Writer // Janelle Morrison Photography // Rollfast Gran Fondo, photos by Eric Meyer and Submitted
The City of Carmel has built many attractions and amenities for residents, employees and visitors to enjoy over the decades. Several local organizations have also developed and grown a variety of annual events and festivals, such as
CarmelFest and the Carmel International Arts Festival, over the last 20 years. Festivals and special events have helped to build community pride and boost tourism throughout the city. In addition to the events, the expansion of the parks and Monon Trail through Carmel are valued amenities to the people who live, work and play in the city. Carmel has more than 500 acres of parkland. Wide open spaces and exceptional amenities make the Carmel Clay Parks and Recreation facilities a destination of their own.
The Monon Greenway inspired development and redevelopment throughout the city. In 1999, a 10-mile segment of the Monon Greenway in Indianapolis was completed, while a 5.2-mile segment in Carmel was opened between 2001-2002.
Additional attractions for residents and visitors to Carmel include the Monon Community Center, a water park and mega-fitness center that opened in Central Park in 2007. The center also has an adjoining building connected by an elevated walkway over the Monon Trail where the Carmel Clay Parks Department offices are located.
Today, Carmel is recognized as a Bronze Level Bicycle Friendly City by the League of American Bicyclists. In addition to the Monon Greenway, many of Carmel’s streets offer bike paths, and the City has worked hard to incorporate trails and paths in many of the new developments. In 2008, the City unveiled the Carmel Access Bikeways, a network of bike routes and loops to be implemented on the city’s existing local streets and multiuse paths. With commuters, recreational riders and families in mind, this system has been designed to identify existing streets and multiuse paths which will best serve to move cyclists around Carmel.
Carmel City Center hosted the first annual Rollfast Gran Fondo, one of the top-rated cycling events in the U.S., in 2015. Rollfast is a bicycle competition for everyone. There are 25-mile, 65-mile and 100-mile options. The event is presented by Rollfast, Inc., a 501(c)(3) charitable organization dedicated to enhancing wellness by promoting bicycling as a means to good mental and physical health and producing events that also create opportunities for the youth of Indiana. Visit rollfastcycling.com for more info.
Carmel City Councilman Bruce Kimball moved to Carmel in the 1990s and has been on the frontlines of developing the city’s bicycle culture and using his position to advocate bicycle safety and awareness. “I’ve seen a dramatic change in the local bike culture,” Kimball observed. “When the farmers market was at City Hall, we’d see 10-15 bikes show up for the market. Today, we see 200-600 bikes show up on a Saturday at Center Green for the market. That metamorphosis didn’t just happen. It happened because we are building a city that is designed for people to walk, to drive and to bike, and we did that by building ‘smart streets’ that are designed for all of the above.”
The Carmel Arts & Design District was designed to promote small businesses and local artisans. The district includes the award-winning Carmel Clay Public Library that opened at its current location in 1999 and a collection of art galleries, boutiques, cafes, spas, restaurants and many other businesses. Lifelike sculptures by John Seward Johnson II, “The Norman Rockwell of American Sculpture”, depict life in the city throughout the streets of the district.
Today, several annual events and festivals are held in the district. Carmel Artomobilia, an annual celebration of automobile ingenuity and craftsmanship, has become the local area’s premier auto display that incorporates the local art galleries and artists into its program. John Leonard, co-founder of Artomobilia, and his team continue to raise the bar each year while putting Carmel, Indiana, on the map for auto enthusiasts from all over the nation.
The district also hosts Art of Wine, Porchfest, Mooncake Festival and several more events throughout the year.
Carmel City Councilman Jeff Worrell, a past chair of CarmelFest and long-time committee member, is also a member of the Rotary Club of Carmel. The club puts on the annual Fourth of July extravaganza in collaboration with the City and its street and safety departments. Worrell has seen the festival go from a local happening to a major regional attraction over the last two decades.
“I knew we had made it in the early 2000s when people said they stopped going to the ‘lake’ and wanted to stay in Carmel for July 4th,” Worrell said. “Over the years, we’ve had to expand our footprint in order to deal with the growing crowds. With the growth, [CarmelFest] continues to feel like a small town, patriotic celebration that has not lost sight of why we all gather on July 4th every year. It is not just a festival; it is a celebration of our country’s heritage.”
Worrell credits the countless dedicated volunteers from within Rotary and several other local service organizations and city employees for their dedication to putting on such a remarkable event.
“The [CarmelFest] footprint is expanding in a positive way,” he said. “We will be using more of our open and public spaces. We will be utilizing Center Green and the newer public spaces that are becoming available. It will create a larger venue and will offer a variety of attractions in addition to the North Zone entertainment, Kids Zone, CarmelFest Parade and other existing attractions that everyone can enjoy at CarmelFest.”