Fort Wayne Pride Fest back for its 18th year

Pride has been celebrated in Fort Wayne for decades, but the festival we know today was born in 1997. Since then, Pride Fest has grown in size and popularity. This year, there is even more to enjoy with a week of events! Pride Fest will host events from July 23 – July 28.

Stop by Snickerz Comedy Club on Wednesday night, July 23,  for Pride night. Headliner Kristen Key is sure to keep the audience in stitches. Best known for being a fan favorite on season four of NBC’s “Last Comic Standing,” Key employs music, scripted comedy, and her spontaneous sense of humor to make each one of her shows unique and staggeringly funny. There will also be a silent auction taking place at the comedy show to benefit Fort Wayne Pride’s year-round youth programming.

Then, on Friday, July 25, the real festivities begin. The Kick-off party will start at 7:00 p.m. at Headwaters Park. Admission is just $3 and that earns you entrance to a night long concert, which includes performances by two local bands and a DJ dance party at the end of the night. There will also be food available, vendors’ booths, and a beer tent on site.

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Make sure not to party too hard, though, because the fun begins again bright and early Saturday, July 26.  Beginning at 11:30 a.m. the Pride March will take over the streets of downtown Fort Wayne. The march is open to people of all ages and is free to join; supporters will walk through the streets of downtown and end back at Headwaters in time for the beginning of the festival fun.

Saturday is the day you won’t want to miss. There will be vendors set up from noon – 6:00 p.m., a food and beer tent, a cornhole tournament from 2:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m., and a free KidSpace for children under 12 from noon – 5:00 p.m. The KidSpace will include games, prizes, a moonwalk, and crafts. There will be live entertainment all day with a little something for everyone. Check out some of the best local, regional, and national bands/singers. Saturday night will conclude with Fort Wayne’s finest drag show. Many people’s favorite part of the festival, this show is the largest in Fort Wayne and features some of the area’s best kings and queens. It promises to be a great show and a fun and memorable experience.

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The fun doesn’t stop there, either. Come out to the Fort Wayne TinCaps game on Monday, July 28, for Pride Night. Wear Red and look for the Pride section. You can even purchase your tickets during the festival the weekend before.

Come out to any or all of the Pride Fest activities and help to promote tolerance and equality. Check out Fort Wayne Pride’s webpage for more details about their other events and their organization.

Holley Taylor


Holley is a student at Albion College in Michigan studying English with a Creative Writing Emphasis and History. She is excited to be back in her hometown this summer working as a Marketing Intern for Visit Fort Wayne. Holley enjoys reading, writing, dancing, and spending time with family and friends.

Fort Wayne for Millennials

Usually defined as people born in the 1980s and 1990s, Millennials recently usurped Baby Boomers as the largest generation. Despite our overwhelming presence in the world, we are often still a bit of an overlooked group. We are often deemed as antisocial (constantly on our phones) or still shoved at the children’s table. There has been so much debate recently about what millennials do and don’t like to do, what we are or aren’t into, and whether we are a more aware generation or just a bunch of selfish brats.

I can’t speak to most of that, but as far as what millennials do and don’t like to do, I know for myself, most of what I do is determined by cost. Going to college is expensive and even if you work it can be difficult to get by. I also know this isn’t likely to change any time soon after graduation because like many of my fellow millennials, I will be paying off my school for a long time.  That is not to say I won’t spend money, but when I do, I want to be sure it is going to be worth it.

So, if you are looking for something to do and are in the same boat as me, here are some things that are either free or worth the money.

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Swinney Park

One of the most often overlooked ways to spend your time in Fort Wayne is out on the trails. Fort Wayne has great parks and over 80 miles of walking, running, and biking trails. Totally free of charge, the trails allow you to enjoy the summer weather and give an interesting perspective of our city. Take a trail you’ve never taken before, find the Japanese garden in Swinney park, or try walking from destination to destination.

It’s especially easy to find things to do in the summer. Fort Wayne has about six different free summer concert series. With so many options, it’s likely that on any given weekend you can find a concert with a band playing music you like. It’s a great way to widen your music horizons and discover some cool new bands. Or, if outside concerts aren’t your scene, a lot of bars in town feature live music. Check out the Acme, the Brass Rail, Club Soda, and the Phoenix.

Summer is also time for farmers markets. There are so many markets that there is one open almost every day of the week, and there is guaranteed to be one close your neighborhood. Even if you don’t spend anything, it is always fun to browse. Still, the prices are usually affordable and it is nice to know that whatever you purchase is locally grown and supports local business. Grab some fresh produce, pack it in a cooler, and have a picnic in one of the many parks.

Going to museums is also a great way to spend the day, but admission prices can be steep. Fort Wayne has over 20 art galleries around town. If you want to see some great art, take a trip to some of our galleries and browse the art for free. One great place to go is Orchard Gallery; run by local artists, every time you stop in, there will be an artist working. Ask them questions about their work and hear about their processes and inspirations.

