On a visit to Embassy Theatre on Sunday, Ronnie Begley ventured past the seating to a stairway intended for performers, eager to explore an area he had never seen: the dressing rooms.
“I've always loved this building,” Begley said, accompanied by his children, 5-year-old Dayton and 15-year-old Charles Begley.
They and others didn't need a ticket to tour the historic theater. It, along with 15 other Fort Wayne attractions, welcomed visitors at no cost as part of the 20th annual Be A Tourist In Your Own Hometown.
Community members could get their event passport stamped at such places as Science Central, Parkview Field, The Old Fort, The Landing, Artlink, History Center and Riverfront Fort Wayne.
Visit Fort Wayne organized the event, but marketing director Kristen Guthrie said it's the venues that deserve credit.
“The museums and attractions give this gift to the community,” she said as people continued to stream inside Visit Fort Wayne on South Harrison Street.
Blocks away, Emily Wissel greeted visitors to Lincoln Tower's two-story art deco lobby, which stretches 85 feet wide and 110 feet long. It features two murals symbolizing elements in nature and a ceiling depicting signs of the zodiac.
“It is gorgeous,” one woman said upon entering.
Once the tallest building in Indiana, Lincoln Tower evokes “such a rare, almost magical experience” for visitors, said Wissel, community relations manager for Old National Bank, the building's largest tenant.
Middle school teacher Cara Duensing appreciated the chance to visit local attractions outside school field trips. Noting she moved to Fort Wayne a few years ago, she said Be A Tourist was “a great way to see the city.”
Attractions not only hosted first-time visitors but also those with memories of the buildings. The Embassy, for example, welcomed a married couple who had their first date at the theater 60 years ago, said Kelly Maahs, front of house director.
It's OK if residents visited places they've already been because exhibits – especially those at the Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory and Science Central – change, Visit Fort Wayne officials said.
Or, they said, the attractions might offer visitors a different perspective. The Allen County Public Library, for example, gave tours of the Lincoln Collection and the Rare Book Room.
It's “an excuse to do something more than you'd typically do,” said Emily Stuck of Visit Fort Wayne.