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  • People visit Junk Food Alley at the Three Rivers Festival during lunchtime Thursday. (Photos by Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette)

  • “Mama Jane” Harris talks about how the weather affects her business at Junk Food Alley on Thursday.@cutline: Three Rivers Festival Junk Food Alley during lunch time Thursday. video

Friday, July 14, 2017 1:00 am

Three Rivers Festival

Vendors build rain into plans

Austin Candor | The Journal Gazette

Today's Schedule

Fort Wayne's largest garage sale: 8 a.m., St. John Lutheran Church, 729 W. Washington Blvd.

40th Annual Ventures in Creativity art show: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Rolland Art Center-University of Saint Francis, 2701 Spring St.

Redeemer Lutheran Church rummage sale: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., 202 W. Rudisill Blvd.

Children's Fest: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., IPFW campus, free 

T.R.A.I.N. Display: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., The History Center, 302 E. Berry 

Lunch Time Trolley: 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Downtown Fort Wayne, free

Three Rivers open tours at DeBrand: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., DeBrand headquarters, 10105 Auburn Park Drive, tours are $5 per person with a $5 rebate on a $10 purchase

International Village: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Club Soda parking lot, free

The Emporium at Three Rivers Festival: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Headwaters West

Downtown Midway: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Headwaters Park East and West 

Helicopter Rides: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Headwaters Park West, $20 

TekVenture Maker City: 1 p.m., TekVenture, 1550 Griffin St.

Concert - ZOSO: Doors open at 5:30 p.m., concert at 7 p.m., Ruoff Festival Plaza, Headwaters East, $10 day of show, $2 off with TRF button

Fort Wayne Summer Music Theatre presents “Addams Family the Musical”: 7:30 p.m., Canterbury High School auditorium, 3210 Smith Road, $15 for adults, $12 for students, $3 off with TRF button

Three Rivers Music Theatre presents “Spring Awakening”: 8 p.m., Wunderkammer Company, 3402 Fairfield Ave., $25 adults, $20 seniors 60 and older, $15 students with valid student ID

While plenty of sunshine is expected today and Saturday as the Three Rivers Festival winds down, weather hasn't proven ideal for the hundreds involved in perhaps the summer's biggest local event.

Soggy weather has resulted in fewer people coming to the festival's downtown playground, resulting in less profit for vendors and organizers, said Jack Hammer, the festival's executive director.

Hammer won't be able to calculate the exact profits for weeks, but he already knows the weather hasn't helped. The festival receives a percentage of vendors' sales in addition to charging for booth space.  

“It's not the best thing, with people that have worked so very hard on their events, that have a lot of pride in their events,” Hammer said.

Officials have had to cancel multiple staples of the festival, including the popular raft race, because of inclement weather.

“Overall, we know that the safety of those involved is paramount,” he said, referring to the swollen rivers that made rafting risky. 

The festival's vendors have also found silver linings in the poor weather.

“Mama Jane” Harris of The Best Around takes advantage of the slow business on rainy days to develop new ideas for funnel cakes and other treats.

“I'll be talking to our local employees and they'll be going, 'Oh, have you tried this? Have you tried that?'” Harris said. “And that's when we'll play with food and try to come up with something new.”

Experienced vendors typically factor the weather into their game plans for the week.

“Anybody in this business that doesn't expect rain is fooling themselves,” said Sati Babi manager Dean Brown, who lets his workers take breaks to enjoy the rest of the festival when it rains. “When the weather clears up, we get right back to it. We try to stay productive as we can.”

Like Harris, Brown uses the bad weather to get a step ahead in his business. When they aren't grilling meat, Brown and his team are preparing lemonade shakeups, many of which are placed in the vendor's air-conditioned trailer for the next day.

But while food vendors can keep busy in the rain, it's often a different battle for the festival's rides, which bank on clear skies.

John Lewis, who manages the Fireball, a festival favorite since its arrival in 2010, gets a break because of his ride's physical makeup. It can run in the rain.

“On some spots we go to, kids and adults love it whenever it rains because they'll hop on the Fireball because that's the only thing that runs,” he said.

But once lightning strikes, it's a different story for Lewis and the rest of the rides. For every bolt of lightning, Lewis has to allow for a 45-minute window before reopening for festivalgoers.

With only two days left, Hammer, along with Harris, Brown and other vendors, hopes the weather allows the festival to end on a high note in its 49th year.

acandor@jg.net