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December 17, 2013

Traverse City commission approves festival limits

TRAVERSE CITY — City commissioners voted to trim summer festivals at the Open Space from a maximum of six down to four but balked at the notion the reduction will hurt tourism.

Commissioners said the new limitation would address resident concerns about the number of large events at the Open Space in a reasonable manner. Commissioners split on the question, reflecting the temperament of city residents who offered varying opinions on the need for more festivals.

“We are limiting one event at one park,” Commissioner Jeanine Easterday said before running through a long list of festivals and events that remain. “We are not eliminating events for Traverse City.”

Business owner Wes Nelson said the city commission and festival opponents seemed to have the position they want to shut the door on visitors.

“Festivals are crucial to the economy and dynamics of our community,” Nelson said. “Look long and hard before you limit the number of festivals and the fun this community has.”

But other residents and business owners said festival promoters did not invent tourism and tumble weeds won’t blow through downtown if festivals are forced to find other venues.

“Tourism and festivals are two different things,” said T. Michael Jackson, a city resident and member of the Downtown Development Authority. “People come here to enjoy the area, you don’t need all these festivals. We have two wonderful festivals. I don’t know how many more we need.”

Some residents said the festivals are enjoyed by the community and keep people in the city.

“Traverse City is hot and growing,” resident Andrew McFarlane said. “You need to have those festivals to bring the young folks to our community.”

The previous city parks policy allowed up to two high-impact events in any city park capable of hosting large events such as festivals. The amendment limits the use of Clinch Park and the Open Space in June, July, and August to one high-impact event in June and one in August, plus the National Cherry Festival and Traverse City Film Festival.

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