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Visit Michigan City LaPorte’s R.O.S.E. Winners

While our Lake Michigan shoreline is spectacular, there is much to draw you inland. Our thriving communities are rich with experiences, scenic drives, rural landscapes and urban amenities. Take some time to enjoy the full diversity of LaPorte County and while you’re here tell us about the great Customer Service you receive!

Accommodation of the Year

The winner is Baymont by Wyndham Michigan City. This hotel has been very cooperative and works closely with the CVB. They go out-of-their-way to accommodate room blocks, they are a major sponsor for the Great Lakes Grand Prix, and they are a good partner helping with various sports programs.  Recently they have undertaken some renovations that have been positively noticed by their guests.


Agri-Tourism Award

The winner is Catherine Mrozinski – LaPorte Farmers Market. Catherine has overseen the market less than 5 years, and, in that time, she brought in more vendors, who feature locally sourced produce, wine, meats and cheese.  She worked with WIC so families can use WIC benefits with certain vendors at the market and they accept either EBT or SNAP. She has established some great craft booths as well.

Distinguished Artist Award

The winner is Paul Jeselskis. Over the past 30 years, Paul Jeselskis has developed a line of functional and decorative porcelain pottery and his work has won numerous awards and is widely recognized across the United States.  He earned an MFA in Ceramics from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania in 1987 with a minor in painting. After completing a residency at Millersville University of Pennsylvania in 1988, Paul moved back to the Chicago area in 1989 to set up a ceramics studio in Michigan City.  Paul has taught at Indiana University Northwest and has offered workshops in kiln building, glaze chemistry, throwing techniques, and sculptural techniques. He draws upon his extensive knowledge of ceramic history and glaze chemistry for the creation of his classic and artistic pottery forms.

Best Fest Award

The winner is Jammin with Save the Dunes. In June, Jammin is celebrating their 9th year. This is their signature fundraiser for Save the Dunes which brings hundreds of dunes lovers to beautiful Washington Park in Michigan City on the Lake Michigan shoreline. The festival features many favorite local breweries, local wineries and local food. This year they will be bringing back awesome bands with local ties!  The mission of Save the Dunes is to preserve, protect and restore the Indiana Dunes and all-natural resources in Northwest Indiana’s Lake Michigan Watershed for an enhanced quality of life. They have been protecting the Indiana Dunes since 1952.

Green Award Winner

The winner is Krueger Middle School. Krueger Middle School deserves the “Green Award” for its comprehensive recycling program. Beginning this school year most of the cafeteria waste is now composted, recycled, or donated to area food pantries — a monumental effort that has resulted in a reduction from 12 bags of cafeteria trash to only 2 bags per day. But that’s not all… the school is now recycling a tremendous variety of items, including solo cups, snack bags, magic markers, pill bottles, batteries, toner cartridges, electronics, light bulbs, plastic bags… and MUCH more.  Because of this program there are donations being made back to Krueger. For example: old shoes are collected for the nonprofit organization “Changing Footprints”; this organization takes shoes in any condition and in return provides new or like-new shoes that are distributed to the Michigan City Area School students, at last count, 300 pairs had been received for students. The mastermind of all of this is Environmental Science, Teacher Daisy Lee.

Volunteer of the Year

The Winner is Todd Walsworth – The Bike Stop. Since 1982, Todd has invested countless hours improving our cycling community. He developed Bluhm County Parks’ mountain bike trails along with his father and is currently developing trails at Red Mill County Parks. He is helping to revitalize our shared bike trails in LaPorte County and volunteers at local fundraising bike events to offer bike maintenance and generously donates bikes and/or other items to help raise monies needed for these causes. He has volunteered in the past at our local elementary schools to demonstrate bike safety. And he has donated time to the MCPD to help get their bike patrol off the ground. This is just a sampling of how Todd’s biking passion has gone far beyond his business. Todd has never asked for any recognition of his efforts, but I believe it’s time that he get just that.

