TRAVERSE CITY — Attendance at last weekend’s Traverse City Winter Comedy Arts Festival jumped by 40 percent — and that’s not counting outdoor activities, officials said.
“We had 16,000 ticket admissions and that is a 40 percent increase over the previous festival” in 2011, said Deb Lake, executive director of the Traverse City Film Festival, which put on the event with the National Cherry Festival. “We had several events that sold out and good houses at almost everything.
“InsideOut Gallery, which had local and Michigan comedy, improv and some fringe stuff, was packed almost every night.”
Even more people attended outdoor activities on Front Street, part of which was closed to traffic and transformed into a winter playground, said National Cherry Festival executive director Trevor Tkach.
The events, which included everything from games and races to laser light shows, drew thousands of participants and enthusiastic posts on the comedy festival’s website. “This is all so COOL’n,” “I will say it again, I love Traverse City” and “Thank you for all the fun on Front. My kids and I had a blast tonight!” read some.
“Having free activities for families without a doubt was a home run and added what many referred to as the ‘magic’ in the festival,” Tkach said. “The sledding hill, the ice skating rink and the Ferris wheel were going nonstop for three days.”
The four-day festival, Feb. 14-17, increased traffic at some downtown businesses like the Grand Traverse Pie Company at Park and Front Streets.
“Saturday was a huge impact for us,” said general manager Jason Parks, whose store also offered a “make & bake” pie event for kids. “We sold almost 22 gallons of hot chocolate and almost 50 chicken pot pies. We saw a lot of new faces, a lot of people you could tell were seeing our menu for the first time.”