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Indian dancers perform at Art in the Park weekend at Three Rivers Festival, 1981
Indian dance is performed at Art in the Park weekend at Three Rivers Festival, 1981.

Three Rivers Festival of Fort Wayne

At the first Three Rivers Festival in 1969, an estimated 100,000 people enjoyed a grand parade, and 60 events on the Columbia Street Landing. The festival was held to promote business, and to celebrate the heritage of Fort Wayne, established during the French and Indian War at the confluence of three rivers, the Maumee, St. Mary's, and St. Joseph. The festival in 1973 attracted one million visitors. Among its highlights was the air show by the Navy's Blue Angels. Festival planners and volunteers have added new and unique events each year. In 1976, the Nation's Bicentennial the festival included an international beer can collectors convention. That year attendance topped 2 million. In 1977, the festival added fireworks for the first time, and its opening day parade was the second largest in the state. When the festival opened in 1979, seven hundred balloons were released from the top of a city building. By 1980, the festival has grown to 206 events across the city. The following year, the festival introduced a children's parade and attempted to set a record for the World's Longest Hot Dog, at 527 feet long. Two years, later the festival featured the World's Biggest Pretzel, at 10 feet in diameter.

The festival has continued to grow and add new attractions and fun events. Yet in 1988, one event was unsuccessful: the raft race was dried up by a summer drought. In 1991 a $20,000 Arts United grant expanded Sunday in the Park to art events at Seniors Day and the Children's Festival. By 1999, the Arts in the Park was expanded to include Main Street, featuring a juried show of 85 national artists. That same year, the Three Rivers Festival enjoyed crowds in excess of 500,000, maintaining its position as the second largest event in Indiana.

Documentation includes a description of highlights from each festival year, newspaper articles, and photographs.

Originally submitted by: Mark E. Souder, Representative (4th District).

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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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