Arts, Beats & Eats raises record amount for charity

By: Robert Guttersohn | Royal Oak Review | Published October 16, 2013

ROYAL OAK — The organizers of Arts, Beats & Eats announced Oct. 8 that the Labor Day weekend festival raised more than $386,000 for charities — a record amount for its 16 years of existence.

Jonathan Witz, the director of the event, said much of the credit for that amount goes to the inaugural FirstMerit Foundation Community Challenge, a crowd-sourced online charity competition.

“This was new,” Witz said to representatives from various charities in attendance at the press conference. “You took a chance, jumped into it and knocked it out of the park.”

David Lochner, the president of FirstMerit Michigan, announced that Rainbow Connection, which raised $59,000 through the competition, and the Boys and Girls Club of Southeast Oakland, which raised $54,000, were the top two fundraisers in the competition.

“We’re so pleased to have been involved,” Lochner said and announced that FirstMerit Michigan will again put together a charitable competition for next year’s Arts, Beats & Eats.

Mayor Jim Ellison said that more than $141,000 of the total raised went to Royal Oak-based charities.

Ellison said that when he and Witz talked about bring Arts, Beats & Eats to Royal Oak a few years ago, Ellison made Witz promise to involve the Royal Oak nonprofits.

“Jon has held true to that for all three years we’ve had the event,” Ellison said.

Despite the record charity amount, the attendance numbers for this year’s event — more than 350,000 throughout Labor Day weekend — were down from last year by about 10 percent. Ellison said that was OK because it might have led to a smoother event with no complaints from residents.

“All in all, we’re very proud in the city of Royal Oak to have this event,” he said.

He added that the city administration’s efforts also led to this year’s smooth event.