The Journal Gazette
Sunday, July 18, 2021 1:00 am

Three rivers festival

Crowds come back, despite downpours

JAMIE DUFFY | The Journal Gazette

Lined up along Main Street, the brightly painted cat and dog LoveSeats gave people a chance to take a little rest from all the activities of the Three Rivers Festival on Saturday and appreciate the humor of Humane Fort Wayne. 

The 25 LoveSeats, made of a plexiglass-like material, will be on display through Oct. 8, according to the organization's website, but at the festival it was a way for the organization to raise money and awareness and let everyone see them all in one place. 

The LoveSeats bordered Freimann Square, where for the first time this year, the Kids Fest took place, John Nichter, Three Rivers Festival board president, said Saturday, the last day of the nine-day festival. Another first was pairing the International Village with the Kids Fest. 

Sgt. Kerry Haywood worked the Fort Wayne Police Department's Bearcat, a large vehicle used for emergency operations by the SWAT team, while police drone operators showed off the department's equipment at a nearby tent. 

Not to be outdone, the Fort Wayne Fire Department featured Spotz the Dalmatian mascot, manned by firefighter Mark Claus, an department educator at the Public Safety Village, said Assistant Chief Jim Murua, who is also a fire marshal. Spotz doesn't normally speak, Murua joked. 

Nichter and other board members said attendance was surprisingly good for the festival after a year off and some pretty heavy rain during the nine-day festival. The festival can bring upwards of half a million visitors from Indiana, southern Michigan and northwestern Ohio, according to the festival's website.

“We exceeded our expectations,” board member Dave Goode said. “We were off for a year. People were excited to get to the rides, get their elephant ears.” 

Justin Shurley, only three weeks into his new job as the festival's executive director, said while hard numbers were hard to come by, receipts at Junk Food Alley, a major festival draw, indicated a high attendance. 

The 52nd Three Rivers Festival didn't feature the much-anticipated parade that usually kicks off the festival, and the bed race was canceled, but Shurley said he has every intention of bringing those back next year. 

Bands drew crowds under the Headwaters Park dome with fans who weren't deterred by a little rain, and the first ever drag show Monday night following the waiter/waitress contest was a hit, according to Nichter and the TRF website. 

Down on the Midway, where carnival barkers competed with a helicopter overhead, the rush of traffic on Clinton Street, the squeals of small children and the occasional siren going by, Gil and Victoria Tallman introduced their young grandchildren to the thrill of the Three Rivers Festival. 

“How was that for fun?” Gil Tallman said to 5-year-old Lucas as he got off a ride. Waiting for them was Victoria Tallman with Tucker Tallman, soon to be 3 years old. The muddy grass didn't seem to bother any of them. 

“He had a great time. We all have,” Victoria Tallman said.

“He can't take that smile off his face,” Gil Tallman said, speaking about Lucas. Their favorites at Junk Food Alley were the elephant ears and lemon shakes. 

The Tallmans, who have 13 grandchildren, hardly ever miss the festival, and the most fun for them “is watching the grandchildren have a great time.”


Take a seat on new public art display

Brittany Suel brought her daughter, Lilly, 4, to the LoveSeats, a colorful exhibit of outdoor art and furniture sponsored by Humane Fort Wayne.

Lilly was accompanied by Annaleah Combs-Alexander, 10, who is like a sister to young Lilly, said her mother Jennifer Combs.

All of them love Humane Fort Wayne on South Hanna Street, from where they've adopted cats.

Lilly called the LoveSeats “cool,” and Annaleah added “all of them.”

The Tschebykin family found them “cool” too.

“They're going to put them all around the city,” Paige Tschebykin told her children Jackie and Christopher. “Some of them are really very cute.”

She and her husband, Philip, and the kids like to come to the Three Rivers Festival for the Chalk Walk and Art in the Park and, of course, food from Junk Food Alley. The LoveSeats were a first.

Passersby were encouraged to scan the QR code available on each LoveSeat to find out about Humane Fort Wayne and the fundraiser.

Jessica Henry, executive director for the organization that offers adoption and retention programs, wellness services, community outreach and education, kicked off the campaign Saturday.

Many local businesses also helped sponsor the art installation and are mentioned on each of the 25 love seats painted by local artists.

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