Things to Do in Fort Wayne and Beyond

Soak up the sun at two-day Sol Fest

Steve Penhollow

Whatzup Features Writer

Published April 25, 2019

Heads Up! This article is 3 years old.


In 2017, Sol Fest was cancelled due to flooding on Fox Island.

The catastrophic emotional effect of this on devotees of the festival cannot be understated. Sol Fest exists partly to reassure residents that no further snow squalls lie in wait to ambush people who have been lulled into a false sense of security by a spate of 50-degree days.

Because the festival was cancelled in 2017, wary residents spent the ensuing summer expecting another snow squall, even on 90-degree days.

First outdoor festival of the year

This year’s Sol Fest will happen, weather permitting, on May 4 and 5. Sol is Spanish for sun, but here it is also an acronym meaning “Sunshine and Outdoor Living Festival.”

The event is designed to showcase Fox Island but also to raise money for Allen County Parks’ scholarship fund, which allows underprivileged children to partake of school field trips to, and summer day camps in, the parks for free.

It is the first outdoor music festival of the year in these parts and, for some, it is the best.

Many people prefer it to more urban music festivals because Sol Fest happens in a 605-acre park that has within it a 270-acre state nature preserve.

It is the Fort Wayne music festival that gets closest to nature. Of course, nature sometimes means floods.

Natalie G. Haley, environmental educator for Allen County Parks, said the increased danger of flooding at Fox Island is an unintended consequence of a man-made berm that was constructed at Eagle Marsh as a strategy for keeping Asian carp out of the Great Lakes.

“Unfortunately, we’re dealing with that,” she said. “They’re trying to figure out ways to build the road up that’s out here. But they also have to build up the exit routes.”

Those remedies won’t be in place this year, she said, so we can only hope for a Sol Fest that is largely presided over by El Sol.

Music, food, beer, and Birds

Sol Fest is ostensibly two days of alternating acoustic and electric music. There’s food (provided by two food trucks this year in lieu of the usual Lion’s Club participation) and adult beverages (provided by Mad Anthony Brewing Company).

Mad Anthony will set up a beer and wine garden. For some people, strolling through a forest and coming out into a glade where music is playing and people are serving booze is about the best thing they can imagine.

The Gregg Bender Band is one of Sol Fest’s perennial acts. Bender figures that this year’s appearance will be the band’s fifth.

”This is such a great event and it’s an honor to be able to play some music here,” he said. “We see so many happy faces ready to let the summer begin.”

Haley said the Foellinger Freimann Botanical Conservatory is providing decorative “flower and leaf structures.” These may have to be seen to be fully understood.

There will be a kids area with lots of nature-related activities and one not-so-natural activity (a bounce house).

Representatives of Soaring Hawk Raptor Rehab will wander around with predatory birds at the ready and representatives of All-Star Martial Arts will wander around with roundhouse kicks at the ready.

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