Michigan Prosperity Agenda: Festivals Helping Create Sense of Place in Our Communities
Program Explores How to Make a Better Michigan
We are right in the middle of another great Michigan summer – one that gives you a chance to get out, see the state – and maybe visit your favorite festival to see your town or a town nearby in a little different way. Some Michigan cities are really well known for their festivals. It’s hard to think of Traverse City without the National Cherry Festival, or Battle Creek without its world famous Balloon Festival. Around the state, almost every city and village has a festival of its own – a chance to carve out its own little sense of place, provide an economic shot in the arm, make its people feel welcome and to attract visitors from around the county, around the state or even around the nation and world. Just as important, a festival can help a community create an identity that has long-lasting benefits not only year-round but for decades. So I hope you kick back, enjoy the lighter side of our show, and listen as we talk to experts about the festivals just over, those to come, and some worth visiting in your region. My co-host for this month’s show is mlive entertainment reporter John “Gonzo” Gonzalez, who covers the state’s festivals, food and beverage scene. Our guests are Sue Bila, executive director of the Michigan Festivals and Events Association; David Lorenz, acting vice president of Travel Michigan at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation; and Jon Witz, president of Jonathan Witz and Associates and a founder of the Arts Beats and East festival in Royal Oak.
THIS MONTH’S SHOW airs at 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 22 on News/Talk 760 WJR, and you can listen by clicking the links below. Listen as we talk about the upcoming conference and how to build better Michigan communities.
Dan Gilmartin, executive director and CEO of the Michigan Municipal League, explains that the Prosperity Agenda radio show is about challenging listeners to help make Michigan a better place to live, work and play. Gilmartin said having vibrant and prosperous local communities is a key factor.
- Dan Gilmartin explains this month’s show. (1 minute)
John Gonzalez is co-host for this month’s show. He’s the statewide entertainment, travel, beer & food writer for mlive.com, leading a statewide multi-media approach for mlive Media Group to help his readers experience all things Michigan. A longtime writer for the Grand Rapids Press, John today is multimedia journalist who also has his own radio show that airs outstate called “Behind the Mitten,” which looks at Michigan’s fairs, festivals, restaurants, brewers and more. Since 2012, his Michigan’s Best searches have taken him from Houghton in the Upper Peninsula to Detroit in Southeastern Michigan to seek out great places to eat – and great festivals to enjoy.
- Gonzo discusses some unique Michigan festivals he’s covered. Listen to find out how bologna. (6:40)
Sue Bila is Executive Director of The Michigan Festivals and Events Association, a statewide organization serving communities and volunteers throughout Michigan, promoting local events, festivals and destinations throughout the Midwest and providing technical assistance, training, and education to its 800 members. She helped found the group in 1992, and today it is the nation’s largest state association in the nation for festivals and events. She currently hosts the show Party @ MI Place on Michigan Business Network.
- Sue gives some tips on what makes a successful festival and talks about the importance of volunteers in creating communities and festivals people love. (9:54)
David Lorenz is Acting Vice President of Travel Michigan. Prior to that, he was Manager, Industry Relations & International Marketing-TravelMichigan at Michigan Economic Development Corporation. He has been responsible for Travel Michigan's efforts in the areas of international marketing, packaged travel, conventions and meetings, industry relations and sports-event promotion. His responsibilities now also include heading up the state’s tourism branding and marketing efforts through the award-winning Pure Michigan tourism campaign as well as coordinating overall efforts of the Travel Michigan organization.
- David talks about the economic importance of festivals to Michigan and for communities of all shapes and sizes. (10:01)
Jon Witz is president of Jonathan Witz and Associates, and a founder of the Arts Beats and Eats festival held this year in Royal Oak. Jon has been in the entertainment and promotion business most of his life, coming to Michigan to help open a club and staying on to help create some of the region’s signature events. He was involved in the 2006 Super Bowl festivities, and helped start the Winter Blast in Campus Martius Park downtown in Detroit – a reminder that festivals aren’t always held in the summer.
- Jon gives advice on starting up a festival and lessons he’s learned over the years. (10:14)