What: The Fort Wayne Newspapers Three Rivers Festival opens Friday and continues through July 21.
When and where: Many activities take place at Headwaters Park, Clinton and Superior streets. For a list of event times and locations, go to www.fortwayne.com and scroll down to the Three Rivers Festival link to see the complete schedule. Information also is available at www.threeriversfestival.org.
Some veteran festival-goers like to lament the Fort Wayne Newspapers Three Rivers Festival “isn't what is used to be.”
Well, TRF Executive Director Jack Hammer has a quick reply: You're not what you used to be either, but why not come out to TRF events and make more great memories.
The region's biggest festival opens Friday with a wide range of events offering fun for all ages. It continues through the closing fireworks July 21.
Here are some of the highlights:
This Saturday will be a salute to U.S. troops, Hammer said.
Grand marshals for the TRF parade will be U.S. military personnel who have served from Gulf War I to the present. All of them will be welcome to participate in the parade, which steps off about 9:45 a.m. Saturday from Wayne and Rockhill streets. But all veterans will be represented in the parade by U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Brandon Long of Fort Wayne, who lost both legs in a bomb blast in December while serving in Afghanistan.
The parade, which will celebrate the theme “Community Landmarks and Legends,” is expected to have about 200 units, including at least 10 area high school marching bands, Hammer said. The total number of parade units is about 30 more than in recent years.
A local company also donated money to buy thousands of small American flags to be passed out along the parade route, he said.
The salute to the troops continues that evening with a concert at 7 p.m. by Bruce in the USA, a Las Vegas-based Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band tribute band. The show opens with local talent: Sunny Taylor with Ben Porter, followed by the duo Allan & Ashcraft.
Gates open at 6 p.m. at the Vera Bradley Plaza in Headwaters Park East, Clinton and Superior streets. Veterans of any war get free admission with proof of their military service, Hammer said. Admission is $10 for ages 13 and older; ages 12 and younger are free with an adult.
New this year will be the Famous in the Fort Talent Contest on Monday night at the festival plaza. Gates open at 6 p.m. and the show starts at 7 p.m.
“We felt this will be a really fun thing to do,” Hammer said.
Entrants will be prescreened to ensure the best talent takes the stage that night, he said.
The winner will receive a $1,000 prize. Prizes of $300 and $200 will be awarded for second and third places, respectively.
A special promotion Tuesday means $2 will get you a food or drink special from vendors in Junk Food Alley; a beer; and admission to the festival plaza that night for a concert by local band Brother, which features, yes, two brothers, twins Mike and Mark Magdich.
The RiverGames event, which was new last year, will return this year with canoe sprint races, family canoe races and three-person teams battling in water-balloon wars.
Hammer expects river levels and water quality to be satisfactory for the event. However, if people can't get in the river, they will hold RiverGames on land, he said.
People traditionally have had to pay admission to get into the festival plaza before the Fireworks Finale, which this year is set for 10 p.m. July 21. But along with donating vehicles for festival parade use, Hammer said O'Daniel Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram “bought open” the plaza gates on July 21. So all you need to get in is an ID.