Not Just Fluff
Each Labor Day weekend, Ligonier’s Marshmallow Festival features bands, competitive events, rides, a parade, and bags of marshmallows for all comers.
For many years, Ligonier styled itself “The Marshmallow Capital of the World” when Kidd & Company, the second-largest producer of the spongy treat (only Kraft was larger), was based in Ligonier. Though Kidd & Company no longer exists — industry consolidation closed the factory’s doors for good in 1996 — the festival is still going strong.
There’s much more to Ligonier than fond marshmallow remembrances. The town boasted one of the earliest and largest Jewish communities in the state. Two nineteenth-century Jewish immigrants, Solomon Mier and F.W. Strauss, found great success in Ligonier and urged relatives to move to town and share their prosperity. By the late 1890s, roughly 27 percent of the city’s population was Jewish and Main Street was known as “Little Jerusalem.”
The homes built for the families of Jewish businessmen, merchants and bankers helped the 40-block Ligonier Historic District win listing in the National Register of Historic Places. Today, one of the largest homes in the district, the 1906 Solomon Mier house, welcomes visitors as a bed and breakfast. The 1889 Ahavas Sholom Temple, repurposed for many years as the Ligonier History Museum, is now for sale. Although most of the city’s Jewish population migrated elsewhere by 1940, Ligonier remains proud if its Jewish heritage.
The town also points with pride to its outdoor murals. A revitalization campaign begun in 2007 organized private funding to spruce up the downtown with a series of murals depicting the area’s history. The program’s success is reflected in the nearly three dozen murals that now adorn Ligonier’s walls. No longer able to call itself The Marshmallow Capital, the town wasted no time in re-christening itself “The City of Murals.”
If you’re a blue-highway traveler who likes to get acquainted with places off the beaten path, you might consider heading to Ligonier.
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