FORT WAYNE – With patches of snow still lingering along the St. Marys River from the seven inches that fell last week, it was nice to see something green.
Even if it was artificial.
The crowd at the 2014 Fort Wayne Professional Firefighters Get Green Fest, bedecked in foam green hats, glasses, boas and beer can necklaces, pressed close to the railing on the old Wells Street Bridge for the annual river greening, even though a brisk wind spritzed some of the eco-friendly green dye back into their faces.
The chilly breeze didn’t seem to cool off anyone’s intention to enjoy one of the few sunny days we’ve had lately at the family-friendly St. Patrick’s Day festival.
I think it’s a beautiful day, and people are stirring to get out of the house. I think we’re good to go, said Jeremy Bush, president of Fort Wayne Professional Firefighters Local Union 124. It’s just a good time for us to get together with the public and let them know what we’re all about and educate them. It’s just great to have the turn out that we have.
Amanda Funk, more than happy to let her sons Jake, 5, Trigger, 4, and Trace, 3, bounce off the walls in the inflatable moonwalk, said this was her family’s first year coming to the festival.
They are tired of being inside, she said. It’s nice because it gives them something to do and meet new people.
Celebrating its third year nestled in the Well Street corridor just north of downtown, the festival continues to bring out thousands every year since its inaugural event in 2000. The day kicked off with a 5-Kilt Run/Walk, followed by the river greening. The rest of the day included a strongman competition, gold coin hunt and Lucky Charms cereal-eating competition along with live music and food and drink vendors.
There’s a tradition that goes on with this Well Street corridor, Bush said. It’s one of the most historic parts of Fort Wayne that a lot of people I think don’t frequent as much anymore. So we try to partner with the local businesses and be apart of the community.
Proceeds from the festival go toward charities supported by the firefighters union. The charities include Fort Wayne Ribbon Chicks, which support women in various stages of recovery from breast cancer; burn survivors and the Fort Wayne Fire Department and Fort Wayne Police Department’s Fallen Hero Fund.
We try to cater to everybody, but the main idea is that this is all for charity, Bush said. You want families to come out and be a part of that.
A chill in the air didn’t stop Sandy, a 6-year-old golden Labrador retriever, from wearing her traditional Irish step dance dress. Her owner, Judy Bireley, who attends the festival yearly, proudly proclaimed she made Sandy’s dress without a pattern.
I’m Scots-Irish, so I have the lovely Irish in me, Bireley said, her frothy green beer earrings dangling in the sunlight. I think it brings out the Irish heritage in Fort Wayne. There’s a lot of Scots-Irish in Fort Wayne, but we don’t necessarily hear about it, so I think it makes it a good family event.
Bireley and Sandy took a few pictures with a troupe of bagpipers before a circle of children and parents ran up to pet Sandy.
I just love being down here, Bireley said. I like seeing all my firefighter friends, and of course you got to have a green beer.