FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WFFT) — Joseph Ayers has a passion for bringing people together.
Alongside Delania and Michael Ayers, and the rest of Ayers Community Outreach, he’s able to unite hundreds with music, giveaways and more at his yearly festivals.
"Especially after the pandemic, I think it’s very important for us to give back to the community, break down barriers of things we’ve been through the past year, so this is a great start," Delania said.
Ayers and his family are celebrating the 10th Annual Summit City Community Festival.
Every year has a theme, but this weekend’s message is geared specifically towards all of the countless lives who have been touched by COVID-19.
"We are in a healing process, and a lot of people just want to come out because we haven’t been able to come out and enjoy each other’s company," Joseph said. "And we are really healing from this COVID. We have lost a lot of lives due to COVID and violence, so people are just thirsty just to come out and just mingle with each other."
Ayers helped fill McMillen Park and the sky above with balloons Saturday afternoon to represent loved ones who never got a proper goodbye.
"I wasn’t able to go to a lot of my friends and family’s funerals because of the COVID," Joseph said. "And it’s like a void is missing in your heart because you lost someone that you loved and cared about, and you weren’t able to celebrate their lives."
Delania and Michael say this event fills another void for Joseph each year, that of their mother/mother-in-law who died roughly five years ago.
No matter what’s going on in the world, they say the festival helps her memory live on.
"Even when she was alive, he’s done this in her honor. Because she was always a giving person, and she was known as the community mom," Michael said.
So Joseph, as a community dad, plans to carry this on.
Ten years down, at least 10 more to go.
"I’m looking to do year 20," Joseph said. "We just want to keep this going on. We just want to keep it going. It’s going to keep going. Nothing's going to stop us. No pandemic can stop this."
Joseph urges people to continue to have faith and work together as we approach another wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.