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Posted on Fri. May. 16, 2014 - 12:01 am EDT

A festival to kick-start festivals

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If you go

What: Kickstart Festival

When: 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday

Where: Arts United Campus, East Main Street

Admission: Activity fees apply for certain events; go to for more information and complete schedule

Whether it’s the ribs or the three rivers, Fort Wayne doesn’t mind celebrating it with a festival, and that was the only reason needed for several local organizations to come together to add one more.

Saturday will mark the beginning of festival season with the first Kickstart Festival, which will be a one-day sampler of what the city has to offer all summer long with public art, theater performances and bicycling. The festival is being celebrated on the Arts United campus downtown.

The event, which initially started out as a dedication to IPFW’s Sculpture with Purpose project, has been a catalyst for organizations such as Fort4Fitness and Fort Wayne Youtheatre to get involved.

“It unites the community, and it’s unique,” says Irene Walters, IPFW executive director of university relations and communications. “It’s just the beginning in uniting groups who haven’t necessarily been together, and if it’s successful, it would seem like a nice thing that would begin the season.”

As originally planned, IPFW will commemorate the university’s 50th anniversary by dedicating 50 artistic, yet functional, bike racks. The bike racks, with a majority installed on IPFW’s campus and downtown, will be permanent fixtures for the community to promote healthy living, as well as to leave a legacy.

“IPFW wants to encourage people to get out and bike and walk, or just get up close and personal with these sculptures and enjoy them as art,” Walters says. “We want people to appreciate the collaboration of everyone working together and most importantly, enjoy Fort Wayne.”

The festival includes the Fort4Fitness Spring Cycle bike tours and the Fort4Fitness Kickstart4Kids; Visit Fort Wayne’s 65th anniversary celebration; the opening of the Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana’s Barr Street Market; Downtown Improvement District’s Spring Trolley tour; and the inaugural Fairy Tale Fest with performances by Fort Wayne Youtheatre, Fort Wayne Ballet and Fort Wayne Dance Collective.

The Fairy Tale Festival will be a literary-based event that offers face painting, FAME arts and crafts, a costume station and the Grimm Brothers Game Show at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art.

The Fort Wayne Ballet will perform “Ferdinand the Bull,” and Fort Wayne Dance Collective will give an interactive performance of “The Elves and the Shoemakers” that invites children from the audience to act as elves.

Fort Wayne Youtheatre will present an adaptation of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” on the main stage of Arts United. Following the original Brothers Grimm story, Executive Director Leslie Hormann says she has added characters to keep it light for young viewers.

“There are two lords who are the king’s assistants and they are very slapstick, and the queen has two ladies-in-waiting, who are two silly, bobble-headed blondes,” she says. “When Snow White is taken to the Black Forest, that’s a little scarier because it comes alive with strobe lights and special effects, but it’s done to “Night on Bald Mountain,” which is a wonderful classical piece, and the performance is more of an interpretive dance.”

There will also be music performances at Arts United that include Fort Wayne Children’s Choir, Fort Wayne Youth Symphony Orchestra and Sweetwater Academy. Hormann says the collaborative festival not only allows families to visit Arts United’s new facilities such as the ArtsLab, it also gives them the opportunity to see what programs are offered for the city’s children.

“I hope kids come from it and want to be involved. I want them to say, ‘Wow, I didn’t know Fort Wayne Ballet or the Dance Collective had youth groups. I want to be a part of that,’ ” she says. “This festival is such a wonderful blend of what Fort Wayne has to offer, and it’s just a really super showcase for people who don’t realize you can do something different every weekend.”

Walters says as the university began planning its dedication and activities, it first reached out to Fort4Fitness to sync its Spring Cycle with Sculpture with Purpose.

“It’s National Bike Month, and the Spring Cycle usually happens in May, so everything came together,” Walters says. “It felt natural to hook up with Fort4Fitness with their bike tours with our presentation to the city.”

Brad Kimmel, executive director of Fort4Fitness, says the organization began Spring Cycle after the city asked the organization to create a program to emphasize bicycling. In its past two years, he says the event continues to grow.

This year, the event will include three bicycling tours for different skill levels and family-friendly events like obstacle courses, bike-safety instructions and check-ups to make sure bikes are properly equipped for summer.

Fort Wayne Trails will also offer a free bike valet for those who want to explore the festival’s other activities.

“It has been steadily growing over the past two years, and with this being our third year, we’re really excited that bicycling is growing,” Kimmel says. “The city is making efforts, Fort Wayne Trails are involved and Fort Wayne Parks and Rec are involved. It’s becoming a source of great entertainment and exercise.”

With IPFW committed just for this year’s festival, whether Kickstart Festival returns as an annual event depends largely on the remaining organizations. As for Kimmel, he sees the potential for Kickstart to celebrate wellness from the inside out.

“Art is a part of the quality of life that goes beyond physical wellness,” he says. “By bringing it all together, we’re finding that we are attracting people with different interests and showing them how easy it is to enjoy the other qualities of life. It’s just one of those feel-good events.”

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