By Sonya Flores
For IN|Fort Wayne publications

Like any good party, ambiance is important — even more so for an event spread out over a sprawling park.

The third annual Middle Waves Music Festival returns to Headwaters Park Sept. 14-15, and a group of volunteers and artists have been working diligently to prepare the visual environment.

The two-day, all-music-styles festival will feature three stages, interactive art installations, games and food trucks.

Middle Waves is about coming together, so all ages are welcome and two-thirds of the festival is completely free and open to the public. A group of volunteers has been working to make sure that sense of cohesion, creativity and local flair are present throughout the festival grounds.

Middle Wave Vibes Committee Co-chairs Dan Swartz and Sarah Aubrey lead the Vibe Workshops each week at arts nonprofit Wunderkammer Company. Their goal is to transform Headwaters Park, but it’s about more than creating visual stimuli — it’s about leading festival goers from one point to another and giving them things to focus on so the transit is a fun one, Swartz said.

“Middle Waves takes the ‘usual’ concert in Headwaters format and flips it on its head — literally, we flip the festival sideways!” Aubrey said. “We work hard in Vibe to expand upon this so that there’s something new for you to experience around many corners. It’s Headwaters like you haven’t seen or experienced before!”

Interactive art installations will include a magnetic wall with cutout letters where people can spell words and messages and take photos (like a giant refrigerator). Huge “chandeliers” will hang from the trees and there will be plenty of places to take selfies.

Workshops have taken place each year before the festival, but this is the first year that the workshops have run all summer. Since June, volunteers have been rolling up their sleeves each week to create the art installations that will be displayed at the park during the festival. Swartz said about a dozen people show up each week to help execute the projects.

“I’ve been involved in less intense ways for the past couple years, and when (festival chair) Katy Silliman asked me to be involved this year I couldn’t say no!” Swartz said. “Wunderkammer Company’s mission is to revitalize communities through contemporary art, so it just really made sense to do something together.”

Each workshop focuses on making a different project and tasks are assigned based on interest and skill level. Projects have included collaborations with individual artists and groups. There will be fun surprises like “massive yarn bombings and painted pianos for the community to activate on their way around the festival,” Swartz said. Other surprise projects are being kept tightly under wraps until the festival.

Aubrey said the workshops allow people to contribute to the creative atmosphere and metamorphosis of the park.

“Beyond ticket sales, Middle Waves is about building community through exciting and innovative music and visual art,” she said. “We want to drop jaws and blow up silos and leave Fort Wayne a better place for it. Doing the Vibe workshops are a way to continue to build community beyond the weekend of the festival. We hope to continue to grow as a festival and be able to leave even more of a mark.”

The volunteers’ efforts have not gone unrewarded. They have had the opportunity to earn discounts and free tickets in exchange for volunteer hours. For more information about opportunities to volunteer for Middle Waves, visit middlewaves.com/get-involved.

“We always need more hands,” Swartz said. “So far so good, but there isn’t really a ‘finished’ point for us, so we can always use more help.”

For more information on Vibe workshops, check out the events on Wunderkammer Company’s Facebook page.