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Orchard Gallery

If you are willing to spend a little money, check out a movie at the Cinema Center. An art house theater in downtown Fort Wayne, Cinema Center shows great indie and foreign movies and it’s a non-for-profit, so all the money goes back into providing the community with a chance to see films they wouldn’t otherwise have the chance to see. Hit up a matinee to make it even a little easier on the wallet as well.

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Columbia Street West

As another money-needed option, check out some of the great nightlife in downtown. JK O’Donnell’s offer great prices on quality beer, the Deck is a great place to enjoy the weather, the Dash-In has a chill environment and great live music, and Columbia Street has unique charm and a fun atmosphere.


There really is a lot to do to occupy your free time in Fort Wayne even on a budget. In a city like ours, there is no excuse to be bored, you just have to think outside of the box. When you are at a loss for what to do, check out Visit Fort Wayne’s Calendar of events.

Holley Taylor


Holley is a student at Albion College in Michigan studying English with a Creative Writing Emphasis and History. She is excited to be back in her hometown this summer working as a Marketing Intern for Visit Fort Wayne. Holley enjoys reading, writing, dancing, and spending time with family and friends.

A Night out in Fort Wayne

Sometimes it can be overwhelming trying to decide where to go out on the weekends in a new city. There are bars around the corner and across town, but it’s hard to know which one will be able to give you the night out you are looking for. But you’re in luck; Visit Fort Wayne has got you covered! Check out our Nightlife guide to see which fits your idea of a great night out!

If you like Dancing: 

Check out Flashbacks on the Landing. Fort Wayne’s only retro night club, Flashback plays the best hits of the 70s, 80s, and 90s for your dancing pleasure. With two full service bars and two levels of dancing, Flashback is always a good time! They also have Ladies’ Night on Friday, where ladies get in for free, and drink specials on Friday and Saturday nights, they make sure the weekends are not only fun, but affordable.

If you like Karaoke:

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Arena Bar and Grill

Hit up the Green Frog Inn on Friday nights for American Idol karaoke starting at 9:30 p.m. Stop in early for some of their great eats, and check out a little Fort Wayne history – their walls are covered in it! One of the favorite haunts for locals, the Green Frog is a friendly place with a fun, upbeat atmosphere. On Saturday nights, sing your hearts out at Arena Bar and Grill. Starting at 10:00 p.m., this sports bar’s got it all! Sing some karaoke, play a game of pool. and check out the big game. This bar is sure to give your whole party a night they won’t forget.

If you want a chill night out:

head to JK O’Donnell’s. This local neighborhood bar offers the best in drinks, company, and atmosphere. This relaxed Irish pub is a great place to go and grab a drink and catch up with friends. It isn’t too loud to talk comfortably with your party and the food and drinks won’t disappoint. If you’re feeling adventurous, go up to the bar and roll the die to determine your drink!

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JK O’Donnell’s

If you want something new and exciting:

try Fort Wayne’s dueling piano bar, Rum Runners. The only dueling piano bar in town, Rum Runners offers great music, a fun and exciting atmosphere, and weekend drink specials, it is sure to be a great time!

For the summer, if you want somewhere to enjoy the weather:

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The Deck

grab a seat at The Deck at Don Hall’s Gashouse. On the banks of the St. Mary’s river behind the Gashouse, this is the place to be in the summer months. Not only do they have great food, but they also have a great drink selection and welcoming atmosphere. The Deck is a great place to go with friends for a chill summer night.

No matter what you are looking for in a night out, Fort Wayne’s got you covered. Check out all the different places to go at our Nightlife page!

Holley Taylor


Holley is a student at Albion College in Michigan studying English with a Creative Writing Emphasis and History. She is excited to be back in her hometown this summer working as a Marketing Intern for Visit Fort Wayne. Holley enjoys reading, writing, dancing, and spending time with family and friends.

The Vanilla Bean bakery– gourmet flavor, small town feel

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Here’s the Vanilla Bean – an easy stroll in from the convenient parking lot.

It’s like walking onto a set from the Food Network. Every flavor is carefully described. A commentator should be giving an overview of the products, just so that the listener doesn’t get too lost in the luscious ingredients!

Vanilla Bean Unique Cookies, located on 3410 North Anthony Boulevard, is a small shop with plenty of windows. Pink is the primary color on all the walls, and on the cute retro stove behind the glass and wood counter.

The counter is high, adding an old-time store impression to the shop. Through the clean windows, you can see trays filled with cookies and cupcakes. A separate, clear container holds at least three different types of gluten-free cookies on top of the counter. A large, black chalkboard is filled with multi-colored labels, describing the cookie flavors, cupcakes, and discounts offered.

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Front counter – check out the plate of cupcakes on top!

