TRAVERSE CITY — The city’s new Open Space policy felled its first victim, pushing the Taste of Traverse epicurean festival out because of date restrictions.
Festival promoter Carol Lewis launched the festival last September but the city’s limit on major events to once a month and holidays forced her to settle for a weekend in June. Lewis said she was never comfortable with the date and has now partnered with the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa in Acme to host the festival on Labor Day weekend.
“There’s no hard feelings but I think it’s unfortunate they are going to push out an event like ours,” Lewis said. “I think they will suffer some consequences for being as strict as they are.”
City residents complained in September about festival promoters tying up the Open Space almost every other weekend from July through September and criticized a city fee policy that in some cases charged about $400 to commandeer the Open Space for days. The ensuing months-long debate divided downtown area residents who complained about festival noise and traffic from business people who rely on the tourism industry.
City commissioners ultimately adopted a policy that raised fees, limited major festivals to one per month during the summer, and banned festival use of the Open Space on holidays.
Commissioner Ross Richardson, who chaired the committee that drafted the new rules, said Lewis could still have held her event in September, just not on Labor Day.
“I’d be the first to say she can probably draw a bigger crowd on Labor Day weekend than she could in June,” Richardson said. “It ... shows there are lots of venues besides the Open Space to put on festivals, functions, parties or other events.”
Lewis won’t completely abandon the downtown. She will still hold the Grub Crawl, a tour of downtown restaurants that offer menu samples on Friday and the Best of Brunch event at the Hagerty Center on Sunday. But the resort will host the expanded Taste of Traverse City food and beverage tasting on Saturday along with a dinner prepared by former White House Executive Chef Walter Scheib. Lewis said they will also offer a shuttle bus between the resort and downtown.