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Year in review: Top Fort Wayne lifestyle and entertainment stories

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What you said

Here's how you ranked the lifestyle/entertainment stories of the year in our online polls, from most to least important.

Happy the Hobo dies, 15

Elton John performs at the Coliseum, 7

Bob Dylan performs at Parkview Field, 3

"Batman Live" arena show comes to the Coliseum, 3

Jason Aldean is the fastest sellout in Memorial Coliseum history, 2

Tuesday, January 1, 2013 - 12:01 am

1. Restaurant/food trends

The year 2012 saw several food trends in the Fort Wayne area, most notably the proliferation of self-serve frozen yogurt shops.

With names like SpoonZ Fro Yo, Yum Yums, Yogoland and YoYo Yogurt on Your Own, it was hard to tell them apart. Then along came Orange Leaf and Menchie's.

But who cares, because they all have the same basic MO: You go in, choose your yogurt(s), pull the lever and put some in a cup. Then you move on to the toppings bar, a veritable smorgasbord of candy, fruit, cereal, syrup and nuts — just about anything you'd consider putting atop frozen yogurt (and a few things you wouldn't).

Then you take your cup to the checkout where it's weighed and you are charged by the ounce.

Not only do all these establishments operate the same way, they all look much the same, decorated in bright colors and sporting modern, hip furniture.

Another food trend this year was the appearance of food trucks in the area. They're nothing new in big cities and on the coasts, these rolling restaurants, or purveyors of specialized cuisine. But they were a new addition to the Fort Wayne food scene, starting with JumBy's JoiNt. Then along came Ragin' Cajun, Affine, the Getaway Grill and Whip n Chill.

2. Jason Aldean sold out his concert at Memorial Coliseum in record time

Yeah, that's right. Those who eschew country music probably were saying “who?” But good old Georgia boys Jason Aldean and Luke Bryan tore it up at Memorial Coliseum on May 12 when the “My Kinda Party” tour rolled into town. It was the fastest concert sellout in Memorial Coliseum's 61-year history.

Tickets went on sale March 9, and, in less than an hour, more than 11,000 seats were sold, thanks to more than 300 people showing up at the coliseum to buy them in person as well as thousands of phone and online transactions.

At the time, Rob Kelley of country radio station WQHK, K105-FM, speculated the new artists such as Aldean and Bryan appeal to the average guy. He said they're more down-to-earth than male country artists of the past, who were often decked out in cowboy hats and Western wear. The city saw some other big acts this year, including Elton John at the coliseum in April, Bob Dylan in August at Parkview Field, and the recent “Batman Live” arena show at the coliseum.

3. Fort Wayne TV icon 'Happy the Hobo' dies

Mike Fry, who portrayed the clown host of the popular “Happy's Place” local children's television show from 1982-1990 on WFFT, Channel 55, died Nov. 4 in Indianapolis after an illness.

A self-described high school class clown, Fry graduated from Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey's Clown College in 1981 and then spent the summer with the circus, he said in a 1990 interview with The News-Sentinel. He left “Happy's Place” in November 1990 to move to Chicago and try to join the city's famed Second City comedy troupe.

An avid inventor, in 1988 Fry and a partner launched the Fancy Fortune Cookies company, which originally offered cookies containing funny fortunes. The cookies also came in a variety of flavors.

The company, later run by Fry and his wife, Erin, now is located in Indianapolis and has expanded to offer fortune cookies in about 25 flavors.

4. A year for milestones

2012 was a year for several significant anniversaries locally:

St. Paul Lutheran Church, 1126 S. Barr St., culminated a year of 175th anniversary activities with a special anniversary worship service Oct. 14 at the church. Guest preacher the Rev. Matthew Harrison, president of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) denomination and former pastor of Zion Lutheran Church on Hanna Street.

Founded Oct. 14, 1837, St. Paul is the “mother” church for many other LCMS congregations in the area. These churches sprang up as the local population increased and spread out from the central city.

St. Paul's early pastors included the Rev. Friederich Wyneken and the Rev. Wilhelm Sihler, both of whom were active in formation of the LCMS. Sihler also founded Concordia Theological Seminary, now located at 6600 N. Clinton St.

Other notable milestones included Congregation B'nai Jacob, 100 years; Foster Park on the city's south side, 100 years; and First Assembly of God Christian Center, 75 years.

5. Dingo puppies born at the zoo

On Jan. 30, life “down under” was turned upside down in the Fort Wayne Children's Zoo's Australian Adventure area with the birth of seven impossibly cute and, soon, very frisky, dingo puppies.

The litter was the first dingo birth at the zoo since 1988. It also was important for efforts to conserve dingoes in the wild, where the breed is declining because of interbreeding with domestic dogs.

Parents Mattie and Naya, who arrived at the Fort Wayne zoo in January 2010, are one of about 75 pairs of pure-bred dingoes in the world.

The births also were noteworthy because three pups were ginger-colored, two were cream-colored and two were black and tan. Ninety percent of wild dingoes are ginger-colored, while 8 percent are black and tan and only 2 percent are cream-colored.

Among many other births at the zoo this past year, another stood out:

On May 31, the zoo's red pandas, female Xiao (pronounced JOW) and male Junjie, became the parents of two cubs, the first time a red panda cub had been born here since the zoo began exhibiting the animals in 1997. Unfortunately, one cub died quickly, and the second cub died two weeks after birth.

An endangered species, red pandas live in the wild in bamboo forests in the foothills of the Himalaya Mountains in China and Nepal.