Nearly 40 Amish Youth Partygoers Arrested

We recently saw some wild Amish youth behavior on a small scale, when four Amish youth were charged with offenses including underage drinking and disturbing the peace.

That number went up by almost tenfold this past weekend in northern Indiana.

Nearly 40 Amish teens and young adults were arrested between two area parties attended by over 200 people, who were, according to police accounts in this 8 News report, “mostly young and drunk.”

Lagrange County Chief Deputy Tracy Harker comments:

“We have several of these kids, some of them are barely 15, 16 years old and they’re out experimenting with alcohol and drugs,” added Harker.

Harker said when you have hundreds of kids against only a few officers, things can get dangerous.

Especially for the kids.

“They will break doors and windows to try to get out of there, to get away from us,” added Harker.

Harker says he doesn’t want to make life hard for kids by arresting them at parties. He says they just need to make good choices.

Here’s the video report:

WANE gives more details of the parties and arrests, which total up to 38 juveniles and adults:

Deputies spoke with multiple men at the scene and advised them to turn the music down, cleared the scene, then were sent back out to the same area a short time later. When they arrived, they were met with multiple people in the driveway who then ran from police on foot.

Deputies then discovered what they called a “large Amish Party” with more than 250 people, who all tried to flee the area. Deputies were able to put seven people into custody who were over 18 but under 21, leading to charges of Minor in Consumption of Alcohol and Contributing to a Delinquent Minor.

Hours later around 1:00 a.m., deputies were called to 3485 N 795 W in Shipshewana to another noise complaint. During their investigation, deputies determined multiple people under 21 were consuming alcohol leading to 16 juvenile arrests and 15 adult arrests.

Break the trend?

Northern Indiana is one of the Amish settlements with a reputation for these kinds of parties. In larger Amish settlements there is always going to be a more rebellious and wilder element just like there tends to be in any youth community.

In response to this, Amish parents and leaders in comparably large communities like Holmes County and Lancaster County have successfully established systems of supervised youth groups for their young people.

That doesn’t solve all problems, and doesn’t mean the youth of those communities are all model future Amish church members. But it does offer an alternative structure for youth activities, and also sends a clear message that youth behavior is important to the church and parents.

To what degree have Amish parents and leaders in northern Indiana attempted something similar?

I admit I don’t know to what extent supervised youth groups in Elkhart and Lagrange Counties function. No doubt news like this is frustrating for those parents and church leaders who want change in their community.

The RV factories, where many young people find work and rub shoulders with non-Amish world, are sometimes blamed for their influence on both youth and the community as a whole.

This blame may be well-founded, and/or it may serve as a scapegoat of sort – because there is also the inertia of this type of behavior being passed down generationally and from older to younger siblings.

The fact is that older siblings are quite influential on younger ones and the example of previous generations is strong.

Unless that influence is interrupted somehow, it’s no surprise that communities such as northern Indiana have preserved their reputation as a place where Amish youth party – and land themselves in trouble with the law.

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    1. Ann Rozsi

      Hope the reins are taken away

      I have grown children now, but had they engaged in this sort of behavior, they would have had the car keys taken away and their rights forfeited until they could act responsibly. What is not mentioned here is that these young people have living breathing modes of transportation, and so there is an additional victim to their dangerous behaviors. I hope that their parents take away the reins until they can act appropriately when it comes to the horses who cannot say Yah or “Neigh” to their drivers’ drunken, immature behaviors. And does anyone honestly consider drunk and disorderly a rite of passage? I never did.

      1. Buggy drivers can be and have been charged with DUI or its equivalent. Here are a couple of fairly recent examples:

        I think the horses can often find their way home by themselves if it’s a familiar route, but that still doesn’t sound very safe.

    2. The Cove in Shipshewana

      When I visited Shisphe last summer, I learned that they had built a facility for Amish youth called The Cove. (I’m sure anyone can go there, but the parking area was packed with bicycles and buggies). It offers indoor volleyball, etc and serves as a general meeting place for youth to hang out – a “safe” place.

