Things to Do in Fort Wayne and Beyond

New downtown events entice lovers of local entertainment

Enjoy more outdoor music this summer


Chris Hupe

Whatzup Features Writer

Published June 9, 2021

As the weather gets warmer and the threat of COVID-19 wanes, there’s no doubt that folks are itching for live music.

With that in mind, the Downtown Improvement District has introduced a series of free performances every Friday and Saturday evening in June, July, and August called Downtown Live!

According to Rick Zolman, events and programming manager for the Downtown Improvement District (DID), the goals of the weekly events are to give people a reason to go out, showcase the improvements made at The Landing, and raise awareness of other fantastic downtown spots.

Music All Summer Long

The organization has booked about 30 bands for the summer. The bands will be performing 13 Fridays in a row at The Landing on Columbia Street and 13 Saturdays in a row at a series of rotating downtown locations, such as the Porch off Calhoun and a couple of surprises to keep you on your toes.

“We’re really excited about it,” Zolman said in an interview with Whatzup. “With The Landing opening up with more restaurants, it’s going to be a great place to come hang out.”

Zolman said that the DID doesn’t intend the concert series to be similar to Rock the Plaza, where people come specifically for the music and bring their own chairs. Instead, he hopes the music of Downtown Live! will add a nice background vibe as people walk from venue to venue and enjoy what The Landing and other hot spots have to offer.

“We want people to be able to enjoy music while they are strolling on their way to or from dinner,” he said.

Part of the inspiration for the series encompasses the great restaurants and retail shops that have popped up in the area. Zolman thinks this series will open a lot of people’s eyes to how downtown has continued to develop, even through the pandemic.

“These events give more and more people a reason to come down and see the new Landing,” he said. “They’re going to realize that even in the last year there’s been stuff that’s opened that they probably don’t know about because they haven’t been able to come out.”

Zolman said they want people to enjoy the location and the music at the same time.

“We want it to be an organic feel, but a planned organic feel,” he said. “We did focus specifically on local musicians, but one of the things we are working on for July is a little bit larger,” although that’s not yet confirmed.

A Year in the Making

The concept of Downtown Live! began almost a year ago as COVID-19 brought uncertainty to the world, especially to organizations like DID with an entertainment focus.

Zolman said the events they would normally offer draw anywhere from 1,200 to 2,500 people, so they wanted to come up with something that would be smaller but no less enjoyable.

He and Downtown Improvement District President Michael Galbraith came up with the idea for the Saturday night concerts. They then engaged in discussion with representatives at The Landing to incorporate the First Friday celebrations into the mix. The result was Downtown Live!

“It’s been a lot of work, but now is when the fun starts,” Zolman said. “We are going to have music Thursday afternoons at Lunch on the Square, Friday nights on The Landing, and Saturday nights at different locations throughout downtown. So, if there are music lovers in Fort Wayne, which I’m assuming there are, we would love them to come out.”

The first scheduled artists performed June 4 and 5. Jana DeBusk follows June 11, C. Ray Harvey performs June 12, and Basketcase and Shannon Persinger Band perform June 19 and June 20 respectively.

Some of the other acts currently booked include Pop N’ Fresh, Rosalind and The Way, Will Certain, Todd Harrold & Eric Clancy, Barry Minniefield, Adam Baker & The Heartache, and El Camino Hot Tub.

There will even be salsa dance lessons when Melisa’s Latin Beat take the stage on Aug. 6.

Another Reason to Love Downtown

While there are already a lot of great things happening in downtown Fort Wayne, including ball games, concerts, and festivals, Downtown Live! gives us one more reason to head there.

“We realize that we are coming out of this pandemic and there is a built-up demand or desire to go do something because we have all been held back or stayed in our homes for such a long time,” Zolman said. “We’re so excited to program this and have people actually come and enjoy it. The true joy comes from being able to listen to the music and see the accomplishment of what we planned.”

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