Landmark Award

The winner is Mike Mainland – Blueberries of Indiana. Mike is a wealth of information when it comes to the blue fruit. He was just 9 years old when his father, Charles Marks Mainland, first purchased the blueberry farm. The chemical engineer who lived in LaPorte would drop his son off at the farm on his way to work as a chemical engineer in East Chicago. “The farm did keep me and my sister out of trouble,” Mike admitted. Today, the farm has grown to 75 acres and was established in 1936 as one of the first blueberry farms in the Midwest. Mike obtained his Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees, both in horticulture, from Purdue University and his PhD in horticulture from Rutgers University. First employed by North Carolina State University in 1968, he has worked there as a professor of horticulture with research and extension responsibilities for more than 50 years.

Restaurant of the Year

The Winner is Trattoria Enzo. One of the finest restaurants in LaPorte County, Enzo has become a staple in the downtown area of LaPorte. Often the destination after meetings, events or just a Wednesday evening, Enzo features great daily specials ranging from BBQ Ribs to Broiled Whitefish while the menu staples of Pizza, Pasta and Seafood never disappoints. The food and service are always top notch. The owners (Chip and Kelly) are always hands on and making sure the visit goes well. They have low turnover and there is always a smiling face waiting to greet you. They have also become quite involved in the community. They have hosted Tuesday give back nights for several organizations over the last year as well as staying open after hours when large events are occurring in the city.

Putting LaPorte County on the Map

The Winner is Friendship Botanic Gardens. The Chicago World’s Fair (A Century of Progress International Exposition, 1933-34) was future oriented with science as its theme. Tucked in this array of attractions was a small garden originally dubbed ‘An Old Mill Garden.’ It was developed by the three Stauffer brothers, Virgil, Joe, and Clarence from Wakarusa, who had a nursery in Hammond. The garden concept was changed to become the International Friendship Gardens and moved to its present site in Michigan City. Today’s Friendship Botanic Gardens (a volunteer-based, not-for-profit organization) is a community treasure and an oasis of formal gardens and wooded nature trails tucked in an old-growth forest surrounding Trail Creek in Michigan City. Every year the organization hosts additional educational activities, planting of new garden areas and the greatly anticipated Annual Gatsby Event. Their mission is to create a nature-filled sanctuary for all people, as we enrich our community through cultural, educational and social events. Friendship Botanic Gardens seeks to shape the future of the community by fostering stewardship of a unique natural environment.

LaPorte County Achievement Award

The winner is Hesston Steam Museum. Hesston Steam Museum is not your typical stuffy museum, this is history that will move you.  Walk right into an era long past and experience a simpler time where big machines did work, powered factories, moved mountains, fed the country or just entertained humanity. Founded in 1956, the Hesston Steam Museum is operated by the LaPorte County Historical Steam Society an all-volunteer 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization that has been adding displays and expanding their marketing, thanks to the efforts of Ted Rita, to reach more and more visitors and residents. Their mission is to provide the most exciting learning experience in the area. Educating future generations about the role steam machinery played in this country and around the world.

Quality of Life/Quality of Place Award

The winner is Courtney Mason. Courtney Mason was raised with a passion. Courtney got involved in pageants during a very scary time in her life. She didn’t have a sense of direction but knew she had to make a difference somehow in this world. Courtney loves community service and defines “passion” as taking responsibility for ones’ place in this world. Courtney’s platform is Dress Against Dating Abuse. DADA was founded after her own 2-year relationship with an opiate addict. She spent this time living in fear from emotional trauma and physical threats. Sadly, her story is not unique. This happens to women and men nationwide and women aged 16-24 experience triple the national average of dating violence incidents. Since their start in November 2017, they’ve more than quintupled their influence. They hold fashion shows, resale events, and self-esteem workshops quarterly. Courtney recently collected prom dresses for girls that can’t afford to spend hundreds of dollars for one event. With dress prices starting at $5, the event was extremely successful and is planned to be an annual event.

