Our Sizzling Seven

2014 Power Play winners

Fort Wayne Philharmonic's Marcy Trentacosti, photography by Ryan Hodges
Jonathan Busarow with a few of his friends in the Fort Wayne Children's Choir. photography by David Kirk
A ring-tailed lemur at the Fort Wayne Children's Zoo, photography by Ray Steup
Outside of Parkview Field, photography by Ray Steup
The History Center, photography by David Kirk
Fort Wayne Museum of Art's Charles Shepard, photography by David Kirk
The Embassy's "blade" sign, photography by Elizabeth Ebert

Hundreds of votes later, we have a very clear picture of the events that Fort Wayne Monthly readers believe are worth the price of admission, worth getting up and going out after a busy day or week at work, that are rewarding and fun experiences.

Thanks to all the readers who took the time and made the effort to share their favorite events and event producers with us. Most of you did vote for the event producers, rather than specific events, which is fine. We trust your instincts and gladly follow your lead. For the record, this readers poll is not about the hundreds (thousands?) of free events of all kinds in Fort Wayne every year. We decided to get serious and ask about the ones for which we all have to pay out some cold, hard cash. We urge you to continue enjoying the free events, of course. You’ll find them in our Around Town events calendar in every issue.

It’s important for the wellbeing of the arts, cultural and entertainment organizations, businesses, artists and performers that we all support them, though, so this poll question seemed like the right one for this year. I’m delighted to report that the vote totals depict a Fort Wayne bustling with a glorious variety of things to do for everyone and for all interests.

We have the fine arts, the performing arts, culture, entertainment, sports, the new, the old, family-oriented, date-night and any permutation you’d want in our Power Play voting results. The results break out into a lead group we’re dubbing Our Sizzling Seven because they just plain dominated the voting.

But a second group – we’re calling them Solid Performers – also separated itself from the pack and earned the right to be listed here along with Fort Wayne Monthly’s heartfelt recommendation that you set yourself the challenge of experiencing at least three of the 12 of them in the next programming season. You’ll be so glad you did!

Now, we’re glad to hand you off to Our Sizzling Seven to get to know them a little better.

No. 1
Fort Wayne Philharmonic
J.L. Nave, III, president and CEO

What makes you worth the price of admission to so many people?
Our musicians are top-notch! People know they are going to get a quality show when they come to a Phil concert. We perform everything from Beethoven to Broadway. Besides, there is nothing like experiencing music live.

What’s your larger mission? What’s your contribution to the city’s life?
Our mission is to plant the seed of orchestral music in everyone we possibly can and then help that seed grow into a lifelong love and passion for live music. The impact of The Phil goes far beyond the concert stage. We host a youth orchestra program that gives over 100 young musicians the opportunity to perform in a full orchestra. Our musicians give private lessons to dozens (if not hundreds) of students of all ages. They provide beautiful and moving music for the important events in our lives, from weddings and funerals to church services and civic celebrations.

What’s coming up that Fort Wayne shouldn’t miss?
With over 70 performances this season, it’s hard to pick just a few. But here goes: Opening Night (Sept. 27) is always a wonderful event! We also have Ben Folds coming on Oct. 17 and, of course, our ever-popular Holiday Pops concerts. This year we’re also adding a performance of Handel’s “Messiah” to our holiday offerings. And I think our Patriotic Pops concert at Parkview Field has become an instant annual tradition.

No. 2
Fort Wayne Children’s Choir
Jonathan Busarow, artistic director

What makes you worth the price of admission to so many people?
The answer to that is that it’s seeing what children can do when they have been given this gift. We teach kids to read music, not just learning by rote. What they can do when they are empowered with their own musical language is exhilarating.

What’s your larger mission? What’s your contribution to the city’s life?
The mission of the Fort Wayne Children’s Choir is to provide a choral program exemplifying artistic and educational excellence for children from diverse backgrounds. What we are doing and how we give that back to the community is through our performances. We are helping creating culturally aware citizens. Studies show that kids who are involved in the arts, particularly singing, are more likely to vote and be engaged in the community. There’s something, too, about singing: it’s so personal. It’s you. If it’s singing, it’s part of you.

