TRAVERSE CITY — Pangea’s Pizza did a booming business during the last Traverse City Winter Comedy Arts Festival, even a block away from downtown events.
Now that the festival expanded to the 100 block of Front Street and will draw people right to his door, front-of-house manager Justin Sailors is taking no chances. He’s adding an extra cook and servers and opening the restaurant’s heated deck.
“We definitely plan on having a surplus of people from the festival,” Sailors said. “Last year we were extremely busy. It was the best week of the season. We’re very intrigued to see how it turns out this year, considering we’re in the middle of the action.”
The 2014 Comedy Arts Festival opened Thursday with a sold-out show by “The Queen of Nice,” Rosie O’Donnell, at the State Theatre. It continues today with a dozen more shows, a movie and a podcast, and the 5 p.m. opening of snowy “Free on Front” activities along Front Street between Park and Union.
Set-up of the outdoor events began at midnight Thursday and was expected to continue today beginning at 6 a.m., said Trevor Tkach, executive director of the National Cherry Festival, which is putting on the Comedy Arts Festival with the Traverse City Film Festival.
Besides ice skating, sledding and Ferris Wheel rides, today’s schedule includes zip line rides, ice mini golf, an ice carving demonstration, bonfire-side s’mores at a “Fire & Ice” tower, and partying at an International Ice Bar featuring ice décor and native drinks of Olympic delegations.
Chad Hartson and his crew of five planned to head north early this morning with their load of ice sculptures for the festival.
Hartson, owner of Ice Creations near Toledo, said they’ll haul about 18,000 pounds of frozen creations, including 60 sculptures for along Front Street and hundreds more for the International Ice Bar. Besides the 2,000-pound bar itself, the icy sculptures include cocktail tables and chairs, a “drinks luge,” a wine rack that will hold real bottles of wine, and about 200 “rocks” glasses.
At least three comedy shows are sold out, including O’Donnell’s, Dave Foley and Tim Meadows, and Jeff Garlin with Kirk Fox and Sarah Tiana. But tickets still are available — online and at the door — for most shows, said Traverse City Film Festival executive director Deb Lake.
Some of the shows giving the most bang for the buck are Second City veterans TJ and Dave, masters of long-form improv who were featured Jan. 31 in The New York Times, and Set List, which features several comedians for the price of one.
“Basically they do improv standup,” Lake said. “It’s standup, but they have to do a set based on a topic they’re given. They don’t have months and months to write it.”
The Comedy Arts Festival runs through Sunday under mostly clear, if chilly, skies. High temperatures are expected to be in the lower 20s today, pulling back to the middle teens on Saturday and then warming a touch on Sunday, said Dave Lawrence, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gaylord.
“Overall, it does not look bad. We are looking at a little period of snow, mostly during the day (today). Otherwise it’ll be dry for most of the weekend,” Lawrence said. “Because of all the high pressure and freezing on the lakes, we could even be setting ourselves up for a little sun.”