NEW BUFFALO — The New Buffalo Public Beach has some surprises in store for those visiting on Memorial Day weekend.
There’s an array of colorful new playground equipment, a recently installed handicap-accessible walkway leading to the lakefront, and at the center of it all the New Buffalo Beach Club.
Dustin Harvey said he and his family have transformed the concession stand and adjacent deck at the Public Beach into something special.
“We’re not a concession stand. We’re nowhere close to a concession stand,” he said.
Harvey said the Beach Club specializes in “Frisbee Fries.”
“Large frisbees that you keep (filled with French fries),” he said, adding that the glassware also is reusable because “we wanted to eliminate the trash on the beach.”
The kids meals come with sand pails.
Harvey said the New Buffalo Beach Club’s special fries are made in a “massive air-fryer system” that takes 20 percent of the fat away and produces fries without grease or oils.
And those fries aren;t served alone.
“We have 60 toppings to go on top of fries,” he said, mentioning shrimp, crab, steak, chicken, a variety of sauces, and more.
The Beach Club menu also features veggies wraps and waffle sandwiches (with fillings like steak, cheddar and more).
The Beach Club also will feature more than 30 non-alcoholic frozen drinks “with all the fruits just like you have in Florida or the Caribbean.”
Harvey added that he’s a sailor and has visited many locales that offer such refreshing tastes.
Among the sweet treats available are 30-ounce Terror and Destruction Milkshakes (named in honor of Harvey’s rambunctious nephews).
“They are milkshakes topped with whole pieces of cake, whole donuts, candy bars.” (there’s also a special type of whipped cream that can withstand the heat of summer).
An extra special treat for New Buffalo Beach Club-goers on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights will be shrimp bakes on the beach.
“We pour our fries over the top of the table family style with papers down, and then we cover it with andouille sausage, Indiana sweet corn, hot link sausage and colossal shrimp,” Harvey said.
After that impressive collection has been consumed, he said watermelon is chopped up for dessert to complete “a true summer experience.”
In addition to a totally renovated deck seating area filled with tables sheltered by umbrellas and a flotilla of nearby picnic tables, Harvey said New Buffalo Beach Club diners can rent lounger chairs that can be taken to the shore.
“Inside the loungers there’s push-button service. You press a button, it sends (a message) to my server’s watch, and they know that umbrella system come to to take your order.”
He said the Beach Club has the capacity to seat a total of 72 people … “then we’ve got the chairs down on the beach.”
Harvey said he bought a home in New Buffalo four years ago and moved here full-time last year. He said about 18 family members from Oklahoma and Missouri are moving here to help (the total New Buffalo Beach Club staff will number about 30).
One of those relatives, Harvey’s uncle Kent Swanda, made a pair of surfboard-shaped signs for the club.
“It’s been about a year and a half of planning for us to do this, getting all the right systems and working with the city, which has been fantastic.”
Harvey said the New Buffalo Beach Club will be open seven days a week, 12 hours a day from March to November going forward (the grand opening for 2019 took place Friday, May 24, with the Harbor Country Chamber of Commerce holding a ribbon-cutting ceremony).
Finishing touches were being put on the Beach Club on a busy May 16 next to recently installed Penchura playground equipment and a new handicap-accessible walkway that runs from the parking lot, beside the Beach Club and toward the shoreline.
New Buffalo Parks Director Kristen D’Amico said the six-foot wide vinyl and aluminum walkway (ADA accessible with a bench at the end toward the lake) was installed on May 14.
She said all of the new playground equipment has been installed except for a sunshade that will be put up over the slide area soon.
The pavilion at the nearby Lions Park also has a new roof, sunshades have been added at the transient marina and Oselka Park, and new picnic tables and grills will be added to the marina and Lions Park.
D’Amico said all of the improvements were paid from money in the park fund which has its own millage.
A pay by plate parking system also is slated to be implemented at the public beach parking lot soon featuring self-pay kiosks and a license plate reader.
And D’Amico said a grant has been applied for to fund a replacement of the Dunewalk that rises above the beach.
Dredging of the federal channel in the New Buffalo harbor by King Company (out of Holland, Mich.) also was going on May 16. D’Amico said the U.S. Army Corps of Enginners is paying for the entire operation. She said dredging started the previous weekend and the company gave themselves two weeks to complete the task. When the barge was near the mouth, D’Amico said dredged material was being sent to the south where erosion has been a major problem.