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Photos by Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Scott and Mary Jackson and their granddaughter, Brooke, 10, view downtown from the Lincoln Tower.

Playing tourist around city

Residents get insiders’ look at local attractions

Scott Welch shows his son Oliver, 2, the highlights of the Allen County Courthouse rotunda as part of the “Be a Tourist in Your Own Hometown” event.

It wasn’t a typical Sunday afternoon in downtown Fort Wayne.

Thousands of people stood in line to tour the Lincoln Tower, the Allen County Courthouse, Science Central, Parkview Field and nine other local attractions at the annual “Be a Tourist in Your Own Hometown” event.

Hosted by the Fort Wayne Convention and Visitors Bureau, local residents were treated to a day of free admissions and tours of local sites that attract thousands of out-of-the-area visitors every year, bringing the city and county about $450 million in revenue.

The line to get into Lincoln Tower and travel to the top of the building was almost a block long. With almost two hours to go until the tours ended, officials had clocked the number of visitors to the tower at 1,867.

Across the street at the courthouse, Martha Villarreal and her 11-year-old twin boys, Brian and Francisco, were being tourists with her brother, sister-in-law and their three daughters.

It was their first time being tourists in their own hometown and the twins liked it. They were anxious to travel to the top of the Lincoln Tower.

“It looks like fun and it’s been fun so far,” said Brian Villarreal.

It’s the second year Liisa Wiljer and her daughters, Carina, 9, and Anna Maria, 12, have decided to see what their city is all about.

“This offers a unique opportunity to view places that are sometimes not open to the public,” Wiljer said.

They had already visited the historic fort and spent a long time there “because we enjoyed it so much,” Wiljer said.

The family was looking forward to visiting the African/African-American Museum next, she said.

Other sites along the tour included Artlink, Embassy Theatre, Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, Historic Fort Wayne, History Center and the Fort Wayne Visitors Center.

Betsy and Chad Springers were participating in the tours for the first time with their sons, Max, 8, and Grant, 12.

A seventh-grade social studies teacher at Blackhawk Middle School was responsible for the family’s attendance.

“My teacher gave us a paper about it and urged us to attend the African/African-American Museum especially,” Grant Springer said.

Chelsea Niemeyer, 20, was a return tourist from last year, but this time brought family and a friend.

Her favorite site last year was the History Center, she said.

“I came because I’m interested in what’s available in my city,” said Tierra Reynolds, 18, a student at Wayne High School, who came with Niemeyer.

Also accompanying Niemeyer were Teri Armstrong, 16, a student at South Side High School and Mary Muthusamy, 11, who attends Shawnee Middle School.

The girls had just left the top floor of the Lincoln Tower and Muthusamy was excited.

“This is definitely fun, and I would recommend it to others,” she said. “I looked down and could see all over my city.”