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The Journal Gazette

  • Rachel Von Stroup | The Journal Gazette A bicyclist with Indiana Wheelmen bikes down Wayne Street as part of the Three Rivers Festival Parade on Saturday.

  • Rachel Von Stroup | The Journal Gazette The crowd cheers as members of the Fort Wayne Fire Department walk along Wayne Street during the Three Rivers Festival Parade on Saturday.

  • Rachel Von Stroup | The Journal Gazette The Fort Wayne International Airport float impresses the crowd as it moves along Wayne Street during the Three Rivers Festival Parade on Saturday.

Saturday, July 13, 2019 5:40 pm

Crowds cheer for floats, bands during 51st annual Three Rivers Festival parade

MATTHEW LEBLANC | The Journal Gazette

Jamie McIntyre picked the wrong side of the street. 

Seated in a camp chair on the north side of the intersection of Berry and Calhoun streets, he and his daughters, Anna, 5, and Addie, 9, were bathed in sunshine. 

"It's a good spot," McIntyre, 51, said as he waited for the Three Rivers Festival Parade to begin. "But we didn't take into account the sun being in our faces."

No matter, though – the chairs in which they sat were equipped with umbrellas to block the sun.

He said he's attended the parade for most of his life. He recently found a souvenir pin commemorating the 10th anniversary of the parade that's become a summer staple in Fort Wayne. 

"I've been coming down here ... pretty much every year," McIntyre said. 

He wasn't alone Saturday morning, as thousands lined the 2-mile Lutheran Health Network parade route. The parade was the 51st since the festival began in 1969, and the theme of the annual gathering that runs through this week is "Summer of '69."

Organizers estimate the parade – one of dozens of events that make up the festival – draws a crowd of between 40,000 to 60,000 to watch floats, hear bands, wave to politicians and cheer participants including veterans of World War II and the Korean War. Exact attendance numbers were not available at this time.

This year's festival holds a special place in the heart of Executive Director Jack Hammer. He took the job 10 years ago. 

"In those last 10 years I could fill this entire guide with thank yous for people and corporate partners that have believed in our community and the Three Rivers Festival," he wrote in promotional materials distributed to visitors. "For this I feel very blessed."

Mike Howell, 35, arrived a few minutes before the parade began with his son, Maejour, 5, and his mother, Jackie. They found some shade underneath some trees on an otherwise sun-drenched north side of West Berry Street. 

"We don't want to stand in the sun too long," Mike Howell said. 

The family's lived in Fort Wayne their whole lives, he said, but had never been to the parade. They decided to go this year after Jackie Howell brought it up, and it was a surprise for Maejour. 

"I'm just here for the atmosphere," Mike Howell said. 

The parade was led by an honor guard, which was followed by Fort Wayne Police Department vehicles. Politicians including Mayor Tom Henry, Allen County Commissioner Nelson Peters and U.S. Rep. Jim Banks, R-3rd, walked and greeted those gathered along the route. 

Purdue University's Boilermaker Special tooted along the route, and a band from Bishop Dwenger High School played Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline."

Jeremy Drew sat with his son, Charles, 10, at Calhoun and Berry streets and waited for Drew's daughter, Olivia Overby, 15, to march by them with the Snider High School marching band. 

Overby played the cymbals Saturday but also plays several other instruments, her father said. 

"I love the marching bands," Drew said. "They're fun."

mleblanc@jg.net