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  • Photos by Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Avyn Oliver, 5, getting assistance from Gene Stringer of the Fort Wayne Astronomical Society, looks up to the top of the Rousseau Centre to spot a camera that she was looking at through the telescope. 

  • Local fire dancer Brent Helmkamp performs on the street for a crowd of onlookers Saturday.

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Eight-year-old Holt Walker shouts down to his brother after climbing up an art instillation in Freimann Square during Taste of the Arts on Saturday.  

  • Sisters Hazel Swygart, 2, and Azalea, 6, paint a piano stool that will be donated to a local elementary school by the Miss America Organization.  

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Thousands of people gather downtown on Saturday for Taste of the Arts.  

  • Parker Robinson, 5, uses pedal power on a bicycle that’s attached to a table that spins paint on paper to create spin art. The demonstration was hosted by PNC Bank.  

  • Photos by Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Maeve Ohlinger, 10, is surprised to hear her about her future from a local fortuneteller Saturday during Taste of the Arts. 

Sunday, August 26, 2018 1:00 am

Taste of the Arts shines bright

After rain passes, campus sites fill with families, fun

ROSA SALTER RODRIGUEZ | The Journal Gazette

Taste of the Arts on Saturday made ample use of its newly christened Arts Campus – filling it with the sights and sounds, aromas and tastes of creativity.

At Savannah Soul, one of several participating food trucks, folks lined up for a taste of Southern-style chicken and waffles, cornbread, collards and peach cobbler.

Next door, samples of kombucha were offered, and around the corner smoking-hot barbecue could be savored while a tall, top-knotted ballerina strolled by in a stunning black tutu.

Meanwhile, from Freimann Square came the sound of Ethan Ratliff, 10, of Fort Wayne, trying to get music out of a saxophone half as tall as he was.

“We call it an instrument petting zoo,” said Brad Shaw, general manager of Mynett Music, who was staffing the Fort Wayne store's booth where saxophones vied for youngsters' attention with a clarinet, flute, trumpet and trombone.

“We've probably seen a hundred kids today,” Shaw said. “They get the chance just to experience playing an instrument for the first time, or trying one they haven't tried before.

“A lot of the kids are little, and hopefully they'll remember this when it's time to join an orchestra or band in the fourth grade.

“Everyone loves seeing their faces light up when they finally make a sound.”

Onstage inside the Arts United building, a half-dozen little ballerinas dressed in sparkly lime-green tutus were making a lot of adults' faces light up. The 3- to 6-year-olds wiggled their way through an adult-guided dance to Chubby Checker's “Let's Twist Again.”

Well, all but one did – that adorable little dancer had to be carried onstage and stood statue-still with her hands covering her eyes and face until she was nudged off after the music ended.

The dancers, from SheeKriStyle Academy of Dance in Fort Wayne, were the festival's main attraction for Ardrea Ware, aunt of “Juicy Wiggle” group dancer Kyla Fombey, 10.

Ware was one of many relatives who attended to support children participating in festival events.

“That was me yelling back there,” she said. “I always come to their recitals and competitions.”

Sarah Mendenhall, a Taste of the Arts organizer, said it was difficult to say how many people attended Saturday.

The festival, marking its 10th year, is free, so there is no gate count.

“We've had a really good turnout when the sunshine came out,” she said, referring to storms that rolled through between 6 and 10 a.m.

Popular attractions, she said, were Civic Theatre's vignettes and the Fort Wayne Children's Choir.

“There wasn't a seat in the house, and that was outside under a tent,” Mendenhall said.

Taking a break before that performance, Amber Stephenson, 34, a downtown Fort Wayne bank customer service associate, said she likes Taste of the Arts because it has a more laid-back atmosphere than bigger events.

“I think this is wonderful that Fort Wayne does this. You get to see (performers) you don't usually get to see,” said Stephenson, of Yoder.

She attended with her husband Scott, 36, and sons Ashton, 7, and Jacoby, 10.

“I like other festivals. I like Johnny Appleseed,” she said. “But I like this because it's more, well, tame – more family friendly. I really have enjoyed my day.”

rsalter@jg.net