By Donald Sovey
Starting last year at this time, a group of dedicated and interested community members called the “Festival Alliance” started to meet to see if there was a way to coordinate or improve on the many festivals that are supported in Charlotte. To their surprise, there were more festivals than they knew, and as of today there are reportedly 25 or so festivals in this town. This may be more than any other town of Charlotte’s size.
Early survey data shows the festivals attract over 200,000 people to Charlotte. Over 15 years ago, the city of Charlotte and a group of interested citizens worked with an outside adviser called HyettPalma to develop a Charlotte Downtown Blueprint 2005. They advised that a “signature event” should be developed.
“Such events are a typical part of community life in small and large cities alike. And they serve to ‘advertise’ downtown to eventgoers in the hopes that they will return as customers in the days, weeks or even months after the event. Therefore, one signature annual event that is held solely in downtown Charlotte should be created,” the report stated.
As a result of this idea, the Celebrate Charlotte festival was born shortly thereafter. This festival continues to grow and is going strong today and is now called Charlotte Celebrates. It is the most recognized festival, following Frontier Days and the Eaton County Fair in the community.
The Michigan Nordic Fire Festival is another festival that was developed from a grassroots recommendation and is now starting its fifth year. Information is available at michigannordicfirefestival.com. This event now draws participants from many other states and is an annual celebration at the end of February.
Frontier Days and the Frontier Days Parade is the most recognized local festival, according to a recent survey by CharlotteRising. It was founded in 1970. Sixty-one percent of survey respondents attended or participated in this festival in the past year. This festival is reportedly growing in organizational strength due to improved operational procedures. There are many new and exciting developments coming for 2020 in celebration of its 50th anniversary.
The Charlotte Bluegrass Festival is nationally recognized and hosts some of this country’s top national bluegrass entertainment in June. It is nearly 50 years since this festival began. It includes camping and is hosted at the Eaton County Fairgrounds. It offers a family-oriented atmosphere with guitar and banjo picking in the campground. The website is charlottebluegrassfestival.com.
Other local festivals include the following: Eaton County Home and Business Expo (April 18-19), visit eatoncountyexpo.com; Wine Walk, CharlotteRising Uncorked; Almost Midnight Madness (downtown trick or treating); Small Business Saturday; Lighted Holiday Parade; Charlotte Christmas; Charlotte Performing Arts Center events; Pig Palooza; Friday Night Open Mics at Windwalker Underground Gallery; Farmer’s Market; Festival of Trees; Spinsanity Flow Down; Concerts on the Square; and Buy Nearby and Fall Fest. New festivals that are coming to Charlotte in 2020 include the Mid-Michigan Gospel Fest (June 12-14) and the Festival of Oddities (Sept. 5).
The Festival Alliance started meeting last March and includes representatives from the Charlotte Performing Arts Center, CharlotteRising, The Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, City of Charlotte, Courthouse Square Museum, Sparrow Eaton Hospital and other organizations and individuals. The meetings are fast paced and highly collaborative.
A new website listing events in and around Charlotte grew out of the Festival Alliance discussions. If desired, visit micharlotteevents.org for the list of events. The alliance has helped to develop an avenue for volunteers to participate in many of the festivals. Anyone interested in volunteering for festival participation can visit charlotterising.com/get-involved.
Meetings of the Festival Alliance are ongoing and highly collaborative. Alliance members are shown here at a recent gathering.