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If you go
What: BuskerFest
When: 4 to 11 p.m. Saturday
Where: One Summit Square
Admission: Free; go to for more information
Photos by Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
Andrea Rapp practices her living-statue skills at One Summit Square in anticipation of BuskerFest. She will portray a porcelain doll dressed as Marie Antoinette.

Local talent focus of BuskerFest

5th annual event to feature more homegrown acts

Rapp took free living-statue workshops hosted by professional Mark Abbati last year.

Chances are Andrea Rapp will notice you before you notice her Saturday – but that’s the whole point.

Rapp will make her debut as a living statue at the fifth annual BuskerFest, a popular draw for downtown guests looking for a variety of street performances.

This year’s schedule includes the pogo stick acrobatics of multiple Guinness World Record holder PogoFred, the Cincinnati Circus magic show and professional living statue Mark Abbati.

Remembering Abbati’s “awe-inspiring” performance during the first BuskerFest, Rapp took advantage of the Downtown Improvement District’s free living-statue workshops hosted by Abbati last year.

Instead of a traditional statue, Rapp will be a porcelain doll, dressed as Marie Antoinette.

“I’m brand-new to this, and it’s because I’ve seen other people performing, and I love seeing other people giving back to the community,” she says. “I think it’s important for people to try new things and know that Fort Wayne is a very forgiving place to try them.”

Frank Howard, director of marketing for the Downtown Improvement District, says since the city reversed its ordinance on solicitation in 2010, local buskers have come into their own as entertainers. He says that this year the group wanted to turn more of the spotlight on the talent in the city.

“We’re creating more of a vibe this year. With the marketing and other pieces, we have been really trying to capture the excitement of this event, because everybody that attends just loves it,” he says. “We’re looking at big changes for next year, but this year we really wanted to perfect the local model.”

The festival’s main stage at One Summit Square includes local acts such as Hope Arthur Orchestra, Shade Jonze and Raq the Rivers belly dance troupe. River City Breakers will have a B-Boy break dance battle, and Pyroscope will be the only fire dancers for the first time.

There will also be several unplanned performances, including street drummers, chalk artists and jugglers.

“If you look at the schedule, 80 percent of the stage performances are all local acts, which we are really proud of,” Howard says. “Pyroscope has joined for the past couple years, but in previous years, we have had Pryotechniq from Chicago join us.

“This year, we really made a concerted effort to say that we have our own organically grown group here in Fort Wayne who has taken cues from what they have seen and have developed something that’s their own.”

Howard says this year’s blend of regional performers supplement other performance areas.

“What we find ourselves doing is trying to fill gaps,” Howard says. “Mark (Abbati) is the height of professionalism when it comes to living statues, and we will probably have three, maybe four living statues joining us. But the reason we keep bringing Mark back is because he is a strong partner in working with our local cast of performers and he’s a crowd pleaser.

“We have a lot of locals who are doing well in their first, second, maybe even third year of the performance art or music, and it’s good for them to work collaboratively with these individuals who have been at it for their entire lives. They really pick up a lot of great cues in terms of making their own act more successful.”

To prepare for her first live-statue performance, Rapp says it requires an equal amount of physical and mental practice to stand for hours.

“A lot of it is in being in the mirror, looking ridiculous and trying not too hard to laugh at yourself in the process,” she says, laughing. “I’ve been working out a little bit in preparation for this because of the stances you have to hold. You need a lot of abs and thigh control.”

Rapp admits that her favorite part is the costume, which includes a delicate lace mask and vintage folding fan to help conceal the occasional itchy nose. She says she’s nervous, yet excited to put her practice to the test.

“I got a few more tweaks, but I’m really confident with my costume so that helps me a lot. I know I look good so if I happen to stumble, maybe 20 people may see it and then, hopefully, we can move on and relax.”