Things to Do in Fort Wayne and Beyond

After delays, it’s the most wonderful time of year again


Steve Penhollow

Whatzup Features Writer

Published November 10, 2021

Last year at this time, COVID-19 behaved like Scrooge before the ghosts had visited him.

This year, COVID-19 is what Scrooge would have been like if he’d still been a little grumpy even after the ghosts had visited him.

No matter.

Holiday events are back in Fort Wayne.

Chestnuts will once again be roasting on an open fire.

Jack Frost will once again be nipping at your nose.

Nurses with overlong Q-tips may also be nipping at your nose, but you’re tough. You can take it.

Night of Lights

The holiday season in Fort Wayne kicks off with Night of Lights. At least, I think it is still called Night of Lights. Whenever I write about Night of Lights, I always worry that the Downtown Improvement District had changed the name on me. Todd Pelfrey, executive director of the History Center, said he wasn’t sure either, so I am in illustrious company.

The event perhaps formerly known as Night of Lights always happens the night before Thanksgiving and involves the sequential lighting of several downtown displays, previews of all the downtown holiday events, and fireworks at Parkview Field.

Whatzup writer Dean Jackson will go into greater depth about Night of Lights in next week’s issue.

Kris Kringle Village

A new feature at Night of Lights will be Kris Kringle Village, a German-style Christmas market which will be set up outside the Auer Center. The village is being prepared and presented by the Fort Wayne Ballet. German-style Christmas markets consist of small wooden chalets or huts from which items related to the season are sold.

“All of the chalets were built by the Anthis Center during their fall trades classes as this year’s framing project,” said the ballet’s chief development officer, Clarissa D. Reiss.

Items that are usually available at German-style Christmas markets are mulled wine, gingerbread (lebkuchen), and a Christmas bread called Stollen.

I asked the Ballet by email if it would be offering these items, but I didn’t hear back.

If you discover during Night of Lights that they aren’t offering these items, you could always walk around Kris Kringle Village yelling, “You have stolen my Stollen!” Just don’t tell them where you got the idea.

Festival of Trees

Festival of Trees will once again fill the Embassy Theatre in all its needly glory.

Carly Myers, the Embassy’s chief marketing officer, said the venue received more requests from local businesses and organizations to provide decorated trees for the event than it has ever gotten.

Festival of Trees will be a festival of 71 trees this year.

Of course, the significance of this event cannot be measured in the number of trees.

It can only be measured in the amount of happiness it brings to visitors, although I suppose a measurement of pine allergens would also lead to an impressive figure.

Embassy Events

Other holiday-related events at the Embassy this year include a production of the Nutcracker presented by Project Ballet, a ballet school on the north side of the city.

A Motown Christmas, coming Dec. 7, features The Temptations, The Miracles, and The Contours performing their hits and seasonal perennials (songs not plants).

And Straight No Chaser, the vocal group that started at Indiana University in the late 1990s and subsequently conquered the world, will make one of its annual triumphant returns on Dec. 16.

HOliday Pops

Another event that will make a triumphant return to the Embassy is the Fort Wayne Philharmonic’s Holiday Pops series.

The Holiday Pops concerts are usually captained by an associate or assistant conductor.

But this time around, the orchestra’s dashing musical director Andrew Constantine will be the maestro for all the shows, according to Emily Shannon, director of marketing and public relations for the Fort Wayne Philharmonic.

The Holiday Pops concerts always feature a special mixture of hymns, carols, and classical pieces that is not known as Hylassol, despite my attempts to coin the term.

People keep telling me it sounds more like a cleaning product than a musical genre.

Despite the comfort food nature of the shows, the Philharmonic never passes up an opportunity to raise the musical bar.

The Embassy, however, will be keeping its bar on the same level. The bartenders don’t like climbing stairs.

“At least you don’t have to climb gingerbread stairs,” said the executive director of the Bad Segue Institute.

Festival of Gingerbread

The Festival of Gingerbread — a celebration of gingerbread houses, some of which have stairs — returns to the History Center with one of its pandemic features intact.

A video tour will be available for people who still don’t feel comfortable attending the event in person.

Tickets for the onsite festival will be timed so the crowd never becomes overwhelming, Pelfrey said.

You might be tempted to nibble a house. Why don’t you stay home and nibble your own house instead? See where that gets you with your neighborhood association.

As it was last year, the event will be extended an extra week to create more opportunities for potential visitors, not to mention for people in 12-step nibbling programs.

More at the History Center

There will be two temporary exhibits at the History Center during the holiday season, Pelfrey said.

The History Center has been highlighting a different underrepresented socioeconomic group every month. In December, it will explore the city’s Alsatian heritage.

Thanks to people of Alsatian decent, Fort Wayne was once the headquarters of the country’s tinsel industry, Pelfrey said.

Fort Wayne’s tinsel barons warred with each other, as will be thoroughly detailed in my forthcoming book, Citizen Tin.

The History Center will also have an exhibit on the city’s vaccination history, he said.

Presumably, a lot of people are feverishly getting ready for Christmas at the moment, although fewer of them have actual fevers than they did a year ago.

Le Chic Market

With supply chains clogged up, you might be interested in paying a visit to Memorial Coliseum’s Le Chic Market on Dec. 3 and 4.

Fine clothing, decor, body products, edibles, and woodworking pieces will be available for sale.

“We have vendors from five states,” said Le Chic spokesperson Karen Brandt. “We have a very selective jury process and only allow a certain number of vendors in each category. We will have a wide variety of products available for the market attendees.”

Alpine Holiday

Finally, the Foellinger Freimann Botanical Conservatory will be offering Alpine Holiday this year.

How does one offer an Alpine Holiday in Fort Wayne, which has all the natural topography of a Bolivian salt flat?

Trees and painted backdrops, said Amanda M. Amstutz, a supervisor for the Fort Wayne Parks Department.

“There will be some real mountain scenery going on that we’re able to create as realistically as possible,” she said. “People will actual feel like they’re up in the mountains or below the mountains.”

An ersatz ski lodge will be set up in the courtyard, she said.

The hills will be alive with the sound of parents trying to get their kids to sit still for photos.

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