I’m writing this week’s column in Charlevoix, MI. My family and I left Mackinac Island last Wednesday following the annual Race to Mackinac (from Chicago to the island), and now we’re meandering back to Evanston, popping into some of the coastal towns along the way.
Here in Charlevoix, we’ve enjoyed the town’s annual Venetian Festival, an event unlike anything I’ve ever seen in (or even around) Evanston – but definitely something that looks like a great opportunity for our town.
Dan Barron, one of Charlevoix’s Venetian Festival’s organizers, recently told PetoskyNews.com that the festival has become a citywide homecoming celebration:
“…during the week of the Charlevoix Venetian Festival, there are more school and family reunions that take place than the rest of the year combined.”
In discussions with police and local leaders, Barron noted that it is estimated that over the course of the festival, there are 100,000 people that take part in the festival. “People come back and really feel proud to see what Charlevoix does for this festival,” he said. "With all the events, it just keeps getting better and better.”
My family’s had a magical few days riding the carnival rides, playing games, and buying freshly made elephant ears. We’ve grocery shopped and stocked our coolers with drinks and snacks, eaten in the restaurants and checked out the local boutiques and shops. The town is jam packed with tourists and residents, and every storefront’s clearly dressed up to welcome each and every visitor.
The week of activities includes a battle of the bands and other performances, fireworks and a boat parade. Local businesses sponsor the event, helping to offset the $250,000 operating costs. While I’m certain the goodwill earned by the town can’t be matched, I’m curious what the event gives back to the town in terms of revenue.
I’ll be honest: it would be a mountain of work. However, it also seems like something that could bring residents together like nothing else.
At times, Evanston feels like a small town. Other times, though, there’s an undeniable divide between Evanston’s many sections.
I’ve written before about how much a Taste of Evanston whets my appetite, but an Evanston Venetian Festival would take things to a whole ‘nother level.
What do you think? Who’s all for a citywide effort to run an Evanston beachfront festival to highlight all the amazing benefits of our lakefront city? Imagine a sand castle contest next to a beachfront concert — or a floating concert. Don’t you think the NU scientists could work with the School of Music and figure out a way to perform music from the water or, by gosh, hovering above the parks?
We’re a progressive city filled with generations of tradition, so wouldn’t a citywide festival be a great way to blend both worlds?
Does an event like this sound appealing for Evanston? Has something like this ever been attempted? Let me know what you think in the comments section.