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Photos by Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
IPFW Chancellor Michael Wartell, left, Deputy Mayor Mark Becker and county Commissioner Nelson Peters hang on as they tube the river at the annual IPFW RiverFest on Saturday.

Folks flip for RiverFest

IPFW throws beach party on banks of St. Joseph River

Daviona Anderson, 6, tries the hula hoop Saturday at RiverFest at IPFW.
Kyle George dives for a dig in beach volleyball, a new event this year.
Photos by Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Wake boarder Justin Waterson does a flip on the St. Joseph River at Saturday’s IPFW RiverFest.
Young pop singer Carmen V was one of the many musical acts at IPFW RiverFest.

– On Saturday, the third annual IPFW RiverFest was the scene of a beach party.

It was achieved partly by trucking in more than 40 tons of sand and partly through the participation of volleyball players with the physiques and attire of Olympic athletes.

“I was like, ‘Where are these people coming from?’ ” RiverFest’s project manager Sarah Payne said while gazing at the exceptionally fit-looking volleyballers. “Hooray, Fort Wayne!”

RiverFest was launched in 2010 as a way of changing people’s perceptions about Fort Wayne’s waterways, Payne said.

The festival attracted roughly 20,000 visitors last year, she said.

The sand volleyball tournament was just one of many offerings at the beach party, and the beach party was just one of many offerings at this year’s RiverFest.

Snider High School student Heidi Schneemann, 15, was just one of the many kids who braved the giant waterborne “hamster balls.”

Standard hamster balls allow rodents to roll themselves across floors.

These human-sized spheres were designed to let youngsters roll across, and be tossed about in, wading pools.

Each sphere starts out looking like a freezer bag large enough to store a day’s worth of chowder for a chowder festival.

Then it’s inflated by a gas-powered blower with the kid inside it.

More often than not, the kid plugs his ears.

After her ride, Schneemann reported that it had been stuffy in there.

“But it was pretty fun,” she says.

Schneemann said she did not experience the feeling of walking on water because RiverFest volunteers who were apparently charged with the task of amping up the excitement of the ride were making verticality difficult.

Thanks to the efforts of the volunteers, many of the spheres’ passengers must have developed unexpected sympathy for socks in washing machines.

“I was on my butt the whole time,” she says. “They kept it spinning the whole time. It was impossible to stand.”

At the Euro Bungy, a ride that combines bungee jumping with trampolining, some kids were content just to jump and some kids attempted more amazing feats.

During what turned out to be his fourth go-round on the Euro Bungy, Bailey Paul Kleinhans, 12, did front and back somersaults.

Kleinhans said he did these things without fear, although he was a little wary of the aftermath.

“When I do it too much, I get a little bit of a headache,” he said.

That did not prevent him from going on his fifth ride about 90 minutes later.

And being a toddler did not stop Peyton Brooks, 2, from enjoying the Euro Bungy.

“She loves to jump,” said her mom, Kelli Brooks. “She’s quite a daredevil. She likes to have any kind of rush.”

Beneath and near the Vendrely Bridge, the pace was a bit slower on Saturday morning.

People were enjoying the St. Joseph River in every conceivable kind of craft, including kayaks, canoes and pontoon boats provided by IPFW and the festival’s sponsors.

One group of young men had set up a campsite complete with a tent on a floating dock.

Tom Johnson, who piloted a pontoon boat on pleasure cruises, said a friend volunteered him for the task.

At the start of one trip down the river, Johnson told his passengers, “Contrary to popular belief, the captain does not go down with the ship.”

Later, Johnson – a Lake James resident – admitted that he didn’t know the name of the river he was floating on.

“I do have a piece of paper that tells me where all the food vendors are,” he said.

Passenger Mary Lord seemed more amused than alarmed by Johnson’s jokes.

She said she was here from Nappanee to visit her sister, Erma Aker.

Asked what bodies of water or rivers she has access to in Nappanee, Lord said, “A swimming pool.”

“That’s the biggest body of water we have,” she said, laughing.