17 Free Things to Do in Fort Wayne, IN

Fort Wayne, IN
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Fort Wayne, Indiana, resonates with a vibrant charm that captivates the hearts of visitors.

This city uniquely preserves its rich history while seamlessly blending in modern attractions that allure from every corner.

While one might expect to find activities demanding hefty admission fees or advanced reservations, Fort Wayne offers a treasure trove of experiences that can be enjoyed without spending a penny.

A dynamic mix of culture, art, nature, and history characterizes this city, presenting a wealth of free activities that are sure to entertain, educate, and leave visitors yearning for more.

It's time to delve into the heart of The Summit City and uncover the multitude of free things to do in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

We extend our heartfelt gratitude to the following individuals for their invaluable contributions to this article: Helen Crissman, Donald Flores, Shirley Esparza, Wanda Adams, Dorothy Wang, Marina Crowley and Tasha Donaldson.

Have a Family Day the Joys of Promenade Park

Aerial view of Promenade Park
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What a gem Fort Wayne has given us with Promenade Park!

It's become my go-to spot for some quality family time.

I remember the excitement among my kids when we visited the park just as the sun was setting.

The reflections of the water created a magical atmosphere that had them captivated.

Promenade Park wasn't crowded, and they had the water play area practically to themselves.

It was a joy watching them splashing around.

To their delight, there was also a playground close by, perfect for burning off that extra energy.

The park even had a concession stand, so snacks and refreshments were readily available.

The large rocking benches became my personal sanctuary, providing a cozy spot to relax while the kids were off having a blast.

I enjoyed the tranquil view of the water from the arena-style seating, which added a touch of grandeur to the park.

Boardwalk trail at Promenade Park
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But it wasn’t just about the kids.

We, adults, had our share of fun too.

We bought a $20 paddle set from Walmart and had a thrilling time playing ping pong.

The park also had foosball and cornhole, making it a perfect spot for some friendly competition among friends and family.

I recall crossing the bridge to explore the other side of the park.

It held a beautifully designed building with restroom facilities and a stunning splash area for the kids.

The swings, art, and the abundance of seating made the park feel welcoming and warm.

The historic Wells Street Bridge is worth a special mention.

It was a treat to cross it and explore the skywalk and playground on the other side.

The park never felt short of activities and there was always something new to explore.

Discover Your Roots at The Genealogy Center

I've always been deeply curious about my family history. I thought I knew all there was to know until I stepped foot inside The Genealogy Center at Allen County Public Library.

The moment you enter, you're enveloped by vast collections of books and individual family histories that generous folks have donated over time.

For the week I was there, I couldn't schedule an orientation or a consultation but they were kind enough to keep me in the loop with an emailed map.

In between the whispers of the pages and the tranquil ambiance, there's ample space to think and reflect.

It's not just clean, but meticulously organized.

You might hear the echo of children's laughter and cries from the other sections of the library, but it somehow adds character to the place.

In case you're wondering, parking was not an issue for me - the small public parking lot always had a spot for me at just $7 a day.

The staff at The Genealogy Center is not just friendly but incredibly knowledgeable.

I once spent 7 hours straight engrossed in my research and could have easily continued.

But the real highlight of my experience was the assistance I received on a Wednesday.

I don't remember their names, but the couple who helped me were absolute angels.

I've been up all night researching, adding to my family tree, and learning so much… all thanks to them.

Reflect at the Cathedral Immaculate Conception

Exterior of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
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I confess, sometimes I take for granted the history that lies within my city's boundaries.

One such treasure is the Cathedral Immaculate Conception, an architectural marvel that dates back to 1859 and holds a spot on the coveted National Register of Historic Places.

Each visit to this venerable structure, which is the heart of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend under the leadership of Most Rev. Kevin Carl Rhoades, leaves me in awe.

Indeed, words alone could hardly do justice to the Cathedral's architectural splendor.

As you enter, the beautifully detailed interior immediately commands your attention.

The pews are intricately trimmed, reflecting the craftsmanship of a bygone era.

