Things to Do in Fort Wayne and Beyond

Taking It to the Streets

Steve Penhollow

Whatzup Features Writer

Published June 15, 2017

Heads Up! This article is 5 years old.

Launching an event called Buskerfest was a brave thing to do in Fort Wayne in 2009.

Busking, both the word and the practice, was virtually unknown in the Summit City eight years ago.

It is safe to say that many of the people who came out to celebrate busking (aka street performing) that year weren’t entirely sure what they were celebrating.

Yet Buskerfest has endured.

It survived a derecho in 2012 and what many of us in 2015 referred to as the mini-derecho, even though it infuriated meteorologists of our acquaintance.

Neither hail nor sleet nor heat nor gloom of dusk stays these acrobats from the swift completion of their appointed flips.

The 2017 edition of Buskerfest happens June 24.

Rick Zolman, events and programming manager for the Downtown Improvement District, wants to highlight two national acts that are visiting the event for the first time this year.

One is the Adorkable Derek, a guy who combines pole acrobatics (aka pole dancing sans salacious connotations) with the comedic sensibilities of a young Jerry Lewis.

Watch videos of him on YouTube and you will see him undergo a transformation reminiscent of a nutty professor: nerd to hottie.

“Derek hails from Los Angeles, California,” Zolman said. “He is a funny combination of pole acrobatics, audience participation nerdy dancing and, of course, a love story. He doesn’t talk while he is doing this, so it’ll be interesting to see how he performs.”

The other is the Boston-based Cate Great, who combines circus skills, stand-up and performance art.

Great makes use of a rolla bolla board, according to Zolman. Rolla bolla boards are those boards that circus performers put tubes under and surf atop.

“She does some gravity-defying stuff,” he said, “and then she stands on her hands toward the end of the act and goes from two hands to one while she is on stilts. It’s amazing.”

Seven nationally and internationally renowned buskers will perform on or at the Busker Central Pitch, which is the name of the Buskerfest main stage.

A “pitch” is busker terminology for a performance space or spot. It’s the place where a busker makes his or her pitch to a prospective audience.

Busker Central Pitch will be located at the intersection of Wayne and Calhoun, Zolman said.

Thanks to technology introduced last year, the main stage performers will have help making their pitches.

The elevated Jumbotron screen that debuted in 2016 will return, Zolman said.

The Jumbotron screen allows attendees to do and see more things, he said.

Much “organic busking” will be happening at the event as well, Zolman said.

Organic busking is Zolman’s term for the sort of busking that happens daily on the streets and sidewalks (and in the subways) of cities around the world.

Zolman predicts that there will be no less than 30 strolling performers at Buskerfest this year: living statues, historical reenactors, jugglers, mimes, fine artists and musicians.

Local music will have its own Loud & Local Pitch again this year. Scheduled acts include G-Money, the Gregg Bender Band, Elle/The Remnant, Silbo Gomero and the Jug Huffers.

Assorted local food trucks (known for their successful cuisine pitches) will be on site, hamming it up (perhaps with actual ham).

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