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D.I.D. launches packed series of events this summer

By Jim Fester

Fort Wayne Reader


School is out, TV is in re-runs… and the Downtown Improvement District thinks Fort Wayne is ripe to try something a little different this summer.

One thing you can say about downtown Fort Wayne is that stuff — fun, interesting, exciting stuff — happens there during the summer. Once the weather warms up, you can count on a festival or an event going on downtown almost every weekend (and downtown development nay sayers take note: when you provide something for people to do downtown, they usually show up).

The Downtown Improvement District is putting its own stamp on summer in downtown with a handful of unique events that kick off in late May and take place at some of downtown’s best areas.

On Thursday, May 24 the Downtown Improvement District takes over Friemann Square, one of the best public spaces in all downtown, for the launch of Friemann Family Thursdays. “Friemann Square has served as a center of downtown Fort Wayne for years,” says D.I.D. president Dan Carmody. “It offers a perfect location for everyone to enjoy the ambience of downtown city life with the benefits of green space and lovely fountains.”

The name of the event says it all: at 6 pm every Thursday night through June, the FREE Freimann Family Thursdays will feature family-oriented activities including live music, an art bazaar, a prize drawing, a trivia contest by WAJI, great feed and drink, and a ton of stuff for the kids, like face-painting, chalk drawing, caricature artists and more.

Why Thursdays? “We chose Thursday for two reasons,” says Mike Waskiewicz, marketing director of the Downtown Improvement District. “The first is there are usually lots of things going on downtown during the weekends in summer. The second is that some people leave town during the weekends, and this gives those people a chance to sample a little of what downtown has to offer.”

Friemann Family Thursdays launches on May 24 with a literal launch — on opening night there will be a massive balloon release, with the chance to win prizes. Basically, it’s just like the balloon releases you might have participated in once upon a time at school. Every child in attendance on Thursday gets a balloon with a card attached. They sign their name and school to the card and then everyone releases the balloons… “A couple weeks later, when we get all the balloons in, We’ll find out whose balloon goes the furthest when we get all the cards in,” says Waskiewicz. “The winner gets $250; the school gets $500.”

Bands scheduled to perform include The Yellowhammers on May 24 and 600 North and Dan Heath with the Paradise Band on May 31. WAJI will also run the World’s Largest Trivia Contest each Thursday night, with all the finalists from the first five weeks competing in the final showdown during the last Friemann Family Thursday on June 28. All the winners from the first five weeks will compete in a final showdown the 6th week.

“Friemann Family Thursdays aren’t ‘just’ for the kids,” says Lindsey Pakkala, D.I.D. event coordinator. “There are lots of kids activities, but adults are going to have a great time, too. It’s worth it just for the music alone.”

The D.I.D. has some weekend events planned, for the summer, too. The first up is a Mardi Gras flavored event on June 2 from 2pm to midnight. It takes place on Columbia Street, and features live zydeco music from Roddie Romero and the Hub City All Stars, Corey Young & Zydeco Embrace, and Pork Chop; a magic show by the world famous Dick Stoner; and, of course, excellent food. “There’s going to be a gumbo cook off with various local restaurants,” Waskiewicz says. “In the end, we’ll name a gumbo champion.”

There will also be special Fort Wayne branded hot sauce for sale in “mild,” “medium” and “hot” (though since this is Fort Wayne, “mild,” “less mild” and “almost spicy” would be more appropriate).

Finally, towards the end of the summer, because Fort Wayne can’t go to the beach, the D.I.D. is going to bring the beach to Fort Wayne. On August 18 the D.I.D. will transform the parking lot between Hall’s and Club Soda for the “Downtown Beach Blast.” The D.I.D. is importing 18 tons of sand for the event, which will include live reggae music, sand castle contests, volley ball… maybe even some boat rides.

“Downtown is on people’s minds,” says Dan Carmody. With the approval of the Harrison Square project, there’s a lot of energy and focus on the area right now. We thought these would be great events to keep that momentum and excitement going.”

Friemann Family Thursdays begin Thursday, May 24 at 6 pm in Friemann Square. The event is FREE.

Downtown Mardi Gras happens Saturday, June 2 on Columbia Street.

For more info on the D.I.D., go to www.downtownfortwayne.com

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