Festivals Offer More Then Just Fun

In the midst of all the food and fun, festivals provide many benefits to a region, community or even a neighborhood.

Old Town’s new energy:

Festival driven

Take Old Town, for instance. The Old Town Business and Art Development Association

created OctoberFest in 1994 to draw people to the historic commercial district. After a few thousand people showed up, the association staged Lansing JazzFest the following summer.

OctoberFest was transformed to BluesFest in 2003, and the two music festivals each draw about 15,000 to the district. They have helped draw and support a growing collection of trendy restaurants, art galleries and retail boutiques. Old Town also has become a popular address for a variety of creative businesses.

Terry Terry, president of the association, said the festivals have been the key to the revitalization of Old Town.

“There were many variables, but the number one thing was the festivals,” he said. “Literally the next week after the first festival, someone came and bought a building. I knew we were on to something.”

He said the promotion the festivals provide for the area is priceless, and it is a cultural experience that draws a diverse crowd to hear two great musical genres.

Common benefits

Common Ground Music Festival puts Downtown Lansing in the spotlight for a full week.

“Common Ground is synonymous with Lansing,” said Eric Hart, director of the Lansing Entertainment and Public Facilities Authority (LEPFA). “It’s a brand. People know what it is and they know it’s downtown.”

Started in 2000, the festival now provides sponsors with a captive audience of 90,000 people. Those sponsorships allow festival-goers to enjoy a week of live entertainment for the price of a good seat at a traditional concert.

The inclusion of media sponsorships and widely placed marketing messages has helped Common Ground become a regional draw.

Building a better bottom line

Festivals can drive tourism. And tourism is the second (OK, perhaps third) largest industry in Michigan. A recent report on mid-Michigan found that 5.1 million visitors make 2.5 million day trips and 2.6 million overnight trips to Clinton, Eaton and Ingham counties. They spend $372 million and directly impact tourism-related business by generating 7,200 jobs and $10 million for wages, salaries and payroll benefits.

The economic benefits of festivals can extend from vendors to charities.

The BWL Chili Cook-Off has donated more than $200,000 in proceeds, which have funded community projects from Adopt-A-River to the HOPE Scholarship Fund, according to Mark Nixon, Board of Water & Light communications director.

A strong contingent of volunteers is critical to the success of most festivals and a good way to monitor interest in the festival. If the volunteers are waning, it may be time to inject new attractions or retool the event.

A festival every weekend during the summer lends vitality to a region, giving residents an opportunity to connect with their community. At a time when Michigan is trying to attract and retain a talented workforce, it is an important element for singles and families in search of “something to do” and to meet new people.

Roni Rucker Waters is a public relations account manager at Pace & Partners, a Lansing-based marketing communications firm.








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