Interior of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
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But what truly captures my heart each time are the Stations of the Cross.

They appear to be hand carved, each station a unique masterpiece, narrating the poignant story of Jesus's journey to Calvary.

Attending a mass at the Cathedral Immaculate Conception is an experience in itself.

The atmosphere is serene, the community welcoming, making one feel part of a large extended family.

The reverence that this diocese embodies is truly commendable.

Altar in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
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Honor the Country's Heroes at the Veteran's National Memorial Shrine & Museum

Let me tell you about my recent visit to the Veteran's National Memorial Shrine & Museum, a treasure trove of military history right here in our community.

I was deeply moved by the expansive collection of military memorabilia that traces our nation's history from the Revolutionary War to our most recent conflicts.

The layout of the exhibits was so intuitive that it felt like taking a walk through time.

One of the highlights of my visit was the outdoor grounds.

I spent a peaceful afternoon strolling amongst the numerous memorials, each one a poignant tribute to our veterans.

I couldn't believe that this serene walk throughout history was free of charge!

What made this experience truly memorable was the staff.

Their friendly demeanor and extensive knowledge brought the artifacts to life.

I was with my two young kids, who I thought would lose interest quickly.

I was pleasantly surprised when they became engrossed in the stories behind the exhibits, so much so that they even started recounting the facts they learned!

After spending an afternoon at the Veteran's National Memorial Shrine & Museum, my children and I felt an even deeper appreciation for the sacrifices made by our veterans.

We can't wait to go back and explore the museum section that we weren't able to visit this time around.

Have a Tranquil Retreat at Lindenwood Nature Preserve

The waters of Lindenwood Nature Preserve
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One day, I woke up feeling the need for a break from the hustle and bustle of my daily life.

A desire for a mini escape, some tranquility, and refreshing nature.

I instantly knew where to go - the Lindenwood Nature Preserve.

Nestled away from the main road, the preserve has always been my go-to place for some quiet me-time.

It was a beautiful fall day when I decided to head out for my peaceful sojourn.

The moment I stepped foot on the trails, I was greeted with the sight of leaves changing colors and the sound of birds chirping.

The clearly marked trails made it easy to navigate the 110-acre preserve.

I embarked on one of the trails that led me to a charming little pond.

The sight of the foggy sunrise reflecting off the lake's surface while comfortably seated on the dock benches was something to behold!

Every visit to the Lindenwood Nature Preserve always feels like a mini-retreat from the world.

It’s the perfect spot for hiking or simply relaxing by the pond.

Ideal for picnics, the park offers several picnic tables located conveniently at the outskirts of the parking lot and the start of the trails.

I appreciate the thoughtfulness of having regular and handicap-accessible porta potties available for visitors like myself.

Having been a regular at the Lindenwood Nature Preserve since the 70s, I've seen the changes over the years.

There are now more trails than there were back in the day when I used to visit after work.

Recently, I took my grandson for a walk there.

Sharing the beauty and tranquility of this place with the next generation was truly a heartwarming experience.

Discovering Literary Treasures at the Allen County Public Library - Main

Interior of Allen County Public Library
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Every morning, as I walk through the doors of the Allen County Public Library - Main, I feel like a kid in a candy store.

Imagine a library so large and well-stocked that you can find virtually anything you are looking for.

Think of all the board games, video games, books, magazines, movies, and music that your heart might desire.

And, yes, they even have sheet music!

I can't tell you how many times I've found myself lost in the vast aisles, exploring rows upon rows of books.

The library staff is always friendly, always eager to help me find that elusive title or rare out-of-print book.

The computer labs are spacious, well-equipped and easy to use, allowing me to comfortably work on my projects.

One of the library's hidden gems is its impressive genealogy collection.

It's like a treasure trove of family history just waiting to be discovered.

I've spent countless hours delving into my ancestors' past, and each discovery has been a fascinating journey into a time gone by.

But the Allen County Public Library - Main isn't just for adults.

The children's services are nothing short of amazing.

