Downtown Shines During Recent Events

Downtown Fort Wayne

Showcasing City

Pat yourself on the back, Fort Wayne.

The city rolled out the red carpet to hundreds of important visitors over the past few days, and they saw a welcoming, pleasing city with a vibrant downtown.

Democrats attending their state convention at Grand Wayne Center found a venue that was accommodating – physically, in its operations and technologically. Rather than filing through a tunnel-like convention hall, Democrats basked in the sunlight shining through the glass walls that brightened the center and made it feel much more open than many alternative locations.

Rather than hike or drive between hotels and the convention site, the attendees at last weekend’s convention stayed in hotels that are literally next door. Many delegates walked over to watch the TinCaps play at the comfortable Parkview Field or strolled down to Headwaters Park for the blues and ribs festival.

There, visitors found regional and nationally known musicians as well as grill masters preparing succulent ribs.

They also saw – many for the first time – the striking Martin Luther King Jr. bridge, an awesome and iconic downtown gateway.

As convention attendees drove home Sunday morning, hundreds of area residents traveled to Sycamore Hills Golf Club. Though a morning rain seemed to threaten the newly expanded Mad Anthonys Charity Classic for Children, the rain was short-lived, and audience members had the opportunity to see not only local celebrities but a dozen members of the LPGA.

“Certainly, the Democratic convention demonstrated … that Fort Wayne has changed quite a bit, it changed a lot of perceptions,” said Dan O’Connell, president of Visit Fort Wayne.

Indeed, visitors saw a city that has changed remarkably over the years and should serve as a reminder just how much the city – particularly downtown – has grown and improved.

Consider that three decades ago, there could have been no Democratic convention in the city because land now occupied by the Grand Wayne Center and the adjoining Hilton hotel was an empty lot, a downtown symbol of decay and stagnancy. A parking lot and aging homes stood where Parkview Field now welcomes tens of thousands of visitors each summer. The streets were dead after 5 p.m., with little nightlife.

There was no blues and ribs festival because the expansive Headwaters Park was an area of older buildings and businesses exceedingly vulnerable to flooding, an area especially hard hit in the Flood of 1982.

And Jack Nicklaus had yet to visit the field west of the city that he later designed as the Sycamore Hills golf course.

Last weekend’s convention did more than bring money to city businesses – $400,000 to $500,000, O’Connell estimates. The Mad Anthonys Charity Classic for Children did more than raise money for Hope House.

The festival did more than entertain residents with music, food and beer. Each event offered the city a chance to show off some of its best attributes, and many first-time visitors were impressed.

It doesn’t hurt that among them were some of the state’s most important politicians who came for the convention, key businesspeople at Mad Anthonys and bluesfest vendors and musicians who travel the nation, sharing stories about the best – and worst – venues.

Visitors looking at the city’s event schedule for the rest of the summer found a vast array of activities for families and adults slated for the remainder of the summer. Saturday, for example, residents and visitors alike will line the St. Joseph River at IPFW for one of the city’s newest and most popular festivals, RiverFest.

And it won’t be long before the city’s biggest draw: The Fort Wayne Newspapers Three Rivers Festival, July 13-21 at Headwaters Park. Numerous other events and festivals will bring people to Headwaters for much of the summer.

It’s natural to begin taking for granted anything after becoming so accustomed to it.

Sometimes, it takes visitors’ observations to remind us of our progress and the value of our amenities.

-Journal Gazette

Original article can be found HERE


Categories: Entertainment, Goverment, Grand Wayne Center, Harrison Square, Headwaters Park, Parkview Field, River Greenway, Riverfront Development, Shopping & Dining, TinCaps

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