The opening of Promenade Park this weekend will show off the park and the city's riverfront as well as the types of activities that can happen there.
Each day this weekend has a theme that shows off a different aspect of the riverfront. Today is for arts and culture, Saturday features recreation and Sunday's focus is nature.
Megan Butler, Riverfront Fort Wayne program and events manager, says she is excited to finally show off the park. The opening was delayed from June 21 due to the wet spring making it difficult for construction crews to work.
But it will open this weekend, come hell or high water, Butler jokes.
“One thing that I think a lot of people in the public don't realize is the amount of sheer planning that goes into events of this size and this caliber,” she says. “So we have plans for everything for the weekend – for high water, for rain, for high wind, for lightning, for high temperatures and on and on and on. So every kind of worst-case scenario you can think of that would happen at an event like this, we have plans for.”
The park officially opens at 5:30 p.m. today. Mayor Tom Henry will speak at 6 p.m. and there is a ribbon cutting at 6:20 p.m.
Walking tours of the park will be available every half-hour through the weekend. There will be several bilingual tours and those will be listed on a sign at the Superior Street entrance where all the tours will start. There might also be tours for the visually and hearing impaired.
Accessibility has been a priority as Promenade has come together. Butler says that goes beyond making it wheelchair friendly, which is probably what most people think of when they hear the term. For example, there will be a 3D map of the park for the visually impaired.
“We wanted to really, with this park, be leaders in thinking about the full spectrum of disabilities and how that can affect your experiences,” says Butler, who has a son on the autism spectrum.
Butler describes one of three temporary art installations this weekend as a sensory-stimulating experience. “What Color Is Love?” is a series of tents, each providing a different experience for the physical senses. Each of the tents is in one of Riverfront Fort Wayne's branded colors. For example, a red tent will have red flowers to engage the sense of smell and a green tent will have green candies for the sense of taste.
The green tent also features a balloon sculpture.
“All of these are also designed for you to have really cool picture-taking opportunities, so you can take your little selfie in the tents,” Butler says.
The idea for the installation is the ancient Greek concepts of love, which go beyond familial or romantic. It is a theme Riverfront Fort Wayne will use going forward.
“With Riverfront, we really want people to expand their idea and their world from a very self-focused type of experience to a community-focused type of experience,” Butler says. “So the idea is to expand your idea of what love is, and expand your idea of community and what your relationship to your community is and what your community's relationship is to you, and do that all in this place called Promenade Park.”
Other art pieces this weekend are “Arise,” a green wall installation from Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation, and Bridge of Grace Compassionate Ministries Center's “Enter. Connect.”
In addition to art, there will be music and comedy today in the bandshell starting at 7 p.m. At 10 p.m., rocker Stevie Redstone will perform on a floating stage on the river. Pyroscope will also perform on the river, which will be lit in a unique way.
Butler says that of the entire weekend, she is probably most excited for what is being called the “river lighting.” She isn't aware of any other city in the country that has done it in the way Riverfront has planned.
Around 6,500 colored LED balls will be released upstream and float through the river performance area starting about 10 p.m. They will be collected downstream with the help of SCAN volunteers, similarly to how that organization's annual Duck Race is handled.
Tonight's river lighting will be one of many Instagram-worthy moments at the park this weekend. Saturday will offer more with the annual Fort Wayne Dragon Boat Races, which begin at 9:30 a.m. There are boat tours in the afternoon and a kayak parade at 6 p.m. where participants are encouraged to dress up. Paddlers can register right up until the parade starts.
At dusk, the river lights up again, this time by the Riverfront Revival Lighted Boat Parade.
“Saturday, we're really hoping to show off the sort of sports and activities that can happen both on and along the rivers,” Butler says. Up on dry land there will be recreational activities taking place through the day.
Sunday's nature activities begin at 10 a.m. with bird watching. Among other programs is a native plant scavenger hunt, squirrel watching and – after dark – stargazing with the Fort Wayne Astronomical Society. A rain barrel workshop is planned and a documentary on watersheds will be screened. At 1 p.m., 250 native butterflies will be released in the park.
A burning sculpture on the river will help wrap up the weekend at 9 p.m. Sunday. Dan Wire wove the phoenix-shaped piece, titled “River Renaissance,” from invasive honeysuckle he has harvested along the river.
Visitors this weekend will be able to check out the permanent features of the park as well. Those include a playground, The Journal Gazette Foundation Dining Gardens and the Tree Canopy Trail, which offers views of the park and the downtown skyline.
There is also a kids' canal running through the south side of the park from the Superior Street entrance almost to the river. Running with recirculated chlorinated water that reaches 2 inches deep, it allows children a place to splash around and climb on rocks. The canal ends with fountains similar to the splash pad at Headwaters Park.
Long after the grand opening weekend, those features will likely bring people back to the park. Butler says the park has a lot of rentals already booked for the rest of this year, including most weekends for the next several months.
On Sept. 28, Riverfront Fort Wayne and Girl Scouts will have their annual free showing of “Camp Beverly Hills” starring city native Shelley Long.
The park will also be home to a new event for Fright Night on Oct. 19. Riverfront Fort Wayne is hosting “Nevermore,” a murder mystery based on Edgar Allan Poe's “The Tell-Tale Heart.” It includes actors, food and more as participants progress through the park. Tickets at $80 per person are on sale now.
Butler says Riverfront Fort Wayne plans to make the murder mystery an annual event at Promenade Park with a new Poe-based mystery each year. Money raised during the event will help pay for free children's programming.
For more information on this weekend's activities, including a full schedule, go to RiverfrontFW.org/grand-opening.