Meet Meg Roman! Meg grew up in Gary IN. She attended college at Washington University in St. Louis, MO and then moved to Dallas TX to start her career as a psychologist. She then moved to southern California where she became a banker, which led her to Long Island NY, then Chicago and ultimately to London England where she worked in Investment Banking for an international bank. This allowed her to travel extensively both for work and pleasure and truly honed her love of travel and all things diverse! After 13 years in London she moved back to The Region and changed careers completely. She is currently the Executive Director for the Miller Beach Arts & Creative District which endeavors to create a diverse, welcoming and vibrant cultural destination for the visual, performing and culinary arts as a catalyst for community regeneration. In her spare time Meg volunteers for the Neighborhood Spotlight program which is a Legacy Foundation initiative for reinvesting in Lake County communities.
What brought you to the dunes? I was born and raised in Gary, IN at the tip of Lake Michigan, so it is in my blood. My mom used to take me to the beach just a few short blocks from our home in Miller almost everyday – even as a kid in diapers! When all the older kids went to school in the fall, I got to stay at the beach and relished every minute. Still do! It was a wonderful way to grow up as a child, and helped form who I am today. I always seek out the water wherever I live or travel. Growing up in this area, we were never bored or whined about having nothing to do. In the summer as a teen you would just get up and walk down to the beach and even if you were the first person there, within about a half-hour everyone you knew would gather at their favorite spots and you’d just walk up and down the beach all day visiting your friends. I think it kept us out of a lot of trouble!
How long have you lived here? I lived here until I was 18 when I went off to college, but always came back several times a year to visit. After moving around the US to several different cities and then to London England for 13 years, I returned 2 years ago and am loving reconnecting to the area and to family and friends. I always talk about growing up on the beach, and have listened to lots of unbelieving remarks or suppressed giggles when they find out I am talking about Indiana. Until they get here. It is amazing how many people don’t really know about the Great Lakes! They stand on our shores, dig their toes into our pristine ‘Singing Sands’ and look across the lake at the amazing skyline of Chicago and you can just watch their jaws drop.
What is your favorite thing to do in the area? I love the casual bohemian atmosphere and the ease and friendliness of living in the area. After having lived in several large cities for most of my adult life, there is something really nice about living in a ‘small town’ where people are really invested in their community and working hard to make life a little better every day. Of course, I love going to the beach, hiking in the dunes, driving along Hwy 12 and darting in and out of the various communities dotted along the lakeshore. Exploring and finding boutiques, independent shops and restaurants and cultural activities that you may not have known were there or have heard about and always wanted to visit.
Tell us a secret about the dunes. I love the stories about Diana of the Dunes. I’m not 100% sure which of them are true and which are rumors, but I love the thought of someone leaving the hustle and bustle of a big city and finding refuge in the very dunes that we live and play in.
Give us your top three “hidden treasures” (restaurant, shop, trail, beach, event…really anything!)
a) Marquette Park in Gary. It was recently restored and is host to the Aquatorium and the Pavilion which are both amazing from an architecture perspective and are rented out to weddings, family reunions, charity fundraisers and parties. There is a café on the lakefront that is open in the summer, the lagoon where you can kayak or canoe or fish, picnic/bbq areas that can be rented, a bike path, a big hill where you can sled in the winter, its a mecca for bird watchers as it is right in the migratory path, and has a paved trail that runs through the dunes from Marquette Park Beach to Lake Street beach a few miles to the west.
b) Schoolhouse Shop in Chesterton. I’ve been coming to this shop for as long as I can remember, and it was one of my must-do traditions when I would come home to visit while I was living away from the area. A cute ‘gift shop’ in an old school house in the woods off of Hwy 12 which also sells high end women’s clothing, unique kitchen gadgets and deli-type food, Christmas ornaments and a treasure trove of other unique items.
c) First Fridays on Lake Street in Miller Beach – the First Friday of every month the shops, restaurants and galleries along Lake Street stay open late and host special events like ‘meet the artist’, book signings, discounts on certain items, live music or food and drink specials. There is a craft brewery, pizza, Caribbean food, steak/seafood/pasta from Miller Bakery Café, women’s clothing and accessory shops, gift shops, art galleries and a few new shops that will be opening soon!
What would you like to teach people about the dunes? That they are here in NWI and there is an abundance of things to take advantage of in the dunes. I think often people dismiss NWI as industrial or not very interesting. But there are few places where you have such a long stretch of unbroken shoreline to walk along and relax on, kayak/sail/boat/swim, hike/run through, see rare native plants and ‘blow outs’ carved out by the wind. I have been to a lot of beaches around the world and I do not feel I am exaggerating when saying the southernmost shores of Lake Michigan have some of the best beaches in the world. That we are surrounded by the Indiana National Lakeshore which provides an abundance of recreational activities for adults and children alike and that can be experienced in a different way throughout each season – hiking, snow shoeing, cross country skiing to name a few. The beach and the dunes have inspired countless artists and actors and other creative pursuits for centuries, and we are so lucky to have such unspoiled natural beauty right at our fingertips.
Anything else? I would like to highlight The Miller Beach Arts & Creative District (MBACD) and a few other volunteer community organizations that are working hard to improve the quality of life in the region. The MBACD holds 20 or so art related events throughout the year such as painting and photography exhibits, concerts, dance performances, a sandcastle competition, Tibetan monk sand mandala and community drum circle, art classes, documentary films and they also provide meeting and event space for community organizations and charities. The Miller Citizens Corporation that advocates for citizens in a myriad of ways, including helping to clean up the park and beaches; the Miller Garden Club which plants and maintains planter boxes along Lake Street, at the train station, and throughout the community; the Miller Community Fund which provides grants to local organizations; the Nelson Algren Society which hosts films, exploratory walks and other events to learn more about and honor the famous writer who lived and wrote in a cottage on the lagoon in Miller; the Miller Historical Society which holds programs and lectures to preserve and celebrate not only Miller but the Calumet Region. Also the Douglas Center on Lake Street in Gary and the Dunes Learning Center in Chesterton which provide tons of children’s art and discovery programs, as well as family recreational and educational activities, and Save the Dunes which works to preserve and restore the Indiana dunes
There are a lot of amazing, really dedicated and caring people that live in this region and have a lot to offer. Most of the people I have met since moving back have a great attitude and want to be collaborative with organizations and businesses throughout the region to improve the quality of life for everyone. It makes it a truly special place to live.