On April 18, 1868, Goshen was incorporated as a city. On that same day, construction was completed on the Millrace. According to the Goshen Historical Society, it took a 40-person crew, horses and plows to dig the canal over the course of a year. The original intent was for the canal to generate electricity, and the addition of the canal helped boost industry in Goshen. But as time went on, that need decreased, and in 1968, ownership transferred from NIPSCO to the city of Goshen, who turned it into a park.

Today, 2.75 miles of trail run alongside the canal; it’s no longer a place of industry but rather a place of recreation and residence. On a spring day the path is full of bikers, joggers and dog walkers. Those out on a Thursday evening might run into the Goshen Dam Beer Run Club. 

Every Thursday, the club takes off from Goshen Brewing Company, and heads down the Millrace, walking and running. At the dam they turn around, and head back. Once everyone meets at the brewery, it’s time for food and drinks. 

Jesse Sensenig, who founded Goshen Brewing Company in 2015 with his wife, Amanda, said that the Millrace serves as a way to get to the restaurant. 

“We get a lot of people riding … to the brewery throughout the summer and nice months,” he said. “People even kayak here … We’ve had people cross-country ski on the Millrace to get here.”

But it goes beyond running, biking and even cross-country skiing. The space around the trail has seen more and more community events pop up. One that Goshen College students are familiar with is Arts on the Millrace. 

Adrienne Nesbitt is the program director at the Goshen Theater. Eleven years ago she started Arts on the Millrace in partnership with Lacasa, a nonprofit housing agency. Lacasa was renovating              the Hawks building, which is billed as apartments for artists and entrepreneurs. 

Lacasa “really wanted something to happen that was art specific that was near the building to sort of help turn artists onto the building,” Nesbitt said. “So together we kind of came up with this idea of an arts festival.”

The first year the building wasn’t finished, but by the second year it was mostly full and residents contributed to the festival. 

“Honestly,” Nesbitt said, “when we started it 11 years ago, we didn’t know if it would be anything past that first year.”

The festival has changed over the years. Early on they became an adjudicated fine arts festival with a committee that reviews entries; not every entry makes it in. A couple years in they switched from midsummer to the fall in an effort to find more favorable weather. 

The space is challenging, essentially an open field with no water or electricity supply, but Nesbitt says they’re committed to the space. 

“The reason we have fought to keep it there is because it is beautiful,” Nesbitt said. “The artists love being in nature … The people who attend love it because they get to come and walk in a park and enjoy the beautiful weather and the green and the water, while also taking in the creations that these amazing regional artists have made.”

“We do a survey of our audiences every year and that’s always one of the things we ask: what are some of your favorite parts about arts in the mill race? And they say it’s such a beautiful setting.”

Nesbitt reflected on the transformation the Millrace has undergone in her lifetime, She recalled, as a child, how “horrific” the water was and was told not to swim in it; but now, thanks to initiatives and community members who care, the water feature is something that can be utilized. 

“So many people want to live on the Millrace or on the dam,” Nesbitt said. “So many people now have their kayaks and their water and, of course, now we have Float Fest, which Scott Lehman continues to grow.”

Float Fest is Lehman’s brainchild, a music festival where participants float down the Millrace, taking in concerts along the shore.

“It was always the same thing,” Lehman said with a laugh. “Everyone’s like, that’s a really good idea, how are you gonna pull that off? Especially musicians and people in the tech field, they were just like, ‘Did you think about that part?’”

Undaunted, Lehman put on the show successfully several times and this year is expanding it.

“There’ll be a floating stage by the Hawks,” Lehman said. “We’re … expecting probably a thousand or more [this] year.”

Float Fest is set for Aug 10, Arts on the Millrace is in September. Twhe run club is every Thursday, but remember, the trails are open every day, ripe for recreation, however that looks.