The Journal Gazette
Monday, January 10, 2022 1:00 am

Audience sparse for concert

Riverfront official suspects weather, COVID kept folks away

ASHLEY SLOBODA | The Journal Gazette

Don Schmidt couldn't turn tapping toes into dancing feet Sunday despite his best efforts as his band performed Sunday afternoon inside the Park Foundation Pavilion in Promenade Park.

“With all this room out here, any of you that have an inclination to dance, feel free to do so,” Schmidt said. “We haven't had that happen yet, but hope springs eternal.”

The small audience remained seated, however, as New Horizons Polka Band performed as part of Riverfront Fort Wayne's Sunday Heritage Concert Series.

The ongoing event is scheduled throughout the year on the second and fourth Sundays of the month. A brass ensemble is scheduled for 2 p.m. Jan. 23.

Although the downtown facility had space for 60 socially distanced attendees Sunday, fewer than 10 seats were filled. There wasn't much foot traffic to draw from, as few people were strolling through Promenade Park on the cold, windy afternoon.

Jackie Hicks, special events coordinator, said apprehensions about COVID-19 likely didn't help, but she noted the airy venue had masks and hand sanitizer available. Promotional materials and a sign on the door asked attendees to mask up.

The latest COVID-19 surge has prompted organizers of some other events, including the Jan. 25 installment of Purdue University Fort Wayne's Omnibus Speaker Series, to cancel or reschedule.

Before the pandemic, Schmidt said the band would perform about twice a week, often at retirement and nursing homes. They now play less frequently.

“We're really looking for jobs now,” Schmidt said, noting the band can accept daytime gigs because the seven members are retired.

Prospective audiences shouldn't be fooled by the “polka” in the band's name. Schmidt and other members said they are brainstorming new names to better reflect the music they perform. For example, Sunday's set list included “You are My Sunshine,” “When I'm Sixty-Four” and “I Left My Heart In San Francisco.”

But it was a polka song that Schmidt used to try to get some to dance – the “Chicken Dance.”

“I suppose we ought to play another polka, just to live up to our name here,” Schmidt said and asked Riverfront Fort Wayne staff to lead the dance. “I'm sure the audience will appreciate your participation. I know those of us in the band will.”

Nobody stood, but Hicks and audience member Jill Borkenstein – who sang along to some tunes – did the hand gestures from their seats.

Borkenstein commended the band for being willing to play for a small audience.

“It was delightful,” she said.

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