FORT WAYNE – As the 45th annual Fort Wayne Newspapers Three Rivers Festival came to a close Saturday, Director Jack Hammer felt positive vibes.
He won’t have the final data on the festival’s attendance and the amount of money made until later in the week. But the community’s embrace of downtown Fort Wayne is enough for him to believe the festival was a success.
To the people who lined the banks of the St. Marys River today (for the Raft Race) to the thousands of people who show up to the fireworks and music, we are always very happy about the turnout, Hammer said. If I was to rate this festival on the handshakes and pats on the back that our staff gets, then I would say it was a success.
With daytime temperatures in the high 80s and low 90s and high humidities for most of the festival, the weather, he said, had some bearing on attendance this year, but not as much as last year’s drought conditions. The festival staff planned for the high temperatures this year and tried to make events as comfortable as possible, he said.
When it gets this hot, it is a challenge to ask people to come out and enjoy themselves, he said. That’s why we try to do the best we can to have events in places where there’s accessibility to shade and water.
John Maxwell, owner of the Ragin’ Cajun food truck, said the heat seemed to slow down the crowds but said he saw an uptick in business Saturday. Participating as a festival food vendor for the first time has been a challenging, yet rewarding experience, he said.
It’s a lot of fun, and you get to meet a lot of people, but I’m thinking I’m getting a little old for these long hours. I think I’m more suited for the three-hour hour lunchtime rush downtown, he said.
David Honeywell biked the Rivergreenway from Swinney Park to Headwaters Park to watch participants paddle down St. Marys River in the festival’s Raft Race. He said that while the weather has been muggy, it was still suitable for riding.
Parents such as Candice Lamb said she decided to take her daughter Bre’Asia, 2, and her son, Billie Jr., 6, to the amusement rides earlier in the day to beat the heat.
I know it’s the last day, and I wanted to make sure that I took them out to the festival, she said. It’s a good family outing.
Architect Chris Sullivan and his girlfriend, Amanda Coen, landed gently on the St. Marys riverbank in Headwaters Park after a festival helicopter ride. Traveling from New York City to visit Coen’s hometown, he explained how the skyview is the best way to get to know a city.
You get a sense of the how many different institutions there are and the age of the city and its growth patterns, Sullivan said. It’s got a lot of history to it, which I don’t think people outside of this (area) would actually appreciate.
While reviewing the numbers comes with the job, Hammer said the community response matters. The Raft Race returned after 15 years partly because of the community’s comments to revive the festival favorite.
We have done this for 45 years. We do not always gauge our success by money because we know what we’re doing and we know how important it is.
With more than a year of planning for eight days of events every year, an emotional lag seems to set in the day after the festival, Hammer said.
It takes a little bit of time to pull myself by the boot straps because we work so hard that that when it’s over, it’s a little emotional to move forward, he said.