Quality of Life/Quality of Place Winner

The winner is Nora Ryzska – Montessori Restore & Rising Phoenix Gallery. While visiting the Michigan City beaches Nora noticed the amount of micro plastic pollution in the sand. These small bits of plastic are too small to be picked up by the regular mechanical beach cleaning and sanitation. Starting summer 2018, Nora organized a volunteer Monday morning beach cleaning in Michigan City’s Washington Park. Endorsed by the Michigan City Parks and Recreation Dept and thanks to Nora, each week dedicated volunteer citizens are now hand cleaning our beautiful beach. Buckets of plastic shards, wrappers, bottles and cigarette butts are gathered. The 2019 program organized by Nora will begin soon ensuring that our beaches are clean and beautiful for both residents and tourists.

Professional of the Year

The winner is Dorota Janik – Reins of Life. Have you ever known someone who seems to be EVERYWHERE?  Dorota Janik spreads the word of Reins every chance she gets!  Why?  Because of her passion to help those in need. Dorota came to America from Poland and didn’t speak any English. She saw this as her handicap, taught herself to speak English developing an ability to help others. She has made a name for Reins of Life, and through her networking, has grown the organization. She is a kind, caring person, with a passion to help others. She is a smart business person, who feels she is right where she needs to be – helping others in our community thrive!

Professional of the Year

The Winner is Mary Cossey. Visit Michigan City LaPorte recognizes Mary Cossey as an individual who has made an extraordinary personal and professional commitment that contributes to the advancement of LaPorte County. Mary has been employed by NiSOURCE for nearly 11 years and is currently Public Affairs Manager. Mary has demonstrated exemplary leadership abilities through the years as well as being a role model for others. She’s involved in Team building, HR consultation, executive coaching, and organizational restructuring. Mary is extremely dedicated to a number of boards and committees in LaPorte County. She’s a valued board member of the Lubeznik Center for the Arts, Reins of Life, United Way of LaPorte County, Real Strong Girls which is an Affinity Group of United Way and Founding Member. She’s a board member of Links of Northern Indiana 2nd Vice-President as well as American Association of Blacks in Energy. In her spare time, she loves to workout. She learned to swim to compete in a triathlon and she enjoys running.  She completed two ½ marathons and enjoys traveling. Mary’s passion is making a difference in the lives of those who need help.

Employee of the Year

The winner is Kate Komay – Blue Chip Casino Hotel & Spa. As Hotel Front Desk Manager, Kate Komay provides the entire hotel staff a shining light of exemplary hospitality and attention to the needs of the thousands of people who are newcomers and repeat visitors to Michigan City and LaPorte County. She goes out of her way to demonstrate how to take care of our guests, provide local information and build relationships. Kate sets a great example for her team and other coworkers.

Employee of the Year

The winner is Michele Sabody – Sugar Bowl Restaurant. Michele is a wonderful person, always has a smile on her face and goes out of her way for customers.  She puts her customers and service above all, she makes sure no matter what all her customers leave happy and ready to return. She makes you feel comfortable and makes sure you get the most out of your visit. She is one of the hardest workers I have ever known, and I have served for over 15 years. She deserves this award.

Unsung Hero Award

The Winner is Drew Becker – Tractor Supply. Mr. Becker went above and beyond during the night of the Mayor’s Ball in LaPorte on March 9th. The performing band had automotive trouble as they got into town. Through a series of phone calls looking for help they reached Mr. Becker who came to the rescue. It was a cold and rainy night, but he came through with much needed help. Mr. Becker defiantly deserves the ROSE Award!


Unsung Hero Award

The Winner is Michael Bohacek – State of Indiana Senator. Senator Bohacek works diligently in his support for tourism. He is always mindful in protecting gaming in LaPorte County. We applaud the attention he has given to the lake shore erosion problem.  And we appreciate his understanding of the impact that tourism brings to the local economy.

Shining Star Award

This year’s Shining Stars are:
Tom Root – Volunteer at Queen of All Saints Catholic Church
Christian Kossner – Server at William B’s Restaurant at Blue Chip Casino Hotel & Spa
Carolyn Pahs – Volunteer at Barker Mansion
Tracey Mashburn – Server at Disabled American Veterans
Dana Chartier – Front desk associate at the YMCA in LaPorte
Staff @ Washington Park Zoo


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