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Last updated: Thu. Jul. 10, 2014 - 10:08 am EDT

Top 5 things to do at the Three Rivers Festival this year

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WHAT: Three Rivers Festival

WHEN: Friday-July 19

WHERE: All around Fort Wayne

INFORMATION:For more info on specific events and pricing visit www.threeriversfestival.org or www.facebook.com/ThreeRiversFestival.

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There's no doubt that the Three Rivers Festival has a lot of things to do. From the start of the 10-day festival Saturday with a new parade route through downtown Fort Wayne to the helicopter rides that give you a bird's eye view of the Summit City, we wish enough time existed in the day to check out all the activities. To make sure you make the most of your Three Rivers Festival fun, we took a look at the new offerings this year and put together a list of the Top 5 things to do at TRF. Here's what we came up with:

Free River Excursions

The Free River Excursions tour has to be one of the most exciting things happening to the festival this year. Sponsored by Steel Dynamics Inc., the pontoon ride leaves from the pier at Headwaters Park West and lasts about a half-hour. Tours are available 4-9 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday. While traveling along the St. Marys River, folks will be able to learn a bit about Fort Wayne's past, and present all while dreaming about the future of the city's waterways. Jack Hammer, festival executive director, said the excursion tours are a chance for people to appreciate the rivers.

“As the city looks forward and works hard to work on our rivers and bring commerce and recreation,"he said, "we have so many people that have made such a commitment to our rivers; we see that with the Deck at Don Hall's Gashouse or at Fort Wayne Outfitters and Bike Depot. We need to see more of this river support. We want people to come with us on the river. We want people to learn about the past and dream about the future of what we have. It's important to our city; these three rivers (the St. Marys, St. Joseph and Maumee) are the lifeblood,” he said.

Lunch time trolley

If you work downtown and are looking to get a little taste of Junk Food Alley, then stop out to the Lunch Time Trolley. This addition to the festival allows folks to save time by traveling via trolley instead of walking while visiting Junk Food Alley at lunch. The trolley runs 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. every eight minutes and has eight stops around downtown:

Junk Food Alley

Main and Calhoun streets

Berry and Harrison streets

Harrison and Washington Boulevard

Jefferson Boulevard and Parkview Field

Lincoln Financial Group and Douglas Avenue

One Summit Square

Calhoun and Berry streets

Hammer said this addition should save people a lot of time.

“Sometimes by the time you walk down or drive and find a place to park you have to rush back" to work at lunchtime, he said. So workers have the option of the lunchtime trolley, which is free. "Sometimes when you're done at Junk Food Alley the walk back can be torture, so (with) this trolley we can let folks relax during lunch,” he said.

The music

When it comes to the music, festival organizers pulled out all the stops this year and landed big-name musicians that appeal for nearly every generation.

Booking the music isn't easy either. Hammer said it takes a lot of work to find acts that appeal for everyone, which is exactly why Cheap Trick is starting off the festival this year.

In addition to the classic rock superstars, The Under the Sun Tour featuring Smash Mouth, Sugar Ray, Blues Traveler and Uncle Kracker is another featured concert.

The best part? People can get tickets to these two popular shows as well as a whole slew of other concerts for only $45 with the new Mega Music Pass. The pass is a one-time ticket price that gets you into all nine of the TRF concerts. Yes, all of the concerts. That includes the local band showcase by Sweetwater Sound and Whatzzup, the Star 88.3 music stage, "Who's Bad: The Ultimate Michael Jackson Tribute" and more. If you're not interested in a particular show, then just share your extra or unused tickets with family or friends. That's the beauty of the Mega Music Pass: it gives you the freedom to see all the shows you'd like for a great deal.

The Raft Race

The raft race is back again, and it's staying and paying big. Sponsored by Hotel Fitness, the race is a safe, fun and family-oriented event that promotes creativity and ingenuity by allowing constants to build homemade, human-powered rafts. With $14,000 in prizes, the race is one of TRF's most popular events, especially for spectators. Prizes will be awarded for the first-, second- and third-place rafts in two categories – Fastest and Most Creative – and two divisions – Commercial and Individual or Non-commercial. In the past, festivalgoers have seen everything from a Kiss-themed raft to a wrestling match raft. Make sure to get to the river early as the race shoves off at 1 p.m. July 19 from Swinney Park, 1600 W. Jefferson Blvd., to the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Bridge and Lawton Park, 1900 N. Clinton St.

The Brew Review

The folks from The Friends of the Festival are really on point with their newest addition to TRF. The Brew Review is a craft beer tasting event featuring more than 100 local, regional and national craft beers. The event is noon-5 p.m. at Headwaters Park, 333 S. Clinton St. Tickets for the event are $30 presale, $35 at the door and $5 for the designated driver. There's also a VIP ticket for $60, which includes a VIP seating area and special VIP-only samplings. All tickets include Nelson's port-a-pit chicken dinner and a tasting glass and lanyard. While the list of brewers continues to grow, organizers have highlighted a few attendees including Sun King, Dark Horse Brewing, Bells Brewery, Three Floyds, Founders, Flat 12, and Bloomington Brewing Company.

jgoldsborough@news-sentinel.com


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