Sporadic Saturday morning thunderstorms couldn't deter hundreds of Fort Wayne residents and visitors from celebrating BuskerFest along Calhoun and Wayne streets downtown in the afternoon.
It was the annual performing arts festival's return for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020.
Fort Wayne ventriloquist Triston Andorfer and his puppet Max delighted passersby as they moved between the various tents and exhibitions on display. It was Max's first time at the festival.
“We just like to see the performers and have fun,” Andorfer said, adding that he's done ventriloquism since elementary school and performs with “The Uncle Ducky” show on Fort Wayne public access television.
The most appealing thing about a festival like BuskerFest, Andorfer said, is “the magic” created by all of the performers.
“I love how everybody's so creative here,” he said. “You get a chance to be free here.”
Also on Calhoun Street sat Fort Wayne resident Scott Sprunger at a table with a sign advertising “Poetry on the Spot.” It was Sprunger's first time participating in BuskerFest, but he said he's previously set up his table at local farmers markets and elsewhere downtown.
“People come up, give me a topic and I type it out,” he said.
The typewriter, he said, seems to attract a lot of people to his table and, many times, people leave with short poems meant to commemorate major milestones or to mark a point in time.
“What it comes down to is, poetry is a personal connection, and I tend to write poetry that deals with day-to-day things that allow the reader to connect with it in their own personal way,” he said, adding that doing “Poetry on the Spot” helps keep him sharp.
“It's all about just putting yourself out there, too,” Sprunger said. “You just put your best foot forward and try to do something awesome.”
Sprunger said he loves that the city of Fort Wayne puts such emphasis on the arts, including with BuskerFest. It's been amazing, he said, to watch the city's arts community blossom in the last few years and attract visitors from everywhere.
Brian Hahn, from Houston, was one of those visitors. He was in town to visit Sprunger. The pair grew up together in DeKalb County.
“You don't see this kind of thing as much in Houston as you do here, so that's awesome,” Hahn said.
Saturday was also Caleb and Jessica Bustos' first time at BuskerFest with their 5-year-old and 2-year-old.
The adults were impressed by the many food trucks available for guests, while their kids raved about a pair of balloon bracelets made for them by a nearby clown.
“I feel like growing up, there wasn't as much of this kind of stuff around,” Caleb Bustos said. “I definitely feel like downtown is more inviting with all of the events and the space.”
As their children played, the couple said they absolutely would return next year for another round of fun.