Numbers from this year's Fort Wayne Newspapers Three Rivers Festival have begun to trickle in, and interim Executive Director Jack Hammer said they reflect a success, and a new foundation.
Fort Wayne Police estimated some 80,000 people watched the Saturday fireworks display, easily the biggest draw of the July 9-17 festival. The parade to open the event welcomed more than 50,000 watchers, and the festival's event tent took in some 25,000 patrons to the calendar of concerts and acts.
Early reports from the rides section of the festival say it served 50,000 festival-goers, and Food Alley unofficially fed “thousands,” Hammer said, unable to provide exact figures at this point. In 2008, the festival drew 400,000 people.
Financial figures for the festival were also unavailable, as festival staff continue to count dollars, Hammer said.
Hammer, though, has a theory on success. “If you could measure an event by smiles, waves, thank you's, people telling me how much they love the Three Rivers Festival and how worried they were when it might not be here, then I would say this event was a total success,” said Hammer. “I think it proved to the board, our detractors, that the Three Rivers Festival is a living, breathing festival that the city of Fort Wayne wants to see continue.”
Hammer, whose “interim” title is up Aug. 3, said he feels he's shown through his enthusiasm, talents and drive that he's more-than qualified to retain the position on a full-time basis – a job he took after the executive director was fired – should the board so approve. If it's any indication, he's already planning on next year's festival. Hammer said goals for next year include securing additional sponsorships and signing up more volunteers.