If northern Michigan residents ever needed a good laugh, it was this winter. We’ve suffered through bone-cracking cold, heaps of snow, biting wind and more - that was just December.
Since before Thanksgiving, the region — and much of the nation, for that matter — has shivered with the cold and battled seemingly never-ending snow.
So by the time the Traverse City Comedy Arts Festival kicked off, the region was ready for some comic relief and to flock downtown for a bunch of new free activities on Front Street, including a zip line, a Ferris wheel, mini-golf, an ice rink, ice sculptures and a sledding hill. What says winter like mini-golf?
Weak attempts at humor aside, in addition to the laughs provided by a slew of stand-up comics who come to do their shtick, and all the family activities downtown, what the Comedy Arts Festival provides is a different kind of cold — cold hard cash.
Since it began, the Comedy Festival has every year provided an economic booster shot for downtown at a time when visitors aren’t flooding the sidewalks.
While there are certainly out-of-towners here for the festival, it is also a draw for families across the Grand Traverse area, a reason to get out of the house for a day or for the adults to get in a night on the town.
Nobody has claimed downtown restaurants and shops are turning up their toes until the ice leaves the bay, but the festival brings in dollars that might not have found their way here until spring or beyond.
Right now, Traverse City Restaurant Week is giving foodies a chance to try out new places or new dishes at old favorites and is also making cash registers sing.
Thirty-four local restaurants across Traverse City are offering three-course meals for $25 a deal at most places. The week ends Saturday. (For a list of participating restaurants, see www.record-eagle.com.)
Restaurant Week gives dining-out fans a chance to eat at some of Traverse City’s most exclusive eateries at a fixed cost. Like the Comedy Festival, it brings valued dollars downtown during the slowest time of the year. When downtown thrives, everyone feels the ripples.
Spring and summer and the crowds are coming, but until then all of us have to find our own ways to fight cabin fever. Laughing and eating work.