TRAVERSE CITY — Jim and Wendy Harvey were looking for outdoor space for their new Traverse City Summer Concert Series just as discussion over so-called festival fatigue at the city’s Open Space park began last fall.
So the Traverse City couple weighed their options — even considering buying their own land — and came up with an alternate venue, the Northwestern Michigan Fairgrounds.
“It’s close to town, there’s plenty of parking and it’s already fenced,” said Jim Harvey, owner of three business including Great Lakes Physical Therapy. “If you’re going to be a concert promoter you have to control the sales of food and drink and parking, so we also wanted a venue where we could be in charge of that.”
Officials believe the fairgrounds last hosted music in 2001, when the National Cherry Festival rented the grounds for its last big concert. But new limitations on high-impact events at the Open Space are sending festival and other event promoters scrambling for new digs.
That’s good news for spaces like the fairgrounds, which is catering to festival groups on the prowl.
“We want to let everyone know that the grounds are there to rent,” said Scott Gray, president of the Northwestern Michigan Fair, which traditionally takes place in August. “Obviously the 10 days of the fair is our number one opportunity for us to support ourselves. But we have 51 other weeks.”
Gray said the grounds on Blair Townhall Road south of Traverse City are frequently rented on weekends but that there is “lots of availability if you get on our docket.”
“There’s some things you can double up on,” he said. “For instance, a horse show doesn’t use the whole grounds so we’ve had weddings the same time we’ve had horse shows.”
The Bayside Festival, a Christian music festival that attracted between 5,000 and 8,000 people to the Open Space last year, currently is without a home. Organizer Lori King said the festival usually takes place on Labor Day weekend, but the Open Space is already tentatively reserved for the one high-impact event allowed in August under the new regulations.