TRAVERSE CITY — Some towns roll out red carpet for comedy festivals. Traverse City puts up a ferris wheel.
Meet the new, expanded Traverse City Winter Comedy Arts Festival, which merged this year with the National Cherry Festival’s 6-year-old Winter WOW! Fest to create a downtown winter playground for kids and families. It’s called Free on Front because almost everything there is free. Organizers plan to have it open to the public by 4 p.m. today.
“It will be amazing this year with all the stuff going on outside,” said Tia Shuyler. She coordinates travel and accommodations and other details for the 30 comedians who will perform in the four-day festival that started Thursday. “They won’t know what hit them.
“It’s definitely going to be funny.”
Front Street’s 200 block was to be cordoned off this morning and fitted with a synthetic-ice skating rink, a 50-foot ferris wheel and the beginnings of a sledding hill near Park Street as Elmer’s trucks haul in snow for the base and then head to Antrim County’s Shanty Creek Resort this morning for lighter, fluffy stuff.
GJ’s Rentals was scheduled to begin erecting the warming tents at 8 a.m. Two sets of red NCF bleachers should be in place along both sides of Front for the Sports Arena at the Cass Street end of the block.
Ice sculptures will be installed today and “live” ice carving areas on Friday evening will be set up at the Jay Smith Walkway and in front of Grand Traverse Pie Co. downtown.
Free on Front will offer free ice skating with free rental skates, ferris wheel rides, sledding as well as competitions and games all weekend. Ice bowling is on the agenda tonight. Other events through the four-day festival include rowboat races, slip-and-fall Olympics, monster dog pull, snowblower races, a tug of war and a frozen bed race on Sunday.