On our last visit, my kids were totally engrossed in a reading activity.

They hung onto every word of the storyteller, giggled at the music activity, and reveled in the fun with bubbles.

With so many reading cubbies, interactive play areas, and computer access, it's a wonderland for young minds.

Aside from being a hub of knowledge, the library also showcases some historical pieces that give you a glimpse into the city's past.

And did I mention the ambiance?

It's clean, well-lit, and much larger compared to smaller library branches.

Grab a Bite at the YLNI Farmers Market

What an experience it is to visit the YLNI Farmers Market!

As the summer sun streams down, you'll find this bustling market sprawled across 2-3 blocks of our charming downtown.

But don't worry about the winter chills, they set it indoors during those frosty months.

The atmosphere here is always buzzing with energy.

You can enjoy live music from not one but two different performers while you shop.

Don't miss the food trucks either - they're a must-visit.

Mouth-watering breakfast options are available, so you can fuel up before exploring the market further.

It's a paradise for local produce lovers.

The range of fresh, locally grown fruits and veggies is astonishing.

But that's not all.

You'll also find a myriad of unique handmade items.

Trust me, these trinkets make fantastic gifts.

I am a fan of the fresh flowers they sell.

There's something about having a bouquet of vibrantly colored blooms in the house that just brightens up the day.

The market truly caters to everyone - kids, strollers, dogs, they're all welcome!

Here's a little tip from an old hand - try to get in by 9 am.

The parking downtown is best at this hour, and the lines are much shorter then.

But the lines, by the way, are totally worth the wait.

Also, do remember to carry a bag for all the goodies you'll undoubtedly want to buy and put on your most comfortable shoes for all the walking you'll do.

The latest addition to the YLNI Farmers Market is the pony rides!

It's an absolute delight for the little ones.

I've had a chance to visit quite a few farmers markets in different cities, and I must say, our little YLNI Farmers Market stands tall among them all.

With a diverse array of produce, food trucks, and arts and crafts, it's one of the best markets I've been to.

Immerse in Nature at Lakeside Park

Sculptures at Lakeside Park
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Every so often, I find solace from the bustling Fort Wayne city life at Lakeside Park.

It's my little sanctuary in the heart of the city.

The moment you step into this park, the world seems to slow down a bit.

The air smells sweeter, filled with the fragrance of over 2,000 rose plants that seem to dance their way around the park, painting a picturesque scenery that's more than worthy of any artist's canvas.

One of my favorite spots in the park is the sunken garden, a green oasis that teems with vibrant life.

Each time I walk through it, it feels like uncovering a secret garden, secluded and serene.

Be it a sunny day or a cloudy one, the sunken garden is enchanting in every weather.

Pergola at Lakeside Park
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Lakeside Park isn't only about serene gardens, it's also packed with recreational facilities for both kids and adults.

I love watching the kids letting off steam in the expansive playground, their laughter echoing through the park.

The basketball and tennis courts are usually bustling with activity, and the fishing pond is a pleasant spot to spend a quiet afternoon.

Lakeside Park is also a hub for special occasions.

From birthdays to weddings, it's a preferred location to celebrate those unforgettable moments.

I recall a poignant remembrance for a neighbor who had passed away, held in the park.

It was heartfelt yet joyful, just the way he would have wanted it.

See Majestic Birds at Eagle Marsh Nature Preserve

Dawn at Eagle Marsh Nature Preserve
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Oh, my heart soars every time I lace up my boots and head off to Eagle Marsh Nature Preserve.

The moment my foot hits the trail, I can feel the hum of life surrounding me.

The wildflowers sway in the breeze as they welcome honey bees and butterflies, setting the rhythm of the day.

Eagle Marsh Nature Preserve is a sanctuary, not just for us humans but for a multitude of species.

The beauty of the marshes, the towering trees of the forest, and the open prairie bring a sense of peace that's hard to find in the bustling city of Fort Wayne.

The quiet rumble of the city is replaced with the symphony of nature.

