The National Cherry Festival has come and gone here in Traverse City, blessed this year with great weather and good attendance. The music was good, the jumping dogs were cool and a lot of tourists came to town despite gloomy predictions and high gas prices.
Whats not to like?
It made this long-time festival-goer wonder why Traverse City doesnt have more bayside festivals during the summer? After all, many waterfront cities, such as Milwaukee and Detroit, have festivals every single week.
Obviously, that wouldn‘t be a good idea for a residential community, but how much is too much?
In March, the Traverse City Commission unanimously approved a new policy to limit festivals in the citys parks. In particular, at the Open Space, which is home to the Cherry Festival and TC Film Festival.
The new Park and Public Land Use Policy states that TCs Open Space shall have not more than two major events (during the summer) in addition to the National Cherry Festival and shall not have more than one major event during the rest of the year.
Hmm... that means that if the Film Fest is one of the major events, then we have the possibility of having just one more during the summer at the Open Space.
Thats not very forward-thinking. Its sort of like tying your hands on the off-chance that you might hit yourself on the head with a hammer.
Imagine if prior to the arrival of the Film Festival three years ago, the city commission had approved an even stricter policy to head off the objections of conservatives who didnt like Michael Moore. Without the use of the Open Space for free films, the Film Festival might be just a footnote by now, instead of a spectacular success.
So why slam the door on future events which could prove to be just as valuable in their own way? Some ideas:
The Open Space practically cries out for a jazz festival. What a perfect setting, and it would draw a crowd similar to that of the Film Fest.
Then too, the first people who lived on these shores were the Ottawa and Chippewa. Why not a bayside pow-wow with a recreated Native American village to celebrate their heritage?
Why not a classical music festival? The TSO concerts by the bay used to be a big hit during the Cherry Festival. A two-day festival of classical/pops music would give the symphony a boost.
A wine and food festival at the Open Space could be a huge hit, considering the overflow crowds that bookend the summer at winefests in Leland and Northport.
Why not a Green Festival to celebrate our environment at Earth Day?
These are all benign event ideas, unlikely to attract the kind of yahoos that turn some people off at the Cherry Festival.
Fortunately, there appears to be plenty of waffle room in the new policy in terms of considering what would be a “major event.“ But who decides?
Obviously, there are some bad ideas for festivals. Many residents scratched their heads over the idea of a jetski festival a couple of years ago, and few supported the Christian electronic music festival.
But was that a good reason to throw the baby out with the bath water on this issue? TC may be passing up millions in tourist revenues that could be generated by a few choice events. Perhaps someday, well reconsider what weve lost.