A bout of severe weather scuttled BuskerFest last year, but the summer festival is prepared to move back to the center of downtown Saturday with some changes.
The evolution will be televised, explains Cody LeMay, events and programming manager for Fort Wayne Downtown Improvement District.
New this year is an elevated 8-by-25-foot Jumbotron screen will give guests a better view of the performances happening at Wayne and Calhoun streets.
The floor plan will be slightly different to compensate for construction at the Indiana Michigan Power Center Plaza on Wayne Street.
Sitting on a scissor lift, the Jumbotron screen can be raised up to nearly 24 feet, LeMay says. Two cameras will broadcast the performances happening on the Busker Central Pitch and the Loud and Local Music Pitch so guests can visit restaurants on Wayne Street, shop the Art Market on Calhoun Street, get their faces painted or enjoy the beer garden, and still be able to view the performances.
LeMay believes the Jumbotron is going to be "a huge value add."
"Now, you don’t have to be fighting for a front-row seat, and if you just happen to miss your transition from the Loud and Local Pitch to the Busker Central Pitch, you’re not going to have to fight for that space. You can go and enjoy some of the restaurants, some of the food trucks or the vendor market that’s going to be on Calhoun, and you’re going to be able to see it largely from all of those areas," LeMay says.
DID is using the more busker-appropriate term "pitch" instead of "stage" so viewers understand that the performances happen at street level.
"A big part of the busking culture is kind of setting up on street level and performing for tips. To put it on a stage or to elevate it in any way, shape or form, would completely change that culture," he says. "We’re trying to embrace that culture and we’re trying to educate the people of Fort Wayne who love this event."
Highlights for this year’s festival also include the popular living statues and new performers such as eccentric juggler Kobbler Jay, the "Rob and Miss Jane" circus variety show, and a cracking performance by Seb Whipits, known for his duel fire whip finale.
Local musicians include Secret Mezzanine, Bloody Tambourine and the Musical Mafia, and G Money. Besides the marquee performers scheduled, LeMay says 20 additional performers are expected to join BuskerFest.
Because DID had to cancel BuskerFest last year, LeMay says the festival missed out on some performers who could not rebook for Busker Square at the Taste of the Arts festival in August.
He says it’s interesting to see who might pop up.
"A part of this unique festival are the people passing through, who hear about it and show up the day of (BuskerFest)," LeMay says. "Even though we have programmed this festival every year, you never know what talent you’re going to see."