Since its inaugural year in 2009, South Side Fest was considered a success for the modest Dreams to Life organization.
The vision for the event was to be more than that, though, coordinator James Scott said.
South Side Fest returns this weekend with a new cast of sponsors and a state-of-the-art facility for a venue after taking a year off to recoup.
Parkview Health, Ivy Tech Community College, Fort Wayne Rescue Mission and local nonprofit organization Health E Way will align this weekend to bring a variety of resources to the south-side community, and Scott believes this year will set the event in the right direction.
The festival begins today with a five-on-five basketball tournament at Youth for Christ’s Primetime Community Center.
On Saturday, the festival moves to the Public Safety Academy, Ivy Tech’s south campus, for the basketball tournament finals, a car and motorcycle show, vendors and concessions, and a dance competition. Other performers on the auditorium stage include Chris Worth & Company, Fatima Washington and the Todd Harrold Band.
It’s weird because you start something and you watch it grow, then it gets to a plateau where you know it has potential, Scott says. We’re at that point right now. You’re seeing major key players in the community take notice of this event.
Some still seem skeptical, and I understand for any business to take their name and attach it to something, they want to be careful, but I think that after this year, it’s just going to continue to grow.
From 2009 to 2012, the festival was held at Rudisill Plaza, and although Scott says the event grew annually, the committee felt it necessary to begin building strategic relationships that would bring more resources to the south-side community.
Scott says the committee decided to cancel the festival for 2013 to acquire a team of strong sponsors.
You take the Rescue Mission and its resources and what it does for the community, and you take Ivy Tech’s educational resources and you take Health E Way and Parkview, which are all about building a healthy community, and you see that these relationships allowed us to bring substance to this event, Scott says.
The Rev. Donovan Coley, CEO and senior pastor of the Fort Wayne Rescue Mission, says this year’s festival theme is Real Change, Not Spare Change, which commemorates the launch of the Mission’s campaign to implement real changes in how the community views issues such as poverty and panhandling.
Coley says the two-year campaign will be a call to action like we have never seen before in the last five or six years.
We’re basically using the imagery that people are used to, and that’s a picture of a panhandler.
Individuals, generally speaking, will throw a dollar or two to that individual, but what we’re saying is that there are better solutions in our community that would help that particular individual re-establish a sense of well-being and community, he says.
We’re also saying that in our community it takes a village. It takes an entire community to come up with a plan or solution that would truly give these individuals not a hand out, but a hand up. Often the challenges that people face in our community may literally occur at childbirth.
Richard Cummins, chief development officer and vice president of the Rescue Mission Foundation, says nearly 40 social-services agencies and other community organizations will provide resources at the festival.
The folks that we serve have come to the end of their line. They have used up all of their resources. They have nothing left, he says. When we look at the cycle of poverty, there are tie-ins with all of these social-service agencies from the beginning of birth through education and workforce development. There are different ways to educate ourselves along the cycle of life that individuals don’t have to end up at the Rescue Mission.
Scott says the time for real change is more important than ever. During the absence of the festival last year, he witnessed the south-side community bear the brunt of one of the most violent years in Fort Wayne homicides since 1997.
With the vision coming into formation, Scott says he hopes by next year, the festival will be focusing on the successes of the entire community working together.
I grew up on this side of town, so I have watched it transform from being a decent environment to chaos, at times, he says. The substance that we’re trying to bring into this community is drastically needed, and it needs organizations like the ones we have this year to grab a hold of it and help it grow.
I see South Side Fest being a platform, where we celebrate the success of our community as a whole, not just the south side.