When you see smiling faces on the streets of Schererville, there's a good chance that Josh Barnes had something to do with it. As Recreation Coordinator for Schererville Parks and Recreation, he is behind all of the fun festivals, events, and programs happening in the town.
Though he works in Schererville, Barnes lives in Portage with his partner, Kevin, and his two children, Kyler, 3, and Kevy (short for Kevin), 5. When it comes to his city of residence, being in such a central hub is what initially attracted him to the Portage. With family in Michigan City and work in Schererville, as well as all the activities available there, Barnes enjoys his life in Portage.
"We enjoy going to the craft shows, we're going to go to the free movies in the park at Founder's Park that start soon, and we're going to be getting involved in camps that Portage is going to be offering as well. And Kevy likes to play Pokemon Go so, we're constantly roaming the parks and now that it's warm out he's like, 'When are we going, when are we going?'" said Barnes. "We also love to swim so Deep River Waterpark is on our agenda."
Beyond that, Barnes also loves that Portage has an 'up and coming' attitude in a lot of ways. That, and he lives right next to the Portage IMAX, which as a movie buff is a nice perk.
"I'm a movie buff so, I love being able to walk out my door and see a movie," said Barnes who loves sci-fi movies, and Marvel movies like the Avengers: Infinity War and Black Panther. His room is even painted in homage to Marvel.
His appreciation for the activities in Portage can definitely be seen in his work to keep Schererville active and happy.
"As number two for the parks, I'm in charge of the events, the festivals, the programs, leading all aspects of those and I have great teammates who I collaborate with when it comes to making Schererville a place you want to have fun at, a place you want to be at, a place you want to live at," said Barnes.
As for his favorite of the many events that happen in Schererville each year, Barnes loves them all.
"I'm all about being the best. I have a philosophy of Go Big or Go Home, we always want to do so much," said Barnes. "My favorite is the events aspect because it can really hit a lot of people. Whether it is a party in the park or a fireworks event or some of the prime timer events, the more people that it can create joy for, that's what I like about a successful event."
There is a lot of preparation that goes into making the people of Schererville happy, though. With so many events constantly underway, Barnes and his team could be prepping for an event the next day while still having to think about an event two months down the road. What makes it all worth it? According to Barnes, it is the happiness that these community events create.
"It's like party planning on steroids," laughed Barnes. "I like seeing smiles, I like hearing laughter. That's what's rewarding. The one where I see it is working with the prime timers, you truly get an appreciation face-to-face, 'Thank you, it was so amazing.' In the moment you really see how you're making a difference. We cater to people that are kids as young as one or two, with Breakfast with Santa or Breakfast with the Easter Bunny, to our prime timer events where people who are 92, 93. Not many people can do that."