TRAVERSE CITY — Locals who believe there’s nothing funny about mid-winter in Traverse City might soon break out in chuckles.
The Traverse City Winter Comedy Arts Festival returns in winter 2020 after a five-year absence.
The festival, which ran from 2011-2015 in downtown Traverse City, touted movies, free winter activities, kids’ events and, of course, comedians. Though officials won’t close Front Street for ice skating, monster dog pulls and rides on a giant Ferris wheel this time around, there will be plenty of laughs.
“It was no longer financially viable with all the different activities,” said Meg Weichman, creative director with the Traverse City Film Festival, which organized the Winter Comedy Arts Festival in partnership with the National Cherry Festival. “But we always loved doing the comedy portion. It brings a great energy to town when we’re at our bleakest in the winter.
“We want to offer an exciting, engaging activity for locals who are homebound and people from downstate.”
Weichman said the 2020 lineup hasn’t been firmed up but that officials would love to highlight “new and up-and-coming talent” as well as the regular cast of Los Angeles comedians. She added that the Film Festival has “lots of connections in the comedy world” through founder Michael Moore.
“[Doug] Benson hopes to be involved and Michael has funny friends,” she said.
In past years, about a dozen comedians, including Rosie O’Donnell, Bill Maher and Judd Apatow, took the stage at the State Theatre, City Opera House and Old Town Playhouse. Weichman said officials hope to host 2020 shows at the same festival venues, but are awaiting confirmation.
She said the Film Festival hasn’t discussed bringing the National Cherry Festival on board for the 2020 comedy festival. But Traverse City Tourism President and CEO Trevor Tkach said he heard the “great news” about the plan to revive the event and said a 2020 return has a “great deal of potential” to succeed, especially if it continues to attract locals and visitors to downtown Traverse City during the wintertime.
The main draw, he said, is the quality of the live entertainment.
“I was always impressed by the caliber of comedians they brought in,” said Tkach, who collaborated with the Film Festival to produce earlier comedy festivals when he served as National Cherry Festival executive director.
The 2020 Traverse City Winter Comedy Arts Festival is slated for a long weekend — Thursday through Saturday — in late February or early March, Weichman said. Officials hope to offer more details by the end of this year or in early 2020, she added.
“We’re excited to bring it back and look forward to its return,” she said.