A quick glimpse up, and you might see majestic birds like Canadian Geese, Hawks, and Eagles.

Their sharp cries are a reminder that even in Indiana, nature is alive and thriving.

Amid the marshes, turtles laze on the fallen trees, and the ducks and waterfowl add their own charm to the place.

These wetlands, spanning over 756 acres, have been our home's pride.

But it's the people working behind the scenes that truly make the difference.

The team at Little River Wetlands Project, who manage the preserve, have tirelessly worked to maintain and protect the environment.

They even offer weekly programs for all ages, a chance for us locals to give back to our community and the nature that surrounds us.

However, in the recent past, there have been stirrings about the management.

It's disheartening to hear about the turnover of staff and the unfounded dismissal of the beloved volunteer coordinator.

This upheaval seems to stem from leadership issues.

Though it doesn't affect the beauty of the preserve, as a supporter, it's crucial to be aware of these challenges before deciding to get involved or donate.

Despite the setbacks, Eagle Marsh Nature Preserve remains my sanctuary, a place to find peace amid the chaos.

It's a place where nature and humans coexist, reminding us of the balance we need to maintain.

The trails at the preserve, be it marsh, forest, prairie, or embankment, each offer a unique perspective on life and the world around us.

For me, it's a reminder that no matter what happens, life goes on, a cycle we're all a part of.

Cycle through Buckner Park

If you're craving a lovely afternoon surrounded by nature, Buckner Park is the place to be.

With its extensive bike trail and generous open area, the park is a haven where you can feel the gentle breeze on a sunny day.

Even though it's not the largest park in town, Buckner Park is truly one of a kind.

It makes excellent use of its available space, with modern facilities including two playgrounds, a covered picnic area, and a splash pad right at the trailhead.

The playgrounds are cleverly divided into two sections, catering to both younger children aged 2-5 and older kids aged five and above.

But if you ask me, it's the small trail looping around the grounds that makes Buckner Park my favorite spot.

Here, I love to indulge in a leisurely walk or an invigorating bike ride.

This tranquil trail has become my go-to place for a bit of outdoor exercise.

And let me not forget about the splash pad!

It's a real hit with the children, especially during the scorching summer months.

Just last week, the kids spent hours enjoying the refreshing water sprays.

With the added bonus of having a restroom on site, it's an ideal spot for a day-long family outing.

Get Inspired at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art

Exterior of Fort Wayne Museum of Art
Momoneymoproblemz, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

There's always something magical about wandering the halls of the Fort Wayne Museum of Art.

The diverse collection of American art is truly captivating, every piece telling a different story, every brush stroke igniting the imagination.

In the quiet hush of the galleries, time seems to lose all meaning as I lose myself in the masterpieces that adorn the walls.

Each visit to Fort Wayne Museum of Art presents a new opportunity for discovery.

The rotating exhibits are intriguing, offering a refreshing variety and diversity that keeps the experience from becoming stale.

Gallery talks provide intriguing insights into the artworks and the brilliant minds behind them, while craft workshops offer a hands-on chance to dive into the creative process.

The gift shop is a treasure trove filled with unique creations from local artists.

Here, I can take home a piece of the museum, a tangible reminder of the inspiring day spent among the artworks.

Sculpture garden of Fort Wayne Museum of Art
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I always make it a point to support these artists, as each purchase contributes to the vibrant local art scene.

The museum also values its military veterans, offering free admission for them and their families.

This gesture of gratitude is deeply appreciated, as it acknowledges the sacrifices made by these brave individuals.

While the museum engages the mind and spirit, it doesn't neglect the more playful side.

There's an interactive kids' area that promises a fun and engaging experience for the little ones.

Meanwhile, the zen garden outside is a perfect spot for a quiet moment of reflection amidst the beauty of nature.

Free parking behind the museum is another convenient feature, making the visit hassle-free.

Catch an Event at Headwaters Park

Aerial view of Headwaters Park
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On a crisp Sunday afternoon, I decided to head off to the renowned Headwaters Park, an urban oasis right in the heart of my city.

