To celebrate the near 60 degree weather on Wednesday, we at Fort Wayne Trails (FWT) decided with a couple days’ notice to do something different — an impromptu dance party! Armed with a portable speaker, neon shirts, and some social media posts, we hit the trails at the Historic Wells Street Bridge with one goal in mind: to get people smiling and moving.
Our group grew to about 65 people strong and dance walked for a solid hour to the MLK Bridge and back, reconvening at Fort Wayne Outfitters with one central theme ringing amongst the laughter and high fives: “When is the next one?!?”
Here are the top 5 things I learned that day, and the reasons why I think another "Dance the Trails" session will be in our future:
1. We really were born to MOVE, and to be together.
Something magical happened once we hit the “play” button. We didn’t all know each other, and had no set steps, no exact game plan, and no instructions but to move and have fun. Yet suddenly we were on the same plane, experiencing an energy we didn’t previously have.
After just an hour of dance walking, the group ended arm in arm in a circle at Fort Wayne Outfitters. Now trails themselves bring people together, but adding song and expression took it to a whole new level — the combination of fresh air, music, people, and dancing set us free and connected our spirits.
2. Fort Wayne SERIOUSLY has the best people anywhere.
I tend to get these crazy ideas sometimes, and they would go absolutely nowhere without the people who make them possible. It’s exactly how our Fort Wayne Trails are built, really – we start with ideas, but it is the supporters, the neighbors, the donors and partners who have really stepped up and made possible the 85 miles of trails that we celebrate today.
Dancing the Trails was successful because of every single person who came out and made it real. Here’s a very partial list of gratitude to some key players: My newest colleague Angie Quinn, FWT’s Events, Marketing & Communications Coordinator, who helped get the word out and coordinate logistics. My board member Tim Hall, who together with his wife Cara opened up Fort Wayne Outfitters to be our start and end point. Blaine Stuckey of Mad Anthony Brewing Company, who launched Bent Rim Black Lager yesterday to benefit Northeast Indiana trails. My friend Bob Kiel, who carried a very NOT light speaker for the entire hour. Our dedicated photographer friends, Patrick Ryan and Tony Frantz, and help from the Journal Gazette, WANE-TV and 21Alive with spreading the word. To so many dancing friends, trails supporters, furry friends, and everyone I had never before met – Thank You!!
3. I give in. “Uptown Funk” is completely addictive.
No further explanation needed there. We may or may not have played it twice, and danced back and forth across the Clinton St. crosswalk as many times as possible the second time.
4. Fun and play are really, really important.
I have thought for a while about hosting more impromptu dance parties, but something has always gotten in the way. Usually some combination of worrying what other people will think and the endless to-do list that I know we all share.
Dancing the Trails taught me, if nothing else, that the things that tug at you are there for a reason, and that you must step out and do them. Often the simplest things that we do, just because we think it will be fun, create our most meaningful memories and connections.
5. It all comes back to being real, and stepping out into the world as the true, funky, completely unique individuals that we are.
This is sort of my personal mission, celebrating uniqueness and freeing people to be the most of who they are. I believe we each have something unique to contribute to the world, and it’s critical to have environments and relationships in which we can flourish. Our trails bring people together in spaces that are safe, beautiful and just cool to be in.
When I wrote to my board members about the Dance the Trails idea, I was worried that they would think I was goofing off and not getting my work done. Instead, they got behind it, and saw that this was a way for me to be me. I am so grateful to them, and to everyone who came out to celebrate being alive and joyful together.
Oprah Winfrey said, “Every day brings a chance for you to draw in a breath, kick off your shoes, and dance.”
I can’t wait until next time, Fort Wayne!
Created in January 2011, Fort Wayne Trails, Inc. is a dynamic, not-for-profit corporation dedicated to enhancing our vibrant and healthy community by developing a growing network of trails.
There are currently 85 miles of Fort Wayne Trails, with plans to extend the trails in every direction from the city's center to connect communities, attract economic development, and improve overall livability throughout the Fort Wayne and Allen County area.
For more information or to donate, visit the organization’s website, www.fwtrails.org, or contact executive director Lori Rose at (260) 969-0079.
Enjoy the trails? See how you can get involved:
Photos by Tony Frantz