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Fort Wayne, Indiana

When in Rome, do as the Romans. When in Indiana … well, go to ‘Greekfest’, obviously! During the summer in Fort Wayne, there is a different ‘fest’ pretty much every week. Germanfest (beer, sausages and tight leather shorts), Ribfest (slobbering barbecue sauce all down your front) and Pizzafest (have a guess) are among the popular ones, but this weekend was the turn of the Greeks. There was a band playing Greek music and singing in Greek (either that or the chap was singing in English but was a little worse the wear with all the Greek beer that was floating around), and lots of people (myself excluded of course) dancing around in circles. This being the Midwest, the temperature in summer approaches a hundred degrees, as opposed to minus numbers for the entire winter, so dancing around in circles was quite an energetic activity. Especially when this bloke pouring his heart out at the microphone went on. And on and on and on. Just dancing for one song meant a thirty minute workout, and there were quite a few sweaty bodies around by the end of it. For the peckish amongst the participants there was a selection of traditional Greek food, including spiced lamb, gyros and kebabs. Never having previously had a kebab while sober, I wasn’t about to start now so bought a large bowl of baby octopus, seasoned with garlic and lemon. I don’t know if it was the octopus, the garlic or the lemon, but my gaseous emissions for the following couple of days were fragrant, to say the least! Or maybe it was the spicy frog legs that I was stuffing into my fat face at the all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet the night before.

The programme for Greekfest was interesting as well. In among all the adverts for local businesses that were sponsoring it was a special message from some reverend or other. Instead of telling everybody “Come to Greekfest, drink Ouzo, stagger home”, he went into a big spiel about “The communities we live in are saddled with crime, prejudice, violence and death. The cities and towns we live in are dangerous and violent.”. And then he added “Enjoy Greekfest” at the end of it to keep everyone cheerful. Terrific. If he wants to know what dangerous and violent is then he should have ventured into the back of the Dream Machine the morning after I had polished off the plate of spicy octopus!

Warwick's Roadtrip Photo Indiana
Down at the ballpark the local Fort Wayne Wizards, whose mascot is a dragon, were playing against the Dayton Dragons, who didn’t have a mascot with them but I imagine the chances of it being a wizard are probably quite high. All very confusing! It was another stinking hot night in the Midwest so a couple of cool brews were required to keep the body temperature down, then the game got underway. But who cares about that, everyone had come for the entertainment in-between innings and then the fireworks at the end of the game. Fireworks are an excellent invention: adults interested in the game can take their kids along under the pretence that they’re doing them a favour taking them to see the fireworks, torture them for three hours by forcing them to pay attention to events on the field, and then enjoy the fireworks themselves. It’s the same as buying your kid a Scalextric set for their first birthday claiming they will grow into it, then disappearing off to play with it yourself all the time.

In the Midwest there are a group of ‘entertainers’ that go around the different minor league teams strutting their funky stuff during the games. One suspicious looking bloke is called Myron Noodleman (I don’t know what he does but if I had any kids I wouldn’t let them within touching distance of him), there is Jake the Diamond Dog (a dog!), and Birdzerk (a ‘nationally known on-field entertainer known for his outrageous antics). But tonight we were blessed with an appearance of the Zooperstars. It’s difficult to describe them, but basically they are people in oversized foam animal costumes that dance, fight each other, fall into players, etc. they all have corny names based on famous baseball players (Shark McGwire, Clammy Sosa, etc.), and three of them (a giraffe, a clam and some kind of fish) did a convincing Backstreet Boys dance routine, practically indistinguishable from the real thing.

There was another (this time successful) “Marry me?” request from some love struck bloke in the crowd. A baseball game seems such an unromantic place to propose, but maybe he was going to make up for it by taking his new wife-to-be to the local Hooters to celebrate. And there was an interesting variation on the giveaways when dolly birds fire t-shirts into the crowd, as they would occasionally replace a t-shirt with a water balloon, soaking the scrabbling recipients. Well, it amused me anyway!

Warwick's Roadtrip Photo Indiana

Fort Wayne’s other claim to fame is the Mastodon; a glorified prehistoric elephant. To commemorate finding a Mastodon skeleton a while ago, the city has asked more than a hundred local companies to sponsor artists decorating fibreglass Mastodons in different ways, giving each one a corny name along the way. All of them are currently on show in the city centre and make an interesting spectacle, and once the summer is over they will be auctioned off for charity. So if you feel that the only thing your house is missing is a large Mastodon, then you know where to get one!

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