I have always been intrigued by the vastness of the park and its variety of offerings.

As I approached the park, I was immediately taken in by the sheer size of it, and the myriad walking paths that wind their way around the park.

My first stop was at the array of informational plaques scattered throughout Headwaters Park.

It was like taking a deep dive into the city's history and culture.

The beauty of the park is also enhanced by the presence of several statues, making it a perfect blend of nature and art.

As I strolled along, I found myself next to the river, a tranquil sight to behold, adding to the serene aura of the park.

One of the unique features that caught my eye was the bridge, beautifully lit and forming a mesmerizing sight against the backdrop of the evening sky.

The park's riverfront location, along with its bike paths, makes it a popular spot for locals and tourists alike.

And for those who are into winter sports, the ice-skating rink is a fantastic feature to look forward to during the winter months.

The park is also a hub of events, and I was fortunate to be a part of the Greek festival.

This event was a gastronomic extravaganza with food stalls offering a variety of Greek food along with an abundance of beer.

The pork souvlaki was a treat to my taste buds, and the euro that my friend had was equally delightful.

Get Active at Kreager Park

Have you ever wondered what it feels like to be in a place of tranquility amidst a bustling city life?

If so, venture into Kreager Park located in our neighborhood.

The park, spread over a large area, offers an array of recreational activities for all age groups.

As a place of frequent visit, I am often taken by the variety of things that you can do here.

Kreager Park has a perfect mix of sports fields, tennis courts, and playgrounds.

My children absolutely adore the playgrounds.

They are spaced apart for both younger and older kids, which gives me peace of mind knowing that they can play safely.

The park has an open-air pavilion, usually bustling with families and kids.

It has been a haven for our family picnics.

The pavilion is also a popular spot for birthday parties and family reunions.

The best part? It is just beside the water park.

I can literally sip coffee while keeping an eye on my kids splashing water and having fun.

And did I mention the sunsets here?

They are nothing short of breathtaking.

The beautiful hues of the setting sun amidst the lush greenery have a calming effect after a hectic day.

The park also has well-maintained trails that I often use for my morning runs or evening strolls.

Dive into the Past at Historic Old Fort

Exterior of the Historic Old Fort
Momoneymoproblemz, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Every now and then, I love stepping back in time and immersing myself in the history of my town, Fort Wayne, and the best way to do so is by visiting the reconstructed 19th-century military fort.

The Historic Old Fort, as we fondly call it, sits as a poignant reminder of our town's storied past, offering living history exhibits and demonstrations that are nothing short of fascinating.

Just a heads up, though, the parking can sometimes be a bit of a hassle especially when there's construction work going on in the area.

But worry not, a 20-minute leisurely walk along the St. Mary's pathway from the parking area will lead you to the fort.

This walk has its own charm, with stunning views of the St. Mary's River and a wall of intriguing graffiti art that adds a modern touch to the historic surroundings.

Upon arriving at the fort, it's like stepping into a time machine.

It's a small complex, yet filled with elements that transport you back to the pioneer times.

One can't help but appreciate the outdoor oven, giving a hint of the hardships of the time.

Log structures at the Historic Old Fort
Momoneymoproblemz, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

There's a sense of awe as you take in the juxtaposition of the fort against the backdrop of modern downtown Fort Wayne – it's like witnessing the old and new side by side.

After soaking in the history at the fort, I often stroll across the bridge to Headwaters Park.

It offers a further glimpse into the many roles Fort Wayne has played throughout history, from a pioneer fort to a railroad hub and a river transport center.

It's a rural Indiana city with an interesting past.

A little advice for the adventurous souls out there: try visiting the fort in the winter.

While it might not be for everyone, it gives an unmatched flavor of the struggles of "fort life."

It sure is a unique experience.

Soak in the Community Spirit at Freimann Square

The grounds of Freimann Square
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Right in the heart of downtown Ft. Wayne, you'll find a place where nature meets city life: Freimann Square.

As you might already know, the main attraction here is the beautiful fountain.

