Air show, hometown tourist event highlight schedule

September 8th, 2016

By Justin Kenny | News - Sentinel 

The logistics seem daunting, but Fort Wayne downtown officials are confident that the area can handle the massive influx of people set to descend upon the city center this weekend.

The annual "Be a Tourist In Your Own Hometown" on Sunday, coupled with the Fort Wayne Air Show both Saturday and Sunday, will bring tens of thousands to the center of Fort Wayne. Close to 150 school buses from all four Allen County school corporations will be used to bus air show visitors from the security checkpoint at Headwaters Park East to the 122nd Fighter Wing base near Fort Wayne International Airport."

We have really worked with downtown attractions, churches, the parking committee and others to do all we can to make this work for everyone's benefit," said Kristen Guthrie, director of marketing with Visit Fort Wayne. "We are definitely hopeful it will be easy and a positive experience. It all depends on the crowds."

"Be a Tourist In Your Own Hometown" typically brings more than 20,000 people downtown on Sunday to tour area attractions. Fort Wayne Air Show organizers are hoping for 100,000 attendees at their event over the weekend.

Those heading to the air show are asked to park in one of 14 designated parking lots peppered throughout downtown. Cost will mostly range from $5-$10 for parking. People will head to Headwaters Park to go through security, then board buses to travel to the air show.

Both the bus ride and the air show are free.Buses will begin to run at 9:30 a.m. and will haul people to the air show until around 2:30 p.m. Attendees can begin to line up for the security screening at 9 a.m.

Return buses will be in operation until every person has left the event, which runs from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day.

There will surely be congestion in places in and around downtown at times due to the traffic, but the expectation is that it will be a minor inconvenience at worst.

"We have been working on this for almost a year now, and we feel we have come up with the right plans," said Air Show Director Maj. Matthew Robins. "It has been a long road with a lot of good work between all the folks downtown."

The 122nd Fighter Wing last held an air show in the fall of 2012. That year, attendees were allowed to park at and around the air base. Not so this year, for two reasons, says Robins.

"While traffic congestion around the base and airport is a concern, our primary reason (to bus people from downtown) is the security of the spectators and performers," Robins said. "With it being the 15th anniversary of 9/11 (on Sunday), we thought it better to screen people away from the mass crowds to help secure the event and everyone involved.

"According to Visit Fort Wayne, only the initial weekend of the Three Rivers Festival in July rivals the attendance anticipated downtown this Saturday and Sunday. The challenge of logistics and coordination will allow the various downtown entities to learn about what works and what doesn't as the area continues to grow.

"This type of (weekend) stretches us a little bit," Guthrie said. "But it is a positive outcome of having a stronger city and a growing city with more events.

"I think it will help us (learn), and we are only going to get busier."