FORT WAYNE – Hanning and Bean Enterprises Inc. will be the new title sponsor of the Three Rivers Festival, set for July 11 to 19, festival officials announced Thursday.
“The three-year, $300,000 commitment from Hanning and Bean will allow the festival to better showcase the vibrant community spirit to the nearly half-million visitors that visit the event every year,” festival Director Jack Hammer said.
The contribution from the Fort Wayne-based private-investing company is the largest financial gift the festival has received during its 45-year history, he said.
Hammer also announced the new theme of the Lutheran Health Network parade July 12 that will be “Reflecting on our rivers.”He also thanked Fort Wayne Newspapers, which has been the festival’s title sponsor since 2007.
Hammer was not the only one thrilled with the new partnership.
“We are very excited about our new partnership and proud to sponsor this very important family entertainment venue,” Bill Bean said.
Bean and his wife, Rhonda Hanning, are partners in Hanning and Bean Enterprises.
The company made a monetary gift to the festival last year, and Bean got his friend and local business leader, Bruce Dye, to help bring back the Three Rivers Raft Race.
Bean had been a fan of the raft race, which was discontinued in 1996.
The raft race began in 1970 and was once the second-largest spectator event in Indiana, drawing up to 40,000 spectators each year.
Bean said it will return again this year and, he hopes, every year thereafter.
Bean said he noticed the festival was struggling four or five years ago and kept an eye on it.
“Festival officials were looking at possibly merging with the Downtown Improvement District at that time,” Bean said. “At the end of the day, they struggled to get by and decided to bring in Jack (Hammer), and he has done a good job of stabilizing things.”
Last year, when it came to Bean’s attention that the festival had hit some financial barriers, he met with Hammer and asked, “What do you need to do this right?” Bean said.
As a result of the partnership, the entire event will be “stepped up,” Bean said, including the live entertainment and fireworks.
“I love fireworks,” he said.