      I live in small town Texas, and we have had similar issues; albeit, not 200 at once.

      1. Thanks for pointing that out Vanetta. It would have been good of me to include mention of efforts like that in the original post. There used to be another one in this community called the 850 Center. I also came across this old post of an Amish paintball facility, which I’m not sure is still active now or not:

    3. Alice Mary

      I finally got around to reading this posting. The first thought I had was “raging hormones”…doesn’t matter if you’re Amish or English, it’s that time of life. I have 2 adult “kids”, in their 30’s & 40’s, so I can understand what the parents are going through. I would hope Amish parents in the area take it seriously enough to do more about it. The Cove and 850 Center sound like a start.I wish them luck in their efforts to stem this kind of dangerous partying. I feel for their younger siblings as well!

    4. Al in Ky

      In the November 2019 issue of “Connection” magazine, there was an interesting article about “The Cove — Plain Community Youth Center” in Shipshewana, written by Harley E. Yoder, manager of the center. The center has a gym area 110 x 100 feet; dining, lounge, kitchen and restroom area 60 x 80 feet, with total acreage of the center being 14 acres, including two softball diamonds. He stated, “The reason for The Cove is that we have around 3000 youngie um rumspringa (young folks in their teen years) in this community. We felt that there was a need for (a center) in this north central area to provide clean, fun things to do for the youth. Our mission statement: ‘we provide a safe and relaxed environment for our youth, where they can create friendships, memories, and practice God’s love’. The Cove is not trying to be a sports center, rather a facility surrounded by people concerned about our future, trying to give our young folks a place to meet and greet other young folks.”

      I was in Shipshewana last week and read an article in the Goshen News newspaper on Jan. 14, 2020, about the parties mentioned in this post. After reading the article, I have some questions.
      — Whose property was it where the two parties were held — Amish, non-Amish, or ex-Amish? The addresses of the parties make me wonder.
      — From how large an area did the attendees come from? In details about one of the parties, it gave names of at least six towns where persons arrested are from — Shipshewana, Middlebury, Topeka, Ligonier, Nappanee and Syracuse. With addresses including Nappanee and Syracuse, it seems likely there were youth from a large area and from at least two large Amish settlements (Elkhart/Lagrange and Nappanee).
      — How many non-Amish were there as well as Amish? In the lists of names of persons arrested, there were at least 3 persons with last names that likely are of non-Amish persons.
      — How many people in their late 20’s, 30’s and 40’s were there as well as youth? One of the persons arrested was listed as being age 46.

      So, in addressing the problem, there seem to be several factors that need to be considered besides just being a behavior of some young people in “rumspringa”.

      Another consideration — Near the intersection of Hwys 5 and 20 (the main, very busy intersection as you enter Shipshewana from the south), I saw a large billboard that stated, “Parents, Rumspringa is not BIBLICAL. Stop the Tradition. Titus 2:11-13”. I stopped by the billboard to look at it closely and nowhere did it have a disclaimer on it which stated what person or what organization paid for it. I asked several local Mennonite and Amish people and none of them knew who paid for it. If it was paid for by local people who want to positively address problems of Amish young people in “rumspringa” and work together with Amish parents and youth, it seems like they need to come forth publicly and identify themselves.

      1. I wonder how popular the Cove is with the youth? How many of the 3000 regularly visit? Thanks for sharing that info.

        Good questions you pose. As for the property, I don’t know in this case but I usually assume they are places where maybe older youth live, who are far from joining the church. Interesting on the ages listed, some older than you’d expect but I guess with a party above 200 people, you’ll get at least a few in that age range. Is the Goshen News article online anywhere?

        Amish Workshops, who are local to that area, shared a photo of the billboard you are talking about here:

        I also wonder who is behind it?

    5. Al in Ky

      The link to the article in the Goshen News:

      The article in The Connection about The Cove did not indicate how many youth participate in activities and programs at there. It did report that there are over 200 families who actively volunteer to assist in operation of The Cove.