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Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Sailors on a Christmas-themed raft trade water balloons with spectators lining Thieme Drive at the Hotel Fitness Raft Race on Saturday.

Raft race adds to 3RF emphasis

Final event in 2014 effort to show off rivers

Linda Mason says the Three Rivers Festival without water activities is almost sacrilegious.

“That’s something Fort Wayne should show off because the rivers are our asset,” said the 66-year-old, who lives in the New Haven area. “I just think that the city has so much to offer, and this is a chance for people to see.”

Festival organizers tried to ensure that with a barrage of amusements open to revelers during the nine-day event that ended Saturday.

Of course, festival favorites like the midway with its rides and food vendors at Headwaters Park drove traffic. But so did concerts, art showings, helicopter rides, a youth foot race and even garage sales.

“We really try to provide something for everyone,” said Tim Metel, board president of the Three Rivers Festival. “It’s a wonderful showcase. We try to have a little bit of everything.”

Fort Wayne resident Julie Jackson was out for a bike ride with friends and family but couldn’t resist stopping to watch the Hotel Fitness Raft Race at Swinney Park.

“I knew it was going on, but it was such a nice day we decided to go for a ride on the Aboite trail,” Jackson said. “We ended up here. I’m glad we did.”

Taking first place in the speed category were Solid Design, commercial division, and Concordia Crew Women, non-commercial division.

Top winners in the creative category were the Army National Guard’s pirate ship, commercial division, and Enter-trainer’s circus carnival train, non-commercial division.

Each of those teams claimed $2,000 prizes. There were $14,000 in prizes up for grabs.

“It makes it really fun and exciting to have the boat races back again,” Metel said of the race down the St. Marys River that returned last year after a nearly two-decade absence. “Some of the (contestants) got really creative.”

For more winners from Saturday’s race, go to or to the event’s Facebook page.

More water fun included free pontoon rides last weekend that featured history lessons about the area and updates on the city’s redevelopment efforts.

“It let people know where we’ve been and what we have planned,” Metel said. “That was last weekend, but I think we had over 1,000 people go on rides.”

James Hull grew up in Angola but always made it a point to frequent the festival. That is until several years ago.

“I moved, and I haven’t been in 10 years,” he said, calling to his 5-year-old son, Dawson, to stop climbing the railing on the Wells Street Bridge.

“This is a good time. I missed it. For a lot of people, this is the only time they get a chance to see each other.”