The Journal Gazette
Saturday, February 16, 2019 8:20 pm

Winter can't keep residents away at Weather the Fort

JAMIE DUFFY | The Journal Gazette

It would have been perfect for Rick Miller if just a few snowflakes had started to fall Saturday at the fourth annual Weather the Fort, held in the Barrett McNagny parking lot on Berry Street downtown.

That's what happened one year, Miller said, and he's attended all four.

"It was so cool," Miller said.

People gladly took free handwarmers and ski bands at the door and cozied up to braziers set up near tables where you could drink a beer and talk with friends.

Live music on stage warmed the soul and cornhole kept the limbs working in the 26-degree cold.

Miller doesn't live far from downtown Fort Wayne and attends many central local events.

"I kind of like to see them grow," he added. The recently retired food representative attended the New Year's Eve ball drop and the Middle Waves festival.

Miller met his son, Tyler Miller, and Tyler's date, Jacey Kirchner, at the event, which was expected to draw about 2,000 people, according to Mike Niezer, event coordinator and an architect with the Design Collaborative.

Niezer was part of a group of young professionals who got together several years ago and realized there wasn't an opportunity for a downtown experience in the winter.

Four years later, the five-person board has a list of supporters that includes The Journal Gazette, Sweetwater and the Design Collaborative, among others, and an opportunity to raise money for the Fort Wayne Turners Club, he said.

"Downtown businesses rallied," Niezer said.

Kat Morris and Jeffrey Gaff decided to come to the event after Morris heard about it at Barrett McNagny, where she works.

Holding her hand to the brazier, Morris said the festival reminded her of the Three Rivers Festival, only in the winter. There were a couple of food trucks, ice carvers and a promise of fire dancers later on.

"She asked 'Do you want to go drink beer in the parking lot?' and I said yes," Gaff explained as he tried to work a beer sleeve around his beer.

"You should see what we're going to do later," Morris joked. "I might have hypothermia."

Most event-goers were dressed for the cold with warm hats, gloves and coats. A few more people in the parking lot and it would be easier to keep warm. The night wouldn't end until 10 p.m.

At the time the event opened at 4 p.m., Fort Wayne temperature was 26 degrees and falling. A comparison of other cities at that very same hour didn't seem to impress Rick Miller, who was enjoying the below-freezing air.

It was 44 degrees in New York, he was told, 46 in Washington, D.C., 50 in Paris, 60 in Los Angeles and 76 in Miami. Heck, even Chicago was warmer at 29 degrees.

"Nice," Miller said. "We win!"

But he was really just waiting for a little snow to fall.

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