Commentary

If Father’s Day in Indianapolis isn’t nice, what is?

June 20, 2023 7:00 am

Father’s Day in Indianapolis is just about as nice as it gets. (Getty Images)

If ever there was a day designated for giving and receiving good advice, it would seem Father’s Day is the day. I’m not sentimental about much anymore, and even though I refer to myself as “dad” more often than I use my actual name, the holiday is among the things I also don’t elevate over any other Sunday.

Indianapolis’s own Kurt Vonnegut, an advice-giver of historic importance famously gave advice in a commencement speech at Lehigh University in 2004. He said when things are going well, we should make the commitment to notice it. The famous author’s uncle used to say, “If this isn’t nice, what is?” 

I’ve had some fantastic Father’s Days for my nearly three decades as an official honoree, celebrating all of them in Indy. I took my writing hero’s advice to heart yesterday and made a point to notice it. 

My first Happy Father’s Day text came in at 8:41 a.m. which isn’t especially early, until it is adjusted for the fact that it came in from Seattle. I didn’t know that boy ever got up before 6. That was nice. 

On my daily morning walk, one of the first things I noticed was a dad teaching his son to ride a bike that appeared to be a little too big for him in the parking lot of the Indianapolis Professional Firefighters Union Hall. The boy had a smile that was almost bigger than his face while he wobbled around in that circle. But the look of doom on the dad’s face was far more noticeable. I was tempted to tell him to never forget the moment, but I didn’t.

His misery was nice, for me anyway. 

Music and more

My wife and I had big plans to go to the WonderRoad Music Festival in Garfield Park that afternoon and evening. We have become members of the “getting there is half the fun” crowd in recent years, discovering that riding our bikes to events like the Indianapolis 500 and summer concerts makes the whole experience even better. We took the Cultural Trail almost the entire way from our place in the Old Northside to the city’s oldest park on the southside. 

We might have been able to find the park by simply following the smell of the lighter fluid and grilling meat. We almost made it all the way there before I actually spotted one of the grills on a man’s front porch on Shelby Street. By the looks of it, he was having dinner with at least a dozen people. 

The smells, the trail, and both rides were definitely nice.

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I’m a veteran concert goer, but I generally avoid festivals. The sound, facilities, and crowds usually make this fussy old man uncomfortable and underwhelmed. Not at WonderRoad. All of the things I expected to suck, absolutely didn’t. 

Michael Franti & Spearhead had strangers dancing with each other in circles when we got there. That’s really something one will only see at a festival. Then because of the two main stages, there was no waiting between acts. Five minutes after Franti finished, Marcus King and his band lit up the other stage. Remember that name. The 27-year-old from Greenville, South Carolina will be a star for the foreseeable future.

Our shared favorite musician, Jason Isbell, headlined Sunday night. His sound was perfect, and he played most of the songs from his awesome and brand-new album, “Weathervanes.” Though the new release dominated his ninety-minute set, the show’s highlight was when he acknowledged the day. “Happy Father’s Day to all of y’all that are worth a s*** at it,” he said, then played the classic dad-song, “Outfit,” from his days in the band, Drive-By Truckers. 

As nice as it gets

I saw plenty of dads who were good at it there. A few of them were friends of ours we were just lucky to run into in the crowd. But the best thing I noticed was the five or six-year-old boy who watched most of Isbell’s show perched on his dad’s shoulders up ahead of us. 

That was really, really nice.

At the festival’s second year, “nice” seemed to be the theme. The people working at the entry and every vendor I encountered were noticeably friendly and happy to be there. At least a half a dozen security team members thanked us for coming on the way out. Who does that? At WonderRoad, everyone. 

“Nice” was their thing.

It is great advice to notice great advice when it is given. Vonnegut, through his uncle, couldn’t have said it simpler or clearer. No matter what anyone tries to tell you differently, and for whatever reason, take this advice from this dad: Father’s Day in Indianapolis is just about as nice as it gets. 

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Michael Leppert
Michael Leppert

Michael Leppert is an author, educator and a communication consultant in Indianapolis. He writes about government, politics and culture at MichaelLeppert.com.

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