Is a downtown festival an opportunity or an annoyance?


Is a downtown festival an opportunity or an annoyance? Is it serious business or merely a weekend of entertainment?

The Ford Arts, Beats and Eats Festival (ABEF) makes its debut in a new city this weekend. Hosted by Pontiac for over a decade, the extravaganza moves south to what many people consider the entertainment capital of Michigan — Royal Oak.

The festival will host a highly-ranked juried art show, over 200 acts on 10 stages, and will deliver up to 100,000 people a day (estimated) to the Royal Oak city grid.

So, is the festival an opportunity or an annoyance?

Retailers, who normally complain about a lack of store traffic are screaming the loudest. Some hint that the festival will put them out of business. Employees in downtown Royal Oak will certainly be inconvenienced by having to park further away from their employers.

Those who work downtown are also expected to pay a $3 admission per person, per day. This price can be offset if workers use the $3 coupon given to them upon entry.

Dwight Zahringer, of Trademark Productions, owner of an SEO Web agency on Main Street has been a business owner in Royal Oak for almost 9 years.

“Arts, Beats and Eats may be profitable and convenient for the city, but not necessarily profitable and convenient for retailers and residents,” he says.

The ABEF can be a financial windfall for the city.

If 100,000 people show up per day, the four-day festival can take in $1.2 million in ticket sales, plus at least a percentage of concessions sold on the street.

Major companies such as Ford, Citizens Bank, and AT&T have provided thousands of dollars in sponsorship money.

All costs for city employees, including police and fire workers, are expected to be covered by parking revenue. The city will probably receive a significant revenue stream from writing parking tickets. Anyone parking without a permit within a one mile radius of the city will receive a $50 citation.

Reportedly, no money exchanged hands between the city of Royal Oak and the festival organizers, but the Royal Oak Downtown Development Authority (DDA) has supported the city with a contribution of $100,000. The funds are expected to be returned to the DDA once the festival has paid the city of Royal Oak for any expenses.

DDA members, who allegedly have the city’s best interest in mind, unanimously voted to support the event, since the festival is expected to bring millions of dollars of business into the downtown during Labor Day weekend.

Serious business, indeed. And opportunity is rarely convenient.

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