The little BIG Idea Grant challenged Elkhart County’s creative minds and the initial returns include some fascinating uses for pumpkins, dirt and rocks.

The first grant awards for the program — which seeks to encourage fun projects that bring people together in ways that express love of community — were announced Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2017, at NorthWood Middle School. The first three recipients, which were chosen from among 22 applications received shortly after the program’s launch in July, are:

  • Pumpkin Races: On the afternoon of Oct. 14, a race course on Warren Street in Middlebury will be filled with pumpkins of all shapes and colors competing for prizes such as fastest, best decorated and ugliest. How? Through the use of race kits offered by organizers Middlebury Then & Now. Race kits can be obtained at Varns & Hoover Hardware. “We’re excited to have families make teams and get their pumpkin and decorate … and roll it down the street,” said Darla Kauffman, one of the organizers. For more information, email
  • Wacky Gardens: Sixth-grade science teacher Tom Bennett’s idea grew from his desire to bring students and the community together to beautify an underutilized area of the NorthWood Middle School and Wakarusa Elementary School area and to teach about nature. Bennett intends the grant for raised bed gardens and landscaping of that area, engaging students in the design and building of the gardens while involving community members who have expertise to work with the students. Bennett said the plan is for the gardens to be designed this fall so that they can be planted next spring.
  • Goshen Rocks: The Goshen community can get involved with this public art project in a new way at the next Goshen First Fridays on Friday, Sept. 1. At that event, people can paint and decorate a rock that can then be placed somewhere in the public realm for others to find and take delight in. The project builds on the creativity of artists who have been painting the rocks in various designs and leaving them for others to discover. Organizer Joshua Cooper said “it’s just fun” for people to find art and take it home or give it to others.

The little BIG Idea grant and Vibrant Communities embrace the notion that even little ideas can have a big impact on how we feel about our neighborhoods, downtowns and community.

Even more ideas are needed, and they can be submitted at Each month, a committee reviews the applications and will award grants of up to $1,000 to projects that fit the goals of program of encouraging events, programs and project which show love of community and bridge people to people and people to community. Potential applicants may also submit questions through the website without submitting an application.