What’s coming up that Fort Wayne shouldn’t miss?
Fort Wayne should not miss our Harvest Concert on Nov. 9, 4 p.m. at IPFW in the Auer Performance Hall. Presale is $10 adults, $8 seniors and youth, the day of, tickets are $12 adults and $10 for seniors and youth. We have seven different choirs, and they’ll all be performing. We have about 250 kids from about 8 years old through 18, third grade through high school.

No. 3
Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo
Jim Anderson, director

What makes you worth the price of admission to so many people?
Our 1,000 animals are worth the price of admission, but we offer so much more. Animals and guests alike are immersed in natural, authentic surroundings. Our layout and landscaping are lush and welcoming. There are rides to ride, food to eat and a variety of interactive opportunities. The zoo offers an intimate, personal experience with nature. Every visit can be different; there is always something new to see.

What’s your larger mission? What’s your contribution to the city’s life?
Our mission is to connect kids and animals, strengthen families and inspire people to care. The zoo invests great resources in many education and conservation programs, many of which our guests do not see. Developing a better appreciation for animals and nature is our obvious mission, but we also provide great social value as a wonderful place for families, for dates, for friends to get outside and experience new things together.

What’s coming up that Fort Wayne shouldn’t miss?
We always have a pregnant mother or two, and there should be some very interesting babies headed our way. We are just getting started with exciting renovations of the Australian Adventure. Stingrays should swim into Australia next summer, and additional animals and activities will be coming to the Outback the following year.

No. 4
Fort Wayne TinCaps
Mike Nutter, team president

What makes you worth the price of admission to so many people?
Folks have come to appreciate the Fort Wayne TinCaps for their great facility, operation and family values. With the move to Parkview Field, it has become a lot more of an event and family entertainment and not just baseball. We are a baseball team first, but folks know that everything we do is an event and they will definitely get their money’s worth. Our tickets start at just $5 so we are priced well and provide a great night of entertainment. We don’t always win, but we do always deliver a night of great family-friendly entertainment. Baseball is also ingrained in our society.

What’s your larger mission? What’s your contribution to the city’s life?
We strive to make Fort Wayne a better place to live and to do business. We will entertain over 411,000 folks this year, and our goal is to contribute to the region and help it grow. All of our staff members are actively involved in local charities. Some of us serve on the boards while others contribute to specific events and fundraisers. This is home to many of us now. I moved to Fort Wayne in October 1999 from Nashville, Tenn. I could never have imagined this Fort Wayne when I moved here 15 years ago. The growth and momentum are amazing. We are so blessed to be a part of what is going on in our great city. I can’t wait to see what the next 15 years hold for the TinCaps and the city of Fort Wayne.

What’s coming up that Fort Wayne shouldn’t miss?
The season is over now, but we still have fun things to do at Parkview Field. Nov. 26 is our Night of Lights Fireworks Show at Parkview Field. With 2014 being our biggest year ever in our sixth year downtown, we expect 2015 to be even bigger!

No. 5
The History Center
Todd Maxwell Pelfrey, executive director

What makes you worth the price of admission to so many people?
Nowhere else in our community will you experience history like you do at The History Center. Our local history is a microcosm of how America grew and flourished, and few cities our size enjoy the national significance and vibrancy that we share with the public via our collection. Inside the walls of our community’s center for history, where guests can spend all or part of a day viewing our past and thinking about our future, residents truly find themselves.

What’s your larger mission? What’s your contribution to the city’s life?
While our stated mission is “to serve present and future generations by collecting, preserving and sharing historic artifacts, documents and images that describe the people, places and events that define Fort Wayne and Allen County history,” what we are really about is building pride in our community, reinforcing a sense of place, educating our residents on the importance of the many persons who have gone before us and telling the stories of our past so that we can better understand our future. In a time when many Americans are “historically illiterate” and less than one quarter of American students are proficient in American and local history, The History Center is the gatekeeper to our community’s past for the benefit of present and future generations of its citizens.

What’s coming up that Fort Wayne shouldn’t miss?
This October and November will bring several popular weekend programs, including Miami Indian Heritage Days and the George R. Mather Sunday Lecture Series. And, of course, the annual Festival of Gingerbread, one of Fort Wayne’s most cherished holiday traditions, begins in late November. Last year over 12,000 people came to downtown Fort Wayne to see the record-breaking 149 fanciful and edible gingerbread creations.

