Trying to stay afloat, Summer Celebration to pay 2010 city fees over next three years

Andrew Trzaska | November 11, 2010

Muskegon’s City Commission voted unanimously at their meeting Tuesday to approve a request by Muskegon Summer Celebration to pay their 2010 city services fees in three installments from 2011-2013.

The fees will be paid on top of those accumulated for each of those three years, and 2011’s combined bill will be paid by September 30 of next year.

The request was made by festival Executive Director Joe Austin, who called Summer Celebration a tourism and quality of life asset for the people of West Michigan.  In his statements, he estimated that the festival generates approximately $14 million in economic activity for the area each year.

Mayor Steve Warmington made two different statements on the issue during the meeting.  To the general attendance of the meeting, he said that the city needed to work with the festival.  He lauded the efforts and impact of the festival, stating that Summer Celebration was “one of the first steps to put Muskegon on the regional map”. However, he also specifically asked the commission if setting hardship terms for Summer Celebration would set a dangerous precedence for other businesses to ask for the same in the current economy.

The 18-year old Summer Celebration is currently working on a financial rescue plan after 2010’s 11-day festival posted some of the worst financial figures in the 18-year history of the festival.  Lower than expected pass sales, the loss of Esurance and Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge as sponsors, and poor ticket revenues for their first-ever Air Show were all reasons cited by Summer Celebration for 2010’s numbers.

“Everything’s on the table,” said Austin, noting that the festival had to become viable immediately. “We have to get back to ground zero.”

Summer Celebration said last week that they would make a similar request of Muskegon County for payment of Heritage Landing usage fees. No representative of the festival was present at the meeting to present the request, and no decision has therefore been made.

Andrew Trzaska

103.7 “The Beat” – local government beat reporter and political analyst