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Laura J. Gardner | The Journal Gazette
The Fort Wayne Newspapers Three Rivers Festival River Games will return for a second year on the festival’s last day, July 21.

3RF combines old and new

Record heat, drought conditions, tree-destroying winds, hours and days without power – northeast Indiana is ready to cut loose.

Fortunately, the year’s biggest party starts today.

Though many residents recognize the Saturday morning parade as the traditional start, the Fort Wayne Newspapers Three Rivers Festival begins today with several key attractions opening – including the Downtown Midway, the Festival Plaza and Junk Food Alley. Two years after a leadership upheaval sparked positive changes, the 44th annual festival features many of the old – and some relatively new – events that make the city’s big bash worthwhile.

In addition to Saturday morning’s parade, longtime popular events include the Waiter-Waitress competition (Monday), the Bed Race (Wednesday) Picture Your Pet (Sunday and Monday at Lakeside Park), the Chalk Walk (Saturday and Sunday) and the Children’s Fest at IPFW (July 20-21).

Several newer events are also returning. The popular Cornhole tournament returns for a fourth year Saturday and Sunday. Bike Nite is back for the third year next Friday. Though the raft race was dropped years ago due to liability costs and concerns, the River Games return for the second year on the festival’s last day, July 21, which will be capped by the annual fireworks display. The festival has numerous other events, plus music, food, crafts, art – and the thousands of people who congregate downtown and in other festival locations.

The festival’s leadership has made great strides in making the annual event more family friendly and accommodating to all ages.

Enjoy the party!