Blooming Bus Farms hosts inaugural Bloomin’ Fest

Published 1:30 pm Friday, July 21, 2023

NILES CHARTER TOWNSHIP — A local business hosted more than a dozen small businesses from across Michiana for its festive summer event.

Blooming Bus Farms, 2617 S. 17th St., hosted Bloomin’ Fest ‘23 Thursday evening. The inaugural artisan market featured more than a dozen local artisans and vendors.

The idea for an artisan market was hatched by Kelly Bailey of Raw Oats Skincare and Melissa Rizzo, who co-owns Blooming Bus Farms with her husband, Jason, as a way to support local small businesses and increase exposure for the farm, a U-pick farm that focuses on regenerative agriculture.

“We’re very pleased with the turnout,” Rizzo said. “I know the rain probably scared some people away, but it ended up being beautiful and there was a nice flow of people in and out. There wasn’t too much parking congestion and I saw a lot of smiling faces and a lot of shopping bags leaving, so mission accomplished with that.”

In addition to the outdoor market, River of Life Yoga hosted a yoga event and live music was on hand featuring Rebel Noire and The Accomplices and The Leftovers. There was also a u-pick flower field and there will be kits to make flower crowns. A photographer was on hand offering mini sessions and guests were able to interact with the farm’s alpacas.

A portion of proceeds will benefit One Good Deed Michiana, a nonprofit aiming to recognize Michiana residents making a difference in their communities. Founded by Allison Hayes Freeze-Shelton in honor of her late husband, Robert Freeze, the nonprofit also hosts charity events to raise money for local causes.

“It means a lot because it’s very personal to me. It’s something that literally changed my life,” she said. “Starting the nonprofit helped us get through a very difficult time in our lives… We want to be a part of our community and give and it’s really giving back to the community. So anytime somebody even gives us one dollar, we’re putting it right back into our community here.”

In addition, the event offered guests a variety of beverages served by celebrity bartenders such as U93’s Big Perm, WNDU’s Lauren Moss, City of Niles Mayor Nick Shelton, B100’s Deb Miles, ABC57’s LeVon Whittaker, Notre Dame Women’s Basketball coaching legend Muffet McGraw and Mike and Christine Golic.

Mike Golic, a Notre Dame icon and famed TV/radio host, was happy to participate and support a good cause.

“My wife and I have had a great friendship with (Hayes Freeze-Shelton) over the last few years and she supports our foundation as well, so we knew we wanted to come help,” Golic said. “The One Good Deed Michiana Foundation is fantastic. It’s been great and we love supporting her and her family… We just love to help where we can, especially locally. We know there’s a lot of national things out there but to help local foundations or charities, we always think it is a great way to go.”

As part of the festivities, Hayes Freeze-Shelton presented Brandywine graduate Cael VanSandt with a Robert Freeze Memorial Scholarship. The scholarship was created on behalf of Freeze to help college-bound students who reflect what Freeze stood for. VanSandt will be using the scholarship to help pay for his apprenticeship at Accu-Die and Mold Inc. in Stevensville. VanSandt was also part of the entertainment as a member of the band The Leftovers.
“I was really excited,” he said. “I felt really honored to be picked. It was really cool because we’ve done shows for the charity in the past, so it was a nice little dose of good karma.”

Rizzo was happy to showcase her space to the community and see the hard work of her team and volunteers pay off.

“People saying they are in love with the space, never knowing that it was here now,” Rizzo said. “It just means the world to me and my husband. We had a vision of this right here and to see it actually come to fruition has been amazing.”