The Vanilla Bean began as a cupcake and cookie shop, but now, according to co-founder Sandra Wharton, they are focusing more on their cookies. The cupcakes, however, are still being baked – six different flavors every week! On a recent visit, the different artisan flavors were enough to make your mouth water. What really caught my eye was the caramel apple cupcake made from apple cinnamon cake, topped with caramel buttercream and a slice of dried apple. The Luscious Lemon cupcake also looked scrumptious.

But the cookies are what the shop is really marketing now. At last year’s daytime Emmys, the Vanilla Bean sent over 1,000 sandwich cookies to be included in the gift bags that were given to the stars. And this July, the Vanilla Bean will be attending the Atlanta International Gift Show, a gourmet food conference that will take place in Georgia.

The Vanilla Bean has about eight different varieties of cookies on display every day. Natural and wholesome ingredients are the key feature for each cookie. Many of the cookies feature chocolate – like the Chocolate Chilean cookie, which has a touch of pepper mixed in, just to add a little heat. Other cookies are non-spicy, like the Lemon Ricotta. A lemon glaze adds just the right touch to the tender citrus-infused cookie. It’s like having just enough and not too much of a good thing.

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Cupcakes on top, lemon ricotta cookies in the middle, boxes of cookies below.

Then there is the Molasses Oatmeal cookie. If you’re a fan of spice or carrot cake, then this one is for you. The cookie is filled with raisins, nuts, carrots, walnuts and dried apples. It’s like taking one of the best granola bars you’ve ever eaten and turning it into a toothsome cookie.

The Vanilla Bean is careful to keep their gluten-free cookies in a separate area from the wheat-filled baked goods. Lemon Ricotta, Molasses Oatmeal, and three different chocolate cookies are offered in their wheat-free line. The lady behind the counter mentioned that they always package the gluten-free products separately. Flour used for these cookies is composed from a brown rice blend. There is no corn or oat flour in the gluten-free mix.

“We deliver,” noted Ms. Wharton. Another specialty that the Vanilla Bean offers is the option of ‘mini cookies’ – miniature versions of the traditionally large cookies. The Vanilla Bean is the only bakery in Fort Wayne to sell cookies at the Earth Fare grocery and specialty store. And they are creating a new online presence at  Why not try out a local bakery that has big –time taste?



Louisa is a lifelong Fort Wayne resident. A long-time musician and literature aficionado, Louisa likes to explore the classical music offerings that Fort Wayne has to offer. (She also likes to browse the Allen County Public Library's stacks for just the right book!)

Fortezza Coffee boasts big city atmosphere, quality brews

photo 1 300x224 Fortezza Coffee boasts big city atmosphere, quality brews

Stop by for a cup or two.

Fortezza Coffee is not your typical coffeeshop, and that’s a good thing. The attention to detail is unrivaled, at least locally.

Located at  819 S. Calhoun St, across from popular lunch spot the Dash-In, this place provides a great back-drop for casual meet-ups with friends and business meetings alike. It has a hip vibe that you might find in a bigger city. No generic Starbuck’s feel here!

A dining room and closed-off meeting area mean there’s plenty of space to relax, work, or just take in the scenery around you. I’ve been to Fortezza several times now and have never felt cramped. Plus the noise level is tolerable if you want to carry on a conversation.

Of course the main draw is the coffee. It’s not an understatement to say the drinks are a work of art. Using a process called latte art, the barista combines espresso and steamed milk to create impressive designs that appeal to the palette. And customers can rest a little easier knowing their beans are ethically sourced through a process called direct trade. Call it coffee with a conscious! (For those non-coffee drinkers like myself, they offer other items like brewed tea. )

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The trendy furniture denotes a big city feel.

But they don’t just stop at coffee. Hungry customers will appreciate their light brunch menu, which boasts open-faced sandwiches, quiches and more. Craving something sweet? You’ll want to at least eye their pastries–all made in-house! Look for the menu as you come in, artfully written in chalk on the wall.

If you want to check out this place (as you should), know that you’ll have to find street parking. There is no dedicated lot available. Parking is 50 cents an hour, paid via meters until 5 p.m. on weekdays, and is free on the weekend. So be sure you have plenty of change on your person.

Beyond delicious coffee and delectable eats, Fortezza offers meeting space for small or large crowds. The ample seating allows for small coffee meetings to take place, while they also have a meeting room you are able to rent out for a larger crowd. To reserve the meeting room, simply give Fortezza a call for the details.

Fortezza Coffee is open from 7 a.m. – 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m. – 7 p.m. Saturday. Check them out on Facebook to keep up-to-date.


Lauren Caggiano was raised in Fort Wayne, and returned in 2007 upon graduation from the University of Dayton. The president of WriteOn LLC, she specializes in writing, marketing, and French translation. In her spare time she enjoys travelling, yoga and volunteering. In the summer you can catch her riding around downtown on her vintage green Schwinn. For more information, check out her website: