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Should Evanston Attempt Another Lakefront Festival?

Columnist Christine Wolf ponders the pros and cons after enjoying a hugely popular Venetian Festival in Michigan. Would that sort of event draw crowds — and dollars — to Evanston?

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.  

, 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.

Christine Wolf July 30, 2012 at 11:45 PM
James, why don't you think so?
millie July 31, 2012 at 12:18 AM
Christine. Its and interesting idea. I went to Charlevoix, MI web ste and it appears that it buisines aea ront more on water access then Evanston ( two different rivers or lakes forgot names at moment) So I would think even though its much smaller then Evanston thats an advantage. Some years ago I went to a town in Wisc called Batfield. Itto was much smaller but since it was located on waters was able to take advantage. Even though Evanston is on water it is a bit off having a useable avantage from my viewpoint for this type of event
millie July 31, 2012 at 12:18 AM
Christine. Its and interesting idea. I went to Charlevoix, MI web ste and it appears that it buisines aea ront more on water access then Evanston ( two different rivers or lakes forgot names at moment) So I would think even though its much smaller then Evanston thats an advantage. Some years ago I went to a town in Wisc called Batfield. Itto was much smaller but since it was located on waters was able to take advantage. Even though Evanston is on water it is a bit off having a useable avantage from my viewpoint for this type of event
millie July 31, 2012 at 12:20 AM
I'm sure you heard the old Realtor saying : Location location location
Procrustes' Foil July 31, 2012 at 10:38 AM
A Venetian Festival is a splendid idea. When I moved to Evanston ten years ago, I went to the July 4th fireworks on the lake and was very impressed with the sense of community that seems to be a hallmark of Evanston's character. However, I am concerned about the cost of a Venetian Festival. These are hard times. Corporate sponsors like Chase, Bank of America and Citibank could provide the funding.

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