2012 Traverse City Comedy Arts Festival: Michael Moore Explains

Traverse City Comedy Arts Festival:


Thank you for the hundreds of emails you've sent us supporting our decision to, sadly, cancel this year's Traverse City Comedy Arts Festival. We tried to find a new date in March but one of our three venues, the Old Town Playhouse, is completely booked — and so are a number of our comedians.

I am going to share with you a letter from City Hall. It was sent out last January and it confirmed the agreement that the comedy festival and the beer fest would be held on separate weekends in 2012. We agreed with the TC Convention & Visitors Bureau and many of you that this is what’s best for the local economy — to spread out these events that bring tourists here with their tourist dollars so that the community is the winner.

This agreement was necessary because of last year, when the beer fest announced, just two months before our festival, that they were moving their event from the Resort in Acme, MI, to exactly one bock away from the second Comedy Festival in downtown Traverse City. We made it clear that we could not do the comedy fest on the same days in the same location as a beer fest for two reasons:

It made no sense to schedule two festivals downtown on the same weekend when there are so many weekends in the "dead" of winter up here that could use some help to improve the local economy AND our year-round quality of life in Traverse City. We did not want to deal with all of the problems that might come along with a few thousand people who have been drinking in downtown TC. It was not what we promised our performers and it is not what we wanted our audience, visitors to TC, to experience. (And, as it turned out, we did have to deal with numerous incidents involving people who told us they had been drinking at the beer festival.)

The beer fest rejected our request that they pick a different downtown date or remain out in Acme at the Resort. We considered canceling, but agreed to go forward sharing the date as long as everyone agreed things would be different in 2012. So the City of Traverse City called a meeting in January (one month before last year's dual fest weekend), and we sat down with the beer fest reps, the Visitors Bureau, the downtown merchants association, City officials, and other community leaders to work something out.

It was a great meeting, cordial and productive. An understanding was reached — we would hold the comedy fest and they would hold the beer fest on the same weekend in 2011, but there would be different dates in 2012 for the two events. Later that afternoon, the City official who organized the meeting, Bryan Crough, sent us all the following letter to confirm what had been agreed upon:

From: Bryan Crough, Community Development Director, City of TC Date: Tue, Jan 11, 2011 at 4:05 PM Subject: February 2012 and event coordination in general

To: Deb Lake, Traverse City Comedy Arts Festival/TC Film Festival Colleen Paveglio, Downtown TC Association
Sam Porter, Microbrew Fest
Diane Baribeau, City Opera House
Tim Hinkley, National Cherry Festival Brad Van Dommelen, TC Convention & Visitors Bureau

Cc: Ben Bifoss, City Manager, City of TC


Thanks for meeting today. I think we all agreed it was beneficial and obviously we realized the value of communication and coordination! We have February 2012 worked out! From my notes I have this: (if incorrect please let me know immediately)

2012 February 3-4 – Microbrew and Music Fest
February 9-12 -Traverse City Comedy Festival
February 17-19 – Winter Wow!Fest February 26 – March 3 – Second Annual Traverse City Restaurant Week

Wow! Now we need to fill up March and April! …We are so fortunate to have a community with so much going on that we have coordination problems, folks! Any other City would die to have two of our fabulous February events during one year!!!

Thanks for meeting – call or email me if I have left something out!

Bryan J. Crough Community Development Director
City of Traverse City
400 Boardman Avenue – 2nd Floor Traverse City, MI 49684

No one called Mr. Crough back to tell him he had it wrong. That's because he had it right. In fact, no one from the beer fest followed up with Mr. Crough until nearly TEN MONTHS later, when, just a few weeks ago, the beer fest unilaterally announced they were going to go ahead and hold their fest on the weekend reserved for Comedy Festival — after we had already booked our venues and a number of our comedians. This upset nearly everyone who was at the January meeting — City officials, the downtown association, tourism leaders — because we all had operated for almost an entire year under the assumption that everything had been worked out. It also prompted this terse letter to the beer fest from Mr. Crough on behalf of the City of Traverse City:

From: Bryan Crough Date: Tuesday, November 01, 2011 10:01 AM
To: Sam Porter [Microbrew Festival]
Cc: Ben Bifoss, Colleen Paveglio, Benjamin Marentette Subject: February 2012 schedule

Sam, Below is a copy of an email I sent out, on behalf of the City of Traverse City, after a meeting I called on behalf of the City, to address concerns about the February, 2011 overlap of events in our community. While we did not have formal agreements on this, we did have my email suggesting agreement by all parties, with notice if something was incorrect that I be notified immediately. I did not receive any word that this summary was incorrect. While the City Commission did not have a role in this planning, I have been advised to alert you that we as a City expected this to be the schedule for February, 2012. I have been made aware of your plans to NOT proceed with the Microbrew Fest on February 3-4, 2012 but rather to continue to conflict with the Comedy Festival, which was the entire reason for the meeting last January. If you proceed with plans to seek City approvals for your event during the Comedy Festival, I will need to alert City staff and the City Commission of your agreement in January of last year, AND of the on-going concerns expressed by the Comedy Festival.
I appreciate that things change over time, but I feel like a lot of time was wasted last year in working through a calendar that was acceptable to all.
Please call me if you have any questions.
Bryan Crough, Executive Director Downtown Development Authority

After looking in vain for another weekend that could work for the 2012 comedy fest, we decided to take the year off to regroup and look for a different weekend for 2013.

We absolutely dreaded having to write you these letters. Jeff Garlin and I volunteer our time and energy to do the comedy fest only because we love TC and want to help the local economy (as I'm sure you know, we accept no pay to do any of this). It has been our experience that here up north, people strive to work things out whenever possible and that everyone does what they can to get along and work toward what is best for the common good of the community. We are stunned that this did not happen in this case. And we will wonder for quite some time why otherwise good people couldn't find a simple solution to this problem.

One thing's for sure: local businesses up here struggle mightily to get through the lean winter months. When we started the Traverse City Comedy Arts Festival, we thought it would infuse some much-needed cash into the local economy. And it did. We've encouraged and inspired others here in TC to come up with events and gatherings throughout the year that bring people to TC and, as a result, millions of dollars have come into our area during a time of economic depression in the state of Michigan. Jeff and I will try to find a way to work this out for 2013. We are sorry it came to this for 2012.

Oh, and by the way, we like beer, almost as much as we love barreling down the water slide at the Great Wolf Lodge wearing the latest fashions from The Captains Quarters.

Michael Moore and Jeff Garlin

Read the Porterhouse Productions announcement on its change of venue for the 2012 Traverse City Comedy Arts Festival