Thursday, December 5, 2013

Too Many Events City (Part Two)

In a town that promotes itself as a mecca for special events, the natives are growing restless.  They are beginning to tire of outsiders clogging up their streets.  They are sick of not being able to access their parks.  They are questioning the value of spending more than necessary on police and emergency protection for people who are leaving in a few hours time.  And they want their lawmakers to start returning their city to their use.

I bet you thought I was talking about Oshkosh--"Event City"--didn't you?  Well, I'm actually referring to Traverse City, Michigan--which now bills itself as the "City of Festivals".  Every week there is a different event in TC--art shows, film festivals, bike rallies, car shows, the National Cherry Festival--all of which bring a new load of visitors to town.  At first, residents welcomed the tourists--and their cash in a bad economy--with open arms.  But now a growing number of people are getting fed up with not being able to access the lakeshore, park on the street or get a table at a popular restaurant--and they would like more time for Traverse City to be about Traverse Citians.  It's even gained its own catch phrase: "Festival Fatigue".

The Convention and Visitors Bureau folks are trying to shout down this anti-tourism sentiment, tossing around their economic impact figures--but even city supervisors are beginning to wonder if that really makes up for the added expense and strain on municipal services and the aggravation endured by residents.  Those commissioners are now considering a "festival limit" to give people a break.

While I may not have been talking about Oshkosh in the open, Traverse City should serve as a "canary in the mine" for our city.  Already, we are seeing some of our own "festival fatigue" here.  City Manager Mark Rohloff has publicly expressed his concern that the number of events around town is already straining police and first responder resources.  You can't have officers and EMT's on overtime every weekend.  City Councillors have tossed out the idea of increasing the Special Event Permit Fee even more to not only cover those rising costs--but to also serve as a greater revenue source for other departments.  We've been telling you for months now about one event that can't even pay the event fee it is currently being charged.  And don't event think about trying to use Highway 41 on any of the nights that Country USA is going on--which is a huge safety issue for those just trying to drive to Fond du Lac or Appleton.

And these issues are only going to be exacerbated in the future.  It is an open secret that a third multi-day music event is coming to Ford Festival Park next year.  The DNR recently eased the limits on fishing tournaments in the state--meaning the Lake Winnebago system could host even more events.  The EAA is moving up the date for Airventure starting in 2015--compacting the event schedule for June and July even more.  And don't forget that the renovated Convention Center and downtown hotel are supposed to be bringing in thousands of more people on a regular basis as well.

If Oshkosh isn't careful, we could start "over-booking" ourselves as well.  Instead of "Festival Fatigue" we'll have to call it "Event Exasperation".

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