same ol’, same ol’ could be routine for some, but variety is the spice of life.
On the road five, sometimes six nights a week, the sports staff at Ink Free News sought to break up the same ol’, same ol’ and see if there was anything better to eat than drive thru or snacks. Do the menus have more than just popcorn, candy bars and 20-ounce drinks? We found a lot of the same products, but we also found some great eats and treats as we made the rounds across northern Indiana.
Our expectations weren’t to encounter a seafood buffet in a resort town, but to find something that jumped out at us and said ‘Buy me!’ While most of the items were staples from year to year, it gives us something to anticipate in the years to come.
One of the top spreads we found was at Goshen High School. Athletic director Larry Kissinger has one of the most distinct duos in the food game with their pulled pork sandwiches and ice cream. The pulled pork — which the school uses year-round for football, basketball and major outdoor events — has become a staple, and the ice cream, provided by Scholl Dairy from Michigan City, has been on the menu for years. As part of the basketball season, the combo was the biggest unique find. Goshen’s menu board also offered the most diverse selection, and even combo value offers.
“When my husband and I took over the concession stand we wanted to come up with a “signature” type sandwich that we would be known for when people come to our home events,” said GHS concessions manager Sharon Hieliger. “We came up with the pulled pork idea and it’s been very successful for us — we also use the pulled pork to make ‘spirit nachos’ that are nachos with pulled pork and cheese and a ‘spirit dog’, which is a hot dog with pulled pork and cheese. These items have become so popular that pulled pork is now served at every home event that has a concession stand open.
“The ice cream concession stand is open during the boys basketball season and is also open during the Goshen Wrestling Invitational and the wrestling regional that we host. We continued this tradition because it is very popular. I am not sure how the ice cream offerings came into being — it pre-dates me, and I know that people have been coming to the games for years and years and always get the ice cream and they are happy we have continued the tradition.”
Ice cream is also on the docket for home basketball games at a few other locations, but done through fundraiser efforts. One of those locations is Tippecanoe Valley, where the cafeteria area to the south of the basketball arena is a vendor event each home game. Igloo ice cream, bake sales with pies, cookies and other confections, pizza and more can be found out there depending on who is set up with the specific service organizations. In conjunction with the base concessions run by the wrestling team and booster programs at Valley, there are several options for the masses.
“Our teams run the concessions, and the money goes to the transportation fund,” said Valley athletic director Duane Burkhart. “Years ago we had a few people come up to us and mention that they worked late, and it would be nice to have sandwiches and something to eat. So we opened up the cafeteria area and started serving pizza, hot dogs, brats and the profits returned to the community.”
Possibly the best buy we found isn’t something new, but became a scarce commodity due to circumstance. In the annual ‘best buy in the concession game’, the Footlong of Popcorn from Triton concessions can’t be beat. It’s one dollar. ONE DOLLAR, for a foot of popcorn, which actually measures to closer to a foot-and-a-half when the bag is stuffed. Triton has been offering the deal for quite awhile, and with costs continuing to rise for most everything else, Triton athletic director Mason McIntyre felt consistency was more important than slight profit. Especially in a year where the home schedule was cut in half due to the flooding in the Trojan Trench.
“I think it is one of the best deals around,” McIntyre said. “When you look at the majority of places around, you get a small bag for $1. We’ve had that big bag for $1 for a long time. We’ve talked about increasing it as the price of corn went up, but we look at it as we’re also trying to provide a service that people know, that people want to come back to, so that’s one of the things that we’ve kind of left alone.”
Some of the other unique finds we made note of in our adventures included Menno Tea at Bethany Christian (the only place we found to serve iced tea), combo specials at NorthWood (order by number and save a little money), caramel popcorn at West Noble (outstanding), Rulli’s pizza at Northridge (outstanding) and a host of timely foods at morning invitationals (including Rise N Roll).
The overriding purpose of the concessions is to serve the community that supports the athletics, but the money raised by the concessions is then turned around in most cases for the athletic programs. At Wawasee and most schools, each of the other programs will choose a basketball game to work concessions, allowing their efforts to filter back into the program or into a general athletic or school fund.
“Each of our teams is assigned to a home football or a basketball game,” began Wawasee athletic director Cory Schutz. “A couple coaches in there, usually like eight to 10, 12 kids run it. They can rotate through however they decided to do it. This year we had an extra with the boys basketball tournament that we hosted, and we opened it up to clubs and whoever else. Our robotics club ran the concessions that day, so we gave them some money to work that so they didn’t just donate their time — they actually got something out of it.”