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Photo illustration by Christy Keller | The Journal

A city at play

Photo courtesy Joshua Ihrie
Ben “Fresh Ben” Perry will perform at House 4 a House on the 800 block of Calhoun Street.
Courtesy photo
Michael Meyer is one of the DJs that will perform at House 4 a House, which starts at 6 tonight.

Most local fair aficionados (known as “afaircionados” to absolutely no one) must reserve special enthusiasm for the Fort Wayne Newspapers Three Rivers Festival.

The 44th annual Fort Wayne Newspapers Three Rivers Festival opens today, and the parade, which is presented by Lutheran Health Network, starts at 10 a.m. Saturday.

Old favorites such as the bed race and the waiter-waitress contest will return this year, as will a number of younger offerings that aspire to become old favorites, such as RiverGames.

Here’s a closer look at five of this year’s 3RF happenings – some of them new, some of them improved.

Junk Food Alley

Human beings as a species have reached their peak in at least one inarguable way.

Never have we been so adept at eating food that has been placed on the ends of sticks and at devising new foods to place on the ends of sticks.

Primitive man did not possess this unique skill, despite trying repeatedly to acquire it.

Every time he speared his dinner, he came to the same discouraging realization: Mastodon-on-a-stick is too heavy to carry around.

Modern people who love to try new foods on sticks and walk around while eating them might be disappointed by the following news: Early reports that alligator- and shark-on-a-stick would be coming to this year’s Junk Food Alley were unintentionally erroneous.

Festival Executive Director Jack Hammer says the vendor that had agreed to provide those impaled delicacies this year pulled out at the last minute.

There’s still so much mouth-watering food at Junk Food Alley, you’ll swear it was made in Pavlov’s Fryolator.

New for 2012, says Hammer, is German chocolate funnel cake.

Despite what its name might suggest about its origin, German chocolate cake was actually invented by an American named Sam German.

Funnel cake was not, as far as I know, invented by a German named Sam Funnel.

But many devoted eaters, when confronted with German chocolate funnel cake, have been known to exclaim, “What in the Sam Hill is that?”

“If you ate it,” Hammer says, teasingly, “you could see it under your shirt wherever it lands.”

As for food-on-a-stick fanatics, they know they can always depend on Sati Babi, the Terre Haute-based purveyor of Filipino street food that is a beloved perennial at 3RF.

Some fitness gurus might like to ban Junk Food Alley, but there’s no reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater (or the corn dog out with the fry oil).

I think a person should be able to enjoy Junk Food Alley guilt-free, as long as it is a once-a-year indulgence or if your doctor has placed you on a strict Fair Food Diet.

International Village

At International Village, you can feel free to “Laissez les bons temps rouler!,” a French phrase meaning “Enjoy Headwaters West as if Headwaters East didn’t even exist!”

Actually, I think it might mean something else.

International Village, a celebration of the cuisines and cultures of 10 non-domestic locales, is a perfect option for people who can’t bring themselves to get excited about sandwiches where someone has substituted glazed pastries for the bread.

“If Junk Food Alley is not your thing,” Hammer says, “go over to International Village. You’ll find everything from Pierogi to Bulgogi.”

International Village happens from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. July 20 and 21 in Headwaters West.

House 4 a House

House 4 a House, which happens tonight in the 800 block of Calhoun Street, is the first 3RF-affiliated event for the local youth volunteer organization called A Better Fort, co-founder Shane Araujo says.

Araujo says some of the young business owners down on South Calhoun have started to refer to the street as “SoCal,” a clever allusion to the lower half of the Golden State.

Having never been to California, I think I can say with confidence that our SoCal is the better of the two.

The only thing people out there can do that we can’t is use their lunch break to go surfing.

Of course, they can’t use their lunch break to address an emergency shortage in their household of TinCaps koozies.

So it all evens out.

House 4 a House, a block party and fundraiser, recognizes and celebrates the burgeoning house music scene in Fort Wayne, Araujo says, with proceeds going to Mad Anthony’s Children’s Hope House.

“House music is on the rise in Fort Wayne,” he says. “It has a strong following and talented artists associated with it. We wanted to showcase those talents and we wanted to throw a fundraiser for Anthony’s Children’s Hope House. So those two goals fit together nicely.”

Araujo says 3RF hasn’t traditionally offered a lot for people in the 16-to-26 age group to do beyond “hanging out in the food court and getting into trouble.”

House 4 a House – a free, all-ages event – is an attempt to address that, he says.

Food and drink at House 4 a House will be provided by 816 Pint and Slice, J.K. O’Donnell’s and Brava Dogs, Araujo says.

It starts at 6 p.m. today.

Famous in the Fort Talent Contest

Long before there was American Idol, there was “The Gong Show.”

“The Gong Show” was, in part, a spoof of talent shows.

Contestants mostly seemed to be divided into two groups: performers who didn’t know how awful they were and performers who were pretending to be worse than they were.

Anyone who didn’t pass muster with the judges was gonged off the stage.

The 3RF event, the Famous in the Fort Talent Contest, seems at least 98 percent more earnest than “The Gong Show.”

But at least one characteristic of that ’70s TV classic will be resurrected in proxy form.

“We will ‘gong’ you offstage,” says the event’s organizer, Mark Lahey. “But instead of using a gong, we will be using air horns. We’ll be honking people offstage.”

The Famous in the Fort Talent Contest, which is open to amateurs only, starts at 6 p.m. Monday in the Vera Bradley Festival Plaza. Contestants can start signing up at 4 p.m., Lahey says.

Lahey says each performer will get 30 seconds to prove him- or herself.

Ten finalists will then be granted longer stints onstage.

“We are stressing that this is an amateur talent show with all due respect to professionals,” Lahey says. “What it means to be a professional is open to interpretation, but if you are playing in the bars with a band on the weekends, you are probably not an amateur.”

Singers are welcome, of course, but Lahey says he’d like to see people with less ubiquitous talents.

“If you have something that people ask you to do at parties, it may win you some money,” he says.

Prizes of $1,000, $300 and $200 will be awarded, Lahey says.

New Heights Zip Line Tower

People who were sad to learn the zip line would not be returning to IPFW’s RiverFest this year might get their fix from this portable version in Headwaters East.

It probably won’t give you the sensation that a vast expanse is yawning before you, but neither will you need to kiss the ground theatrically when you’re finished, unless you’re just trying to be funny.