Life's Better Here: Fort Wayne (VIDEOS)

By Eric Olson - 21Alive
By Meteorologist Jason Meyers - 21Alive
By Eric Dutkiewicz - 21Alive

September 4, 2013 Updated Sep 7, 2013 at 10:39 AM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (21Alive) -- We come to the end of our summer long look at local hometowns and the boys are right here in Fort Wayne.

Eric Olson joins us at the Allen County Public Library downtown. The Allen County Public Library system has 13 branches and a main library.

“We offer the best that we have to everybody,” Cheryl said.

The best to everybody and the best here at the Allen County Public Library is the very best. Yes, you'll find hundreds of thousands of books on all subjects and for all age groups. You'll find thousands of movies and music albums you can take home with you to enjoy at your leisure. You'll find computers and access to the internet for you to use for free. Most libraries offer all that.

It's what this library has that the others don't that make this library a world class institution. Like the Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection, the largest privately held assemblage of Abraham Lincoln documents, books and photos, now housed at the library and being digitized and put up on the Lincoln Collection's new website. And there's the library's world class genealogy department.

“Sometimes you'll run into a brick wall right away and other times…the world will open up to you and you'll find all kinds of information at once,” librarian, Dawn Slater said.

This library houses the second largest genealogy collection in the country, second only to that in Salt Lake City, Utah. No matter who you are you will find something here about your ancestors. Librarian Dawn Slater Putt demonstrates by typing my grandfather's name into the system to see what comes up. She strikes pay dirt almost instantly.

What Dawn has found is information on the 1940 census. And with the push of a button, my grandfather's WWI draft registration card telling me things I never knew about a grandparent I never met. The genealogy collection alone attracts thousands of people each year to the Summit City, all of them searching for their own family story. The economic impact of that alone on our community has been estimated at ten million dollars a year.

“They often stay several days in a row, which means they're going to eat here they're going to have lodging here they're likely going to buy gas here maybe go to the grocery store, who knows what. But they spend lots and lots of tourist dollars,” Cheryl said.

A treasure house of public, private and personal information, a repository for the greatest books and music the western world has to offer and a money maker for our town. Reasons enough to say without reservation our public library makes life better here in ways too numerous to count.

For the most part, Fort Wayne is a meat and potatoes town when it comes to our restaurants. But if you do a little digging, you can find something your taste buds haven't discovered yet.

The Burmese population in Fort Wayne is close to 6,000 people, and there are a number of restaurants serving up their cuisine. Akaungzarr is one of these, residing on the south side of the city. The outside may not look like much, but the inside is welcoming with 50 different dishes on their menu.

"Come in to here if you need to relax. Enjoy the food, listen to music or play the music, meeting with friends," owner, Aye Thein Htwe, said.

Some of these friends are Burmese refugees who haven't seen each other for years. And owner Aye Thein Htwe encourages everyone, no matter where you're from, to come and enjoy his food.

"The growth of the Burmese population, so I want to serve the Burmese and their American friends," said Aye Thein Htwe.

Another spot for you and your friends is a little place on East State called Lemongrass. Leonard Easterly owns this restaurant and cooks all the food here. Food he's been able to perfect over a long career.

"I've been cooking for 25 years. But I always wanted to own my own place, and I wanted to do it before I got too old. I'm almost 50, so I figure why not now if not ever," Easterly said.

You'll find mostly vegetarian cuisine on their giant blackboard menu, but if you maintain more of a carnivorous diet, you can still find something to satisfy you. All the meals, vegetarian or not, are made with fresh ingredients cooked to order. Something Mr. Easterly takes pride in.

"It's tough, but if you love it, it's really not so much like a job. You just kinda get paid to do a hobby," Easterly said.

Food to appease anyone's palate, no matter where you're from, that makes life in Fort Wayne a little better.

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