One thing was clear to everyone walking around Main Street in downtown Fort Wayne Saturday – it was a great day for a festival.
At a comfortable 73 degrees with a sky full of sunshine, thousands poured into Freimann Square and the surrounding area for the 11th annual Taste of the Arts festival hosted by Arts United.
"It has just been a gorgeous weekend," said Dan Ross, vice president of community development at Arts United.
The annual event kicked off Friday night with a block party at Parrish Leasing, featuring a comedy performance, food from local restaurants, a beer tasting and a busker performance by Pyroscope. The fun continued Saturday with more than 70 dance, music and theatrical performances across 10 stages, booths from 57 arts and cultural organizations, 25 food vendors and 44 displays from different artisans.
"There's music, theater, dance, poetry, but within each of those genres you have the spectrum," Ross said. "You have everything literally from ballet dancing to belly dancing. On the musical side, you'll have everything from folk music to bagpipe players to really intense, heavy rock."
The eclectic mix of genres is one of the things Ross said he loves about the festival, because it "truly celebrates this rich diversity of arts and cultural experiences in this community." It's a festival for all of Fort Wayne, he added.
Ross said this year, festival organizers added a stage on the west end of Main Street and expanded the art market to the east, filling Main Street.
"The flow just feels good and it's just full of people," Ross said, adding that the festival also expanded the activities in the parking lot of the Barrett McNagny law firm with an expanded stage and beer garden.
"We've really expanded upon the presence of craft brewers, which we just felt fits Taste of the Arts," Ross said. "The art of local craft beer making has really been highlighted this year along with the culinary part."
Seated upon a small stool just off the main drag, Ray Hapner, also known as Sunbeam the Clown, was making balloon art – animals, swords and even a ray gun – for passersby. A steady stream of families took advantage of Hapner's skills throughout the afternoon.
Hapner said he's come to Taste of the Arts for four or five years.
"It's always a good crowd," Hapner said. "It's fun. I like doing it. I could sit around and do nothing in the house, but this is much more fun."
The existence of public events like Taste of the Arts shows that the city is evolving, Fort Wayne resident Victoria Freeman said. Freeman added that she came to Taste of the Arts to watch family members perform a dance routine.
"Fort Wayne is really coming up and it's great," she said, adding that she particularly enjoyed all of the food available.
Saturday was Leonora Felon's first time at Taste of the Arts. Felon came to support a co-worker who was performing with a belly dancing group.
"There's a lot of stuff, it's much bigger than I anticipated," she said.
Ross said he's always impressed by the level of community support Taste of the Arts receives.
"The community steps up to make this festival happen. Arts United, we are the hosts, we are the facilitators, we organize this and put this together," he said. "But we do this on behalf of the community and I am always so thrilled by how many hundreds of community volunteers step up to make it happen."