Solfest ready to shine at downtown location
Following 4-year hiatus, will be at Parkview Field instead of Fox Island
The sun is shining a little brighter in Fort Wayne this year as Solfest makes its return to the festival calendar.
Held at Fox Island County Park in previous years, the last being in 2018, the 2022 edition will be Aug. 14 at Parkview Field from noon-10 p.m., offering music and fun for the whole family as well as an opportunity to give back.
Solfest was a Fort Wayne tradition several years before it was canceled in 2018 and 2019 due to inclement weather and the following two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Sarah Loshe, along with Josh Wiley, Kyle Haller, and Dave Pagan, have taken the reins and given it new life with a reemergence downtown.
Loshe came about the opportunity somewhat by accident when she held a very successful event this year at Flashback on the Landing that featured Grateful Groove and Phil Schurger.
Because those artists had been associated with Solfest, the question of the future of festival was discussed among attendees.
Loshe said she didn’t know what the plans were for the popular festival, deemed a Celebration of the Sun, but called Rock the Plaza organizer Haller, who recommended she call the parks department and inquire about it.
“They were going to let it go away,” she said in a recent Whatzup interview that also included Wiley. “So, I asked, ‘Would you let me run it?’ and they were like, ‘No.’ ”
But after some extended dialogue and careful consideration from the park board, Loshe’s persistence turned that “no” into a “yes.” She got the green light to make Solfest 2022 a reality.
“I took my kids there for five years, and it’s one of my favorite things that Fort Wayne has ever done,” she said. “That’s why I jumped in. It really is a treasure. Why wouldn’t you go? Who doesn’t love music and who doesn’t love shopping?”
Music is the focus of the day-long event, with U.R.B. headlining a fantastic lineup that includes Grateful Groove, T-Zank, Unlikely Alibi, Los Galaxy, The Wailhounds, Dead Man’s Dance, Phil Schurger, Andy Pauquette, Gracie Jo, Sunny Taylor, Jessie Mae, Esther Rose, and Shelly Dixon.
Most of those artists have played Solfest before, but you may notice a few new names in the lineup that Loshe said were handpicked by the veterans.
“We brought in the music community and asked them what they wanted,” she said. “Some of the new artists were referred to us by the old people. For example, U.R.B. gave us T-Zank’s name, and Grateful Groove gave us Jessie Mae and said she is totally amazing.”
Two stages positioned near the north and south entrances to Parkview Field will eliminate most of the downtime that festivals like this often have between acts. One stage will set up for an artist, while the other stage is being used, and vice-versa, making it a place where you can hang out the entire day and not miss any of the music.
“You can literally go from watching this one to turning around and watching that one,” Loshe said.
Plenty of space to come, and to go
The vendor market will be alive while the music plays, and it will be spread throughout the venue, with more than 80 vendors on hand selling local handmade items, much like the Fort Wayne Maker’s Market that Loshe hosts, but on a larger scale. Shoppers will be able to find a variety of items, including crafts, clothing, and food.
Because the entire concourse of the stadium will be in use, Solfest will have plenty of space for buskers inside and outside the park, as well as kids’ activities that include the rock-climbing wall, giant inflatables, face painting, and balloon art.
And don’t forget to bring your swimwear, because the splashpad will be open for everyone to enjoy as well. Fire dancers will perform throughout the day, offering a thrilling show for people of all ages.
“People keep calling me and asking if they can do this or do that, and I say, ‘Sure,’ because it’s a huge place, and we can accommodate just about everything,” she said.
With its new location, Solfest should be accessible to more people than when it took place at Fox Island. Parking is virtually unlimited, versus the 200-300 spaces available in the county park.
Several restaurants will be easily accessible for those who want more than what the concession stands have to offer, and attendees are welcome to come and go as they please since a wristband system will be in place.
“So, you can come for a few hours, go home, and then come back in the evening if you want,” Loshe said. “Our goal was to have it in a central location where people could walk or scooter to and have access to a lot of parking.”
Helping Fox Island
Fox Island hasn’t been forgotten. Loshe and Wiley want everyone to know that a portion of the ticket and merchandise proceeds will go toward helping revitalize the park after this summer’s near-catastrophic storm damage.
Several raffles will take place to help the cause, with money designated toward bringing the beloved landmark back to life. Of course, donations are always highly appreciated from those who wish to give a little more.
“The park needs our help, so even though we are having it downtown this year, the point is to raise money and bring the community together,” Loshe said. “It’s a beautiful save.”