Things to Do in Fort Wayne and Beyond

Buskers readying to return

Following 2-year wait, street performing fest set to showcase talents

Anthony Gadson

Associate Editor

Published May 18, 2022

Buskers are once again preparing to congregate downtown.

Following a two-year hiatus because of you know what, Downtown Fort Wayne is hosting BuskerFest on Saturday, May 21.

Beginning at 3 p.m., street performers from  musicians and fire dancers to living statues, magicians, and jugglers will fill Wayne and Calhoun streets for the free event — unless you’d like to contribute a few dollars.

“We always remind people to bring cash to tip the performers,” said Rick Zolman, events and programming manager for Downtown Fort Wayne.

spotting a good idea

Dating to 2011, the local BuskerFest got its start thanks to a similar event north of the U.S. border.

“It’s modeled after the BuskerFest in Toronto, which is a three-day event over Memorial Day weekend, as a fundraiser to raise awareness about epilepsy,” Zolman said of the original BuskerFest, which began in 1999. “(Local organizers) thought it was a real cool event, but we don’t have three days that we can close down streets.”

Downtown Fort Wayne does get one day, with a permit from the city and consent of at least 50 percent of affected businesses. But while they do get the necessary permits, that does not mean the weather will permit it to be a success. Inclement weather forced the cancellation of the 2012 and 2015 festivals.

Along with storms, heat has also played a role, which led organizers to move this year’s festival from late June.

“The last two years that we held it (in 2018 and 2019), the heat index reached 98 degrees, so everyone was kind of miserable, including the performers,” Zolman said.

If conditions are right, organizers say the festival doesn’t cast a spotlight only on street performers, but also on downtown with between 6,000 and 10,000 attendees expected.

acts from across country

While downtown continues to grow and gain momentum, this festival is about the performers.

Along with buskers performing throughout the streets, scheduled music will be at Loud & Local Music Pitch at the intersection of Berry and Calhoun streets with street performances at Busker Central Pitch at the intersection of Wayne and Calhoun streets.

“The uniqueness is the biggest draw,” Zolman said. “Within two blocks you have music, fire dancers, human statues, and magicians. There’s really something for everyone, and it’s really nice to show our local talent.”

At Busker Central Pitch, comedian/juggler Sam Malcolm kicks things off at 3 p.m., followed by international act Her Majesty’s Secret Circus at 4:30 p.m., and FireGuy at 5:30 p.m. Her Majesty’s Secret Circus and Malcolm return for 6:30 and 7:30 p.m. shows, respectively, followed by fire-dancers Pyroscope to close out the day from 8:30-9 p.m.

“We contacted national acts that have supported us in the past, so we have acts coming in from Denver, Connecticut, Toronto, but also have local act Pyroscope to finish out the day,” Zolman said.

The music begins at Music Pitch at 4 p.m. with the Murmurations, followed by Jersey Money at 5 p.m., Caledonia at 6 p.m., Gregg Bender Band at 7 p.m., and Adam & The Heartache at 8 p.m.

He also said about 60 emails were sent to local performers to take part, and even more could join by word of mouth.

“Some might show up that we don’t even know,” Zolman said.

Some that they know will be on hand are the Chain Gang Barbershop Quartet at 6 p.m., and Cinderella and a friend from 4-6 p.m.

“We had (the princesses) at our Mother’s Day weekend (this month), and there’s just something about seeing a kid’s face light up when they see a princess,” Zolman said.

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