Trust me, there's something uniquely soothing about sitting on one of the park's shaded benches, just listening to the sizzle of the water against the fountain's surface.

On any sunny day, you'll find me at the square, soaking in the peace and tranquility that fills the air.

The meticulously manicured landscaping creates this vibrant scene, intertwined with the city backdrop.

Vibrant flowers at Freimann Square
Nicholas J Klein / Shutterstock.com

With every season, there's a fresh array of flowers transforming the square into a living canvas of colors.

I love that the square is always buzzing with activities, too.

During summer, this very park, Freimann Square, sometimes turns into a venue for small festivals, fireworks displays, and impromptu performances.

I've seen children splashing in the fountain - a sight that, while probably not the most hygienic, adds a burst of unbridled joy to the ambiance.

Aerial view of Freimann Square
Nicholas J Klein / Shutterstock.com

Explore the City on Two Wheels through Fort Wayne Trails

Ever since I was a kid, I've been a fan of bike rides.

The wind in my hair, the rush of adrenaline, the scenic views - it's my perfect escape.

My usual haunt? The Fort Wayne Trails.

There's something about pedaling along the well-maintained trails, surrounded by picturesque views, that never fails to lift my spirits.

I remember when Fort Wayne Trails was just one trail that ran from Johnny Appleseed Park to Southtown Mall.

Now, it weaves its way all through the city.

One of my favorite things to do is park my car at Moser Park in New Haven and cycle all the way to downtown Fort Wayne.

The best part? I hardly have to worry about car traffic on the trail.

Once downtown, I have a couple of choices.

I can either ride through the city, taking in the urban scenery.

Or, if I'm not in the mood for dodging traffic, I take the trails that skirt the city's edge.

These paths offer a different kind of view, one that's equally captivating.

If I'm feeling particularly adventurous, I keep pedaling west until I connect to the Aboite trail system.

Each ride is a new adventure, with different paths to explore and sights to see.

And, when I'm lucky, I stumble upon city festivals.

There's nothing quite like parking my bike at a convenient bicycle corral and diving into the excitement of the city's vibrant community events.

Marvel at the Architecture of Allen County Court Administration

Exterior of the Historic Allen County Courthouse
Roberto Galan / Shutterstock.com

Every time I step foot into the Allen County Court Administration, I'm instantly struck by the stunning Beaux-Arts architecture that stands as a testament to the grandeur of the building.

However, my appreciation for interior aesthetics comes with a pang of trepidation.

Why, you might ask?

Well, the grandeur of Allen County Court Administration is undeniably impressive.

But each visit seems to be accompanied by a feeling of discomfort that's hard to ignore.

Whether it's the stern glares of the court staff, the intimidating presence of the metal detector at the entrance, or the fact that electronic devices are strictly prohibited within its confines, the overall environment does its best to give you the eerie sensation of being a law-breaker, even when your visit is for non-criminal matters.

Dome of the Historic Allen County Courthouse
Nagel Photography / Shutterstock.com

For a building that dedicates two-thirds of its space to non-criminal endeavors, this perception is unfortunate.

While I understand that strict rules are necessary for maintaining decorum within the court, it does take away from what could be a more pleasant experience.

I have to admit, it's not a place I'd visit voluntarily unless I had a compelling reason.

Despite its spectacular architecture and the efficiency with which it handles administrative tasks, I'd have to limit my rating to a single star.

The discomfort and apprehension that a visit induces outweigh any architectural appreciation, at least for me.

Building details of the Historic Allen County Courthouse
Frank Romeo / Shutterstock.com

Final Thoughts

I must say that Fort Wayne, my beloved city, never falls short of offering ample entertainment and enrichment to both its inhabitants and visitors, without the need for a hefty price tag.

From the rich historical significance of the Historic Old Fort, to the tranquility and beauty of the Eagle Marsh Nature Preserve, there's always something to capture the heart and mind.

I am always charmed and amused by the sheer variety and abundance of these offerings, and I look forward to exploring more of my city's delightful treasures in the future.

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