Executive Director Jack Hammer says the board of directors for the Fort Wayne Newspapers Three Rivers Festival is a reinvigorated entity.
They used to be stuck in a rut, he says. We’re actually decorating inside the plaza this year. (The board) wants people to say, Wow, they really care about this. They care about how I am treated.’
Hammer isn’t always treated so well by self-anointed music experts after the entertainment lineup for 3RF is announced.
The roster for Vera Bradley Plaza includes three of the better tribute acts touring today.
Some residents no doubt wish Hammer had gone in a different direction.
I have had people say to me, Looks like a great lineup if you like tribute bands,’ he says. My job is not too make Fort Wayne hip by converting them to great new music. My job is to hit it straight up the middle every time.
My job is to bring in good, familiar music that brings back memories, Hammer says.
Some longtime residents even express nostalgia from time to time for the festival’s more rough and tumble days, he says.
Hammer doesn’t share that nostalgia.
If you want fights and arrests, go to a barroom, he says. The festival is about more than those shows’ or those rides.’
Appealing to the broadest possible audience and getting the most for its dollar are two of the festival’s primary concerns these days, Hammer says.
He says he is naturally wary of tribute acts, which might lead a person to conclude that the ones he did choose must be exemplary.
The Bruce Springsteen tribute band Bruce in the USA, performing Saturday, was the recipient of extra skepticism initially, Hammer says.
Then he watched a video of the band playing Thunder Road.
(Lead singer Matt Ryan) started to play the harmonica solo and the hair went up on my arms.
The Bruce in the USA performance is part of a salute to military veterans.
All veterans get in free to the show, Hammer says.
We have never done this before, he says. We have never had a night when all the vets get in free. We just want to say thank you’ to the troops.