Hobart has always been a fundamental part of Nikki Lopez’s life, and she can now positively impact the very city in which she grew up as Hobart’s Director of Events.
As a third-generation member of the Hobart community, Lopez knows how important it is for citizens to be invested in their town. Her grandfather, Gene Clemens, inspired her to be as involved in Hobart as she is today. Be it through high school sports or even Hobart Pop Warner, which he helped develop, Clemens played an integral role in Hobart’s youth sports environment.
“My grandpa was always involved in something,” Lopez said. “He got Pop Warner started here in Hobart, and he never missed a high school football game. The saying ‘Once a Brickie, always a Brickie,’ was definitely true in his case.”
The saying rings true in Lopez’s life as well. Not only did she graduate from Hobart High School, but she plans on sending her daughters, Taylor Sunshine (10) and Ella Rain (7), there as well. After graduating from HHS, she attended college at Indiana University Northwest, where she majored in Public Policy with a minor in Environmental Studies.
The City of Hobart offered Lopez the position of Director of Events after years of volunteer work within her community. Today, she works closely with other departments to plan key events that enrich Hobart’s culture. Luckily for Lopez, Hobart is an incredibly engaging place to host those events.
“I would never want to be anywhere else. Hobart is a place where people stay, and people make the community. When you’re invested in your community, you get a sense of place. I love it here,” Lopez said.
Hobart’s Lakefront Festival is one of the cornerstone events that exemplifies the city’s value for community. People who grew up in Hobart and have since moved away come back to enjoy their hometown. This year, which was the 26th Annual Hobart Fest, Lopez and her staff hired several circus performers to roam throughout the festival. Contortionists and fire swallowers did their acts up and down the festival’s midway, and most attendees could not tell if the performances were spontaneous or planned.
“The goal was to keep the performers a surprise, so it was really awesome to see people watch things like a girl walking down the midway in a backbend and wonder whether or not it was part of the festival,” Lopez said.
This year was also the first year that those attending the Lakefront Fest could enjoy fireworks on the Friday and Saturday of the festival. Each one of these unique ideas was a result of brainstorming, which Lopez believes to be a crucial part of the event-planning process.
“We’re always looking for new and fun ideas,” Lopez said. “I love dressing my staff up in costumes, for example. One year we were the cast of A Christmas Story, so we had the leg, the bunny suit, and everything. This year for our Halloween movie night, we’re showing The Nightmare Before Christmas, so I’ll have some of my staff dress up as Jack, Sally and the rest of the characters.”
Movie nights have become a tradition in the Hobart community. In fact, Lopez’s favorite events to plan are the city’s “Dive-in Movies.” Lopez and her staff show movies at the community pool, which is a nice change of location for those who attend the screenings.
“We actually showed Jaws at one of our ‘Dive-in Movies,’ and it was so cool. People got to watch Jaws while being in the water, and they really enjoyed that,” Lopez said.
Lopez’s Leslie Knope-esque event planning skills could not be brought into fruition without support from Hobart’s local businesses. All of the funding for Hobarts’ events comes from local businesses, and, in return, those businesses are offered opportunities to connect with their community.
“Hobart’s local businesses are a huge part of our events. We really want to grow our downtown area, so we want to encourage businesses to get engaged with our city. For example, at our Pumpkins in the Park event, 50 businesses came free of charge,” Lopez said.
Through her work, Lopez has greatly improved the involvement of local businesses and the citywide culture of Hobart overall, and she will continue to do so for years to come.