No. 6
Fort Wayne Museum of Art
Charles Shepard, executive director

What makes you worth the price of admission to so many people?
I think what makes us worth it is that we invest an incredible amount of time and energy into creating a menu of programmatic and exhibition offerings that should really be exciting, attractive and inspiring to a large cross-section of the population. Attached to that notion is that we did the renovation to move from two galleries to seven or eight galleries – and started programming those galleries. We have four to seven shows at all times. I think we’ve moved recently more to contemporary art, but we have a good historical show. We always have glass up. There should be something there to love and get excited about. We bring more and more to the equation than we ever did. At last count, we had something like 230 objects on display at any one period of time. On top of that, you’re seeing not only great American things, you’re seeing great international things. You can’t see that anyplace else (in Fort Wayne). We’re curating especially for Fort Wayne. That didn’t always be the case. Most of our shows are original to here.

What’s your larger mission? What’s your contribution to the city’s life?
Our larger mission is to bring the best of and the most exciting visual arts to Fort Wayne. A caliber, a quality and a variety that … I think you’d really have to be in New York City to see. I think we bring more than people see in Boston in one setting and often more than Chicago. That’s our vision, to have our variety, to mean something to every constituent, and we never let up pushing ourselves to be that high caliber. Part B of our contribution is that we are so accessible and so ready to explain with our labels, with our tours, everything you see, than many museums; it’s not the path they take. We understand that our average viewer is not an art connoisseur.

What’s coming up that Fort Wayne shouldn’t miss?
People should not miss the fifth iteration of the Contemporary Realism Biennial. For this particular version, we were ruthless to get quality here. We had 900 submissions, and we juried all but 38 out. Then we went to invite another 20 top-name internationally famous Realists to be our invited guests. I totally blew my budget doing it. This show will be absolutely eye-popping.

No. 7
Embassy Theatre
Kelly Updike, executive director

What makes you worth the price of admission to so many people?
I’m assuming we are competitively priced, and it’s because we provide such good value for quality entertainment. There’s so much that happens, it’s an experience when you come to the Embassy. It’s historic, it’s a building, it’s high-quality entertainment. We work really hard to provide good customer service. We are a part of Fort Wayne, and we’re really proud of that and that pride reflects in the quality of service.

What’s your larger mission? What’s your contribution to the city’s life?
If you boiled down our mission, it’s to preserve and protect this historic building through quality programming. Our contribution is we’re keeping the heritage of this building alive in a modern-day way. We’re not a museum piece, what we are is a living and breathing facility that has a lot of activities and a lot of ways to connect to people and help them create memories.

What’s coming up that Fort Wayne shouldn’t miss?
We have lots. We have a very and wide and diverse amount of programming that ranges from Jerry Seinfeld to Joe Bonamassa to Christmas with the King (an Elvis performance) to a week of “Jersey Boys.” We continue to build on our educational programming, and we’re going to be doing more silent movie shows, plus Fright Night – we just really want to continue to grow in the wide array that we offer. At the same time we’re working on construction. We’re creating new spaces for people to enjoy.

Solid Performers
(presented in alphabetical order)
Arena Dinner Theatre: 719 Rockhill Ave. www.arenadinnertheatre.org or (260) 424-5622
Artlink: 300 E. Main St., www.artlinkfw.com or (260) 424-7195
Bach Collegium: 202 W. Rudisill Blvd., www.bachcollegium.org or (260) 485-2143
FAME Festival: 300 E. Main St., www.famearts.org or (260) 247-7325
First Presbyterian Theatre: 300 W. Wayne St., firstpres-fw.org/the_arts/theater or (260) 422-6329
Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory: 1100 S. Calhoun St., www.botanicalconservatory.org or (260) 427-6440
Fort Wayne Ballet: 300 E. Main St., www.fortwayneballet.org or (260) 484-9646
Fort Wayne Cinema Center: 437 E. Berry St., cinemacenter.org or (260) 426-3456
Fort Wayne Civic Theatre: 303 E. Main St., www.fwcivic.org or (260) 424-5220
Heartland Sings: 1516 Leesburg Road, www.heartlandchorale.org or (260) 436-8080
New American Youth Ballet: 921 Northcrest Shopping Center, www.nayb.info or (260) 471-7848
Science Central: 1950 N. Clinton St., sciencecentral.org or (260) 424-2400

First appeared in the September 2014 Fort Wayne Monthly.

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