Traverse City News and Events

Organizers Eye Return Of Summer, Fall Events

By Beth Milligan | May 13, 2021

As Michigan inches toward its next vaccination milestone - moving from a current 55.4 percent rate of vaccinated adults to 60 percent, at which point stadium and arena capacity limits will increase to 25 percent statewide - area event organizers are cautiously planning their summer and fall comebacks. Some are looking forward to a full return to normalcy, as with large-scale events planned at Turtle Creek Stadium this fall, while others with earlier start dates are still taking a hybrid or wait-and-see approach.

Turtle Creek Stadium announced Wednesday that it will host an "explosive, high-adrenaline action sports spectacular" on October 2 in partnership with action sports brand Nitro Circus. The event, called "Nitro Circus: You Got This," will feature FMX, BMX, skate, and scooter athletes performing 60-foot jumps and other stunts in the Traverse City outdoor stadium. Four-time Nitro World Games champion and three-time X Games gold medalist Ryan Williams will appear, as will U.S. BMX rider Kurtis Downs and mountain bike pro Dusty Wygle. An on-sale date for tickets will be announced soon, with Traverse City Pit Spitters season ticket holders and partners receiving early access to ticket sales.

“We are extremely excited to host Nitro Circus at Turtle Creek Stadium this fall," says Traverse City Pit Spitters and Turtle Creek Stadium CEO Joe Chamberlin. "This is the kind of large-scale, nationally known brand of entertainment we have envisioned bringing to Traverse City since taking over the stadium."

Pit Spitters General Manager Mickey Graham tells The Ticker the stadium is already exploring other large-scale events for fall and hopes to announce more programming soon. Holding full-capacity events - the stadium is currently limited to 20 percent capacity - will be contingent on the status of state COVID-19 restrictions and health guidelines in the coming months, Graham notes.

Those restrictions pose a bigger challenge for events coming up sooner, including the National Cherry Festival. The festival already announced some major in-person events will be cancelled this year, including the Bayside Music Stage concerts and U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds air show. However, the Meijer Festival of Races, Beer Tent, Arts & Craft Show, Old Town Car Show, Ultimate Air Dogs, Great American Duck Race, midway, and other events and attractions will still take place in person. On Tuesday, festival organizers announced that the DTE Energy Foundation Cherry Royale Parade will be converted to a "standing parade" this year at Grand Traverse Resort and Spa, "where the floats will stand still and all spectators will drive their cars by to see the parade." The event will take place July 10 from 11am to 2pm.

A question still looming over festival week is whether public fireworks will be held over West Grand Traverse Bay for the Fourth of July. Several Traverse City commissioners recently expressed concerns about the public health and safety ramifications of issuing a permit to the TC Boom Boom Club to put on the fireworks, potentially drawing thousands of people to downtown in spaces like beaches and parks that don't have defined capacities or regulated entrances and exits.

Traverse City Mayor Pro Tem Amy Shamroe says she wants to hear more from TC Boom Boom Club representatives and city staff before proceeding, particularly when it comes to making sure all parties agree on the conditions under which the fireworks could take place, like having social distancing practices in place or hitting a certain public vaccination threshold. Shamroe also wants to make sure it's clear that city permits can be revoked on short notice if needed for public health or safety reasons. "Knowing how cautious city staff are (about public safety), if we were to go forward, it would only be if it were absolutely safe for the public," she says. City Clerk Benjamin Marentette tells The Ticker that the fireworks permit will come back to city commissioners for discussion at their meeting next Monday, with Traverse City Fire Department Chief Jim Tuller expected to address commission questions and concerns.

Concert and other arts event planners are also trying to determine how to proceed with programming. Interlochen Center for the Arts has announced it will not hold any concerts or public performances in June, and is monitoring conditions for the rest of summer. "If we can safely host outdoor concerts in Kresge Auditorium in July and/or August, we will follow all recommended safety measures such as face masking," the organization said in a statement.

Some regional concert planners are moving ahead with events with safety regulations in place, such as the Lake Street Music Festival @ Studio Stage, which will hold four concerts in Glen Arbor in July and August with masks and social distancing required. The Traverse Symphony Orchestra (TSO) recently put tickets on sale for an upcoming 2021-22 season of live performances, which will kick off in October and continue through April 2022. TSO, Traverse City Dance Project, and Parallel 45 Theatre will also host an outdoor event called "Arts in the Park" on August 3 at the Civic Center featuring live music conducted by TSO Maestro Kevin Rhodes, dance choreography by Traverse City Dance Project Co-Founder Brent Whitney, and musical theater interludes directed by P45 Co-Founder Kit McKay. Tickets will go on sale in June, with proceeds benefiting future editions of the concert, which organizers say they hope to make an annual event.

While the Traverse City National Writers Series (NWS) announced this week that its summer lineup of five authors will all be presented as virtual Zoom events, Executive Director Jillian Manning says the organization is eyeing a possible return to in-person events at the City Opera House in "late August or September, dependent on what the latest guidelines and restrictions are." Manning notes that NWS events are planned several months in advance and that most publishers still aren't sending their authors on tour, which made it necessary to present the summer season in a virtual format. However, NWS is talking with supporters, publishers, authors, and City Opera House staff about the best approach for bringing back live events. "If we're going to bring events back, we want to make sure people are comfortable coming to them," she says.

Even when live NWS events return, Manning notes the organization plans to continue offering a livestream of all of its events going forward - an option many event organizers have realized during the pandemic opened up their programming to audiences who couldn't otherwise physically attend or afford live events. Manning says as many as 25 percent of attendees at some NWS Zoom events have come from out-of-state over the last year. "The virtual option gives accessibility from a price standpoint, and it also allows people to attend from wherever they are in the world," she says.

Photo credit: Nitro Circus

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