Things to Do in Fort Wayne and Beyond

New leaders stick to winning Weather formula

Downtown Fort Wayne takes over reins for event on The Landing

Pyroscope Entertainment will be on hand for the annual Weather the Fort on Feb. 18 on The Landing.

Dean Jackson

Whatzup Features Writer

Published February 8, 2023

If there’s ever been an event that promotes Fort Wayne’s can-do, get-it-done, make-it-happen attitude, Weather the Fort fits the bill.

Now in its eighth year, the climate-themed celebration thumbs its nose at the dark, dreary days of winter in a one-day showcase Saturday, Feb. 18, rotating around West Columbia Street in the city’s historic Landing District. 

From 3-8 p.m., attendees will make lemonade out of lemons or maybe snow cones out of snow in whatever conditions are thrown at them. Admission is free and open to everyone.

What’s on tap 

Part outdoor concert, part spectacle, and all good ole Hoosier grit, this year’s Weather the Fort is under new leadership with Downtown Fort Wayne at the helm.

“It’s a really cool event” said Rick Zolman, Downtown Fort Wayne’s event and programming manager. “It works. It’s a statement of, ‘We are in Indiana, it’s going to be cold.’ Even if it doesn’t make sense, we’re going to celebrate and have an outdoor event.”

With the exception of a tent and heaters for musicians and performers, traces of any heat are few and far between with the exception of hand-warming spots. Weather the Fort is made up of three themes: music, beer, and interactive art and activities. Throughout the event, there will be games for kids and adults like cornhole. 

Music begins with Todd Harrold Band at 3:45 p.m. followed by Jackson Vibe at 6 p.m. Simultaneously, the interactive Fire and Ice activities begin at 3 p.m. with the Frozen Trio princesses, ice sculpture carving, fire dancers, and WANE-TV’s Nicholas Ferreri leading the Weather the Fort toast at 7:30 p.m. Pyroscope Entertainment will cap the event with fire dancers at 7:40 p.m. 

Several rare beers will also be tapped on the east side of the event on Calhoun Street.

Continuing tradition

Before his direct involvement with Weather the Fort, Zolman recalls attending the event and leaving with a compelling memory.

“When I arrived, it was a group of 3,500 or so outdoors having a cocktail or a beer or just listening to music or hanging out with friends,” he said. “They were just enjoying the conversation as the snow fell. It was almost like being inside a snow globe, but without the shaking. I mean it. It was really just like that.”

In the beginning, it was just a group of volunteers that took the reins of the original event. The former Weather the Fort organization went from young people looking for something to do in the middle of winter to maturing into other responsibilities, like being parents or business owners. They found themselves needing to refocus and find someone else to lead the event.

“This was a really fast turnaround,” he said. “So we met with them in early December, and made the decision that we were going to program this in 2023, and we’ve moved through the process very quickly. They got it to the point where they wanted to find someone who would continue it.”

New leadership

That’s where the Downtown Fort Wayne saw the success and potential.

“The Weather the Fort board is thrilled that Downtown Fort Wayne will become the caretakers of Weather the Fort,” board member John Felts in a statement.

“Downtown Fort Wayne has a long and proud history of hosting community gatherings, and we are confident that the event is in great hands. We’re excited to see Weather the Fort live on for many, many years as Downtown Fort Wayne’s annual winter festival.”

Zolman says there are no major changes to what’s happened in the past. The event is still very active and vibrant; it’s just growing and ultimately reinventing.

“We’ll see how well it went and how good we are at it,” he said. “Then we’ll make notes and see how we can improve. For now, we’re going to continue to make it cool. Then in the future years, we’re going to see if we can possibly make it cooler.”

He admits with the changes that seem to be developing quickly downtown, there could be additions that no one has even dreamed of yet. 

And as it does, he says, “It’s just another reason to invite people downtown.”

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