Life's Better Here: Columbia City 2013 (VIDEOS)

By Emma Koch - 21Alive

August 22, 2013 Updated Aug 22, 2013 at 1:41 PM EDT

COLUMBIA CITY, Ind. (21Alive) -- Columbia City is in the spotlight this week for Life’s Better Here.

Columbia City is a small town but a mighty one. It’s the site of the beautiful Whitley County courthouse, once home to a Vice President, Thomas Marshall. This is his house, now the Whitley County museum. Columbia City is also home, for 18 years now, to a unique celebration.

“It's here to educate the public in the Native American ways,” Catherine Mowry said. “We have the wonderful dances, the drums, the arena is blessed. It's a traditional pow wow.”

The 18th annual Mihsihkinaahkwa Pow Wow was celebrated a couple of weeks ago, a gathering of Miami Native Americans, the tribe that ruled this part of Indiana before it was Indiana.

“And it kind of just reminds you where you came from and kind of keeps you grounded,” Kayla Norman said.

Kayla Norman is part Miami and a dancer at the Pow Wow.

“You become like a little family and you're almost like your own little community that comes from all over, other states even we have a lot of people from Michigan, Ohio, Illinois and all over Indiana come to these Pow Wows,” Kayla said.

Columbia City is the perfect spot to celebrate Miami culture. This area is steeped in Native American history. A few miles east of town is the site of a huge Miami village, dubbed Turtletown because the great Miami Indian Chief Little Turtle was born here. One mile north, is the site of a Miami trading post and a British Fort, destroyed in the war of 1812. And barely a mile southeast of Columbia City is the Eel River Battlefield.

Along this stretch of the Eel an American colonel, James Simrall, destroyed a small army of Miami warriors defending their villages. Tradition holds the Eel ran red with blood that day. That history is not celebrated by the Native Americans at the Mihsihkinaahkwa Pow Wow, but it is history that is very much honored.

“They kind of went through a stage where like it was almost a bad thing to be native so now it's coming out of that and we get to celebrate our culture,” Kayla said.

As for the restaurants in Columbia City, and this summer Jason Meyers has met a lot of husband and wife teams who own restaurants, but this is the first time he met a husband who owned one restaurant and his wife owned another.

People open restaurants for a variety of reasons, they love food, they love feeding hungry people, or they're just looking to make a good living. But for Gary Parrett, Big G's Sports Cafe is all about his community.

"My main goal was to provide jobs for the employees for this community and give a service back to it," Gary Parrett said.

Big G grew up in Columbia City. He spends his evenings working second shift for the Columbia City police department. And for the last 8 years, his mornings have been spent at his restaurant, providing jobs and meals to people who live here.

"Biscuits and gravy is a big hit here. We make our own biscuits,” Gary said. “They're a big fat biscuit. It's not a little.... Y'know, everything at Big G's is big!"

That includes big plans for an ice cream shop next door, but that's a little way into the future.

And just a little way down the road, his wife, Heather, owns another restaurant, Downtown on the Square.

“Columbia City really didn't have any fine dining steakhouse type thing, so we figured this town was ready for it, needed it, so we didn't have to go to the bigger cities to have a nicer meal," Heather said.

You'll find steak, ribs and sandwiches of all kinds on the menu. And for almost a year now, this has been the hotspot for a business lunch or a good dinner with family and friends. It's a place Columbia City should be proud to call its own.

"I just like the small town feel, being able to keep everything in a small community,” Heather said. “Not having to rely on the big cities for everything."

At the rate this husband and wife team are going, you should be able to satisfy any food cravings whatsoever in the heart of Columbia City. And that makes Life a little Better Here.




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