A Lifestyle Going, Going …
Horse and buggies start arriving before daybreak for the weekly Antique and Miscellaneous Auction in Shipshewana (population 542) in the heart of one of America’s largest Amish and Mennonite communities. The auction and market is as much a draw to view the goods for side (dealers and bargain-hunters come from as far away as California and New York) as to enjoy those who come from nearby farms to buy. Farmers wearing wide-rimmed black hats and Old Testament beards are here to snatch up hand-powered tools, crockware, and kitchenware for their homes – even old wringer washing machines.
Since its inception in 1922, the auction has grown in size and now fills the Auction Barn, whose eleven rings of auctioneers sell both valuable antiques and questionable collectables. Hang around and catch the Friday Horse and Pony Auction as well.
The farm region of Elkhart and LaGrange Counties, home to 17,000 Amish, can be experienced with a slow meander along the 100-mile Heritage Trail, beginning and ending in the town of Elkhart. Audio CD and cassette commentaries on the trail (available at Elkhart’s Visitor Center) lead motorists down narrow country lanes, behind unhurried clip-clopping black buggies and past pristinely kept orchards and farms.
In the midst of this serene landscape is the inviting Checkerberry Inn, a welcoming farmhouse-like retreat that accepts guests with warmth and style. Each of the guest rooms is outfitted with tastefully rustic, sometimes French, furnishings. The occasional Amish flourish – wide-rim hats hang on the wall, and quilts are strewn about – remind guests of where they are. French doors open onto 100 private acres of lovely farmland, whose bounty supplies the pantry with many of the country-fresh ingredients that have made the inn’s restaurant a favorite in these parts.