Royal OakSeptember 5, 2012
Arts, Beats & Eats draws its second-largest crowd in 15 years
By Chris Jackett
C & G Staff Writer
With the third year of being in Royal Oak under its belt, officials with Ford Arts, Beats & Eats said the 15-year-old, four-day festival had its best weekend ever as the rain held out and the temperatures weren’t too warm.
“For me, it wasn’t the biggest Arts, Beats & Eats – it was No. 2 – but it was the best Arts, Beats & Eats,” said Jonathon Witz, the festival’s producer, who noted more than 390,000 people attended. “The heat was the only issue on Friday. If we had a lower temperature Friday, we could’ve gotten more or at least the same (attendance as in the past).”
Witz said attendance jumped on Sept. 1-2 as temperatures cooled and the big bands hit the stage for Labor Day weekend.
“I think the event was really smooth and logistics flowed from stage to stage,” Witz said. “I really loved the flow of music, the quality of the local programming (and) just being able to turn over our music.”
The variety of genres, ranging from rock to classic jazz, was a hit with several attendees.
“We saw a couple good bands in the R&B tent,” Milford resident Rob Galloway said Friday after seeing The Swank Club and Partners in Time. “I think the venue is better in Royal Oak than it is in Pontiac. I think they should attract more artists.”
Galloway said this was his sixth year attending the festival, including the first two in Royal Oak.
“(My favorite part is) the food and people-watching,” Galloway said, noting he especially enjoyed a barbecue pork sandwich from Redwood Grill.
Royal Oak resident Andrew Rebhun, a global advanced product marketing manager who was working at the Ford Motor Co. vehicle display area, said he was glad to see the festival move to Royal Oak. A Los Angeles native, Rebhun moved to Royal Oak after college so he could work with Ford in Dearborn.
“It’s such a young, vibrant community,” Rebhun said. “It’s nice the city was able to step up and be an alternative from Pontiac. You’ve got a good diversity. It’s a great event here in Royal Oak.”
Despite the Friday heat, Rebhun said he saw a constant flow of festival patrons stop by the title sponsor’s display throughout the day.
“We’ve been busy all day, which is awesome,” said Rebhun, who was helping show off all of the 2013 Ford vehicle models. “It’s been going great. It’s a real good opportunity to get out in the community and give residents a chance to see (everything). This is probably one of our bigger footprints. So many people are attached to Ford throughout the area.
“It’s so nice that they have so many different types of vendors here. There’s such an opportunity to experience new things.”
Westland resident Lisa Hynes and her daughter, Faith, 5, were attending Arts, Beats & Eats for the first time, looking for a new experience. Faith found it in the children’s craft tent, where she was able to paint and take home a ceramic penguin.
“(We came) just to kind of hang out and see what it’s all about,” Hynes said. “I like it. So far, it’s been fun. It’s always fun to see what (art) everyone’s got.”
Athens, Ga., residents Heather Daniel and Zak Noles were among some of the artistic vendors at the festival, manning the Pubs Of poster booth next to the Rock Stage at Fifth and Center streets. Although Noles is a Pinckney native, it was the first time either attended the festival. He said the heat had slowed down some patrons Friday, but he was impressed with the local bands playing nearby, especially These Charming Men.
“There’s been a few really good bands,” Noles said.
The couple was selling poster artwork drawn by St. John resident Brian McKelvey that depicts several local bars in college towns or downtown areas all side by side. Visit www.pubsof.com to see a variety. Noles said McKelvey sometimes sits outside of bars and draws them on napkins so he remembers features to include in the artwork.
“He actually goes to them and asks them if they’d like to be in the drawing,” Daniel said, who was surprised that the Michigan heat matched her native Georgia heat. “I’ve been pleasantly surprised that it’s not cold. Royal Oak is really fun.”
Noles was pleased with the experience of being a vendor. With all the artwork along the southern end of the festival, the food lining Washington, a carnival on the northern outskirts past Fourth Street and the music scattered throughout, Noles said he enjoyed the atmosphere.
“I’m just happy to be here and be a part of it,” Noles said. “It’s legitimate. You get vendor passes. Everyone’s been really friendly. The downtown businesses are benefiting from it, too.”
For more information on Arts, Beats & Eats, visit www.artsbeatseats.com.
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