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Courtesy of Downtown Improvement District
A block party organized by A Better Fort drew about 3,000 young people to the 800 block of South Calhoun Street on Friday night.

Downtown comes alive

If downtown Fort Wayne seemed livelier this past weekend than other festival kick-off weekends, it was no accident. A concerted effort to draw crowds to the central city is showing great success – to everyone’s advantage.

Hours before crowds gathered for the Three Rivers Festival parade, a block party organized by A Better Fort drew about 3,000 young people to the 800 block of South Calhoun Street. Shane Araujo, a co-founder and board member for A Better Fort, said the goal is to encourage young people to improve their city and make it their home. A key part of that, he suggested, is creating a vibrant downtown.

The block party, the group’s second such event, was a fundraiser for Mad Anthonys Children’s Hope House, but it was also a tool for promoting downtown businesses and musicians and introducing young people to all the city offers. Araujo, a Bishop Dwenger High School graduate, said he once had classmates who never ventured south of State Boulevard and didn’t realize what downtown offered. He said events like the block party introduce them to central city businesses and venues.

“If they’re down here for music, they might see Pint & Slice and think that’s where they want to go next time they’re looking for pizza,” he said.

A Better Fort’s efforts have been supported by the Downtown Improvement District, the city of Fort Wayne and downtown businesses. Friday’s event was lively but created no problems.

“Everyone is here to listen to the music and dance,” Araujo said. “The type of (electronic) music promotes fun, love and dancing – it’s just the kind of crowd you get.”

Festival-goers are a reliable source of energy for downtown Fort Wayne, but events like Friday’s House4AHouse block party promise to sustain year-round activity. Parkview Field events, Rock the Plaza concerts, the weekly Lunch on the Square event each Thursday, Buskerfest and more are showing results. Downtown Fort Wayne is more than just a once-a-year festival site.