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Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Kids get a close look Friday at Freddie the Fire Truck at the Children’s Festival at IPFW. The Fort Wayne Fire Department uses Freddie to deliver fire prevention and safety messages.
3RF Notebook

Youngsters enamored with talking fire truck

Freddie on hand at Children’s Festival

Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Dylan Bills, 3, closes his eyes just before his bubble bursts Friday at the Children’s Festival at IPFW. The Three Rivers Festival event continues today from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

He looks as though he escaped from the cartoon confines of a Pixar film.

His name, Freddie, is embossed on a rear license plate.

He has been known to ask kids to read the plate and then chide them for staring at his backside.

Freddie is a small fire truck that, through a form of magic that shall not be revealed here, is somehow able to roll around the Children’s Festival and carry on conversations with children.

The Children’s Festival, part of the Fort Wayne Newspapers Three Rivers Festival, continues today on the campus of IPFW.

Freddie is a funny vehicle.

He has a way of gently teasing kids that keeps them and their parents coming back for more

“I like the heart on your shirt,” he said to a girl on Friday. “Most people have their hearts on the inside. … What’s wrong with you?”

Wherever Freddie is, Carlos Gomez of the Fort Wayne Fire Department is never too far away. Gomez is a public education specialist whose job it is to deliver fire prevention and safety messages to various audiences.

Gomez said there is a simple reason why he sometimes relies on the specialized talents of Freddie.

“Because kids would much rather talk to a fire truck than talk to me,” he says.

Little Paige Thuss of Huntertown didn’t seem much inclined to talk to Freddie on Friday.

In fact, she ran from him the first few times he rolled near her.

“She was screaming at me earlier,” Freddie told some other kids about Paige. “She is scared of me, I think.”

“No, I wasn’t,” Paige informed Freddie while hiding behind her mom, Meghan.

Eventually Paige decided that there was something she needed to ask Freddie, but she couldn’t make her way through the crush of kids to ask him.

“I think he’s a robot,” she said. “He says funny questions.”

Save some room for mazurek

International Village is directly across South Clinton Street from Junk Food Alley, but these two components of the Fort Wayne Newspapers Three Rivers Festival aren’t squaring off.

Even if it seems that way sometimes.

International Village, which continues today in Headwaters Park West, celebrates 10 cultures and cuisines, none of which involve deep-fried Oreo cookies.

The problem, if it can be characterized as such, has to do with the order in which people tend to do things at the festival, according to Jean Podzielinski, who works the Polish booth.

Podzielinski said attendees who don’t know of the existence of International Village often eat their fill at Junk Food Alley and then have no more space in their stomachs for the more exotic fare they happen upon across the street.

This is a shame on many levels.

One of those levels is Podzielinski’s mazurek – a homemade pastry with jam on top of it.

More levels abound at International Village.

Carnivores at the festival might like to have prior knowledge of the existence at the Filipino booth of lumpia, which Connie Acierto said are similar to Chinese egg rolls but with a higher ratio of meat to vegetables.

Carb loaders, however, might prefer pansit, a Filipino dish that resembles Pad Thai.

“People say it looks like sauerkraut,” Anita Thorp said referring to the dish’s exceptionally thin rice noodles.

For dessert there’s biko, a Filipino sticky rice concoction with caramelized coconut milk, or melewa, an Ethiopian pastry.

The Ethiopian booth has tibs, a beef and potato mixture that is eaten using a spongy flatbread called injera, and a booth staffed by people who share roots in central Africa offers small, round, only slightly sweet doughnuts that are known by many names, the most common of those being mandazi, according to Sam Mikobi.

“Most gatherings serve that type of dessert,” he said.