Arts, Beats & Eats canceled, but ‘The Beats Go On’

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published July 27, 2020

 Jill Jack and the American Songbook, a jazz band, performs at the 22nd annual Arts, Beats & Eats in downtown Royal Oak last year. The event is officially canceled this year, but organizers have maintained a semblance of normalcy with smaller events with heightened health measures.

Jill Jack and the American Songbook, a jazz band, performs at the 22nd annual Arts, Beats & Eats in downtown Royal Oak last year. The event is officially canceled this year, but organizers have maintained a semblance of normalcy with smaller events with heightened health measures.

File photo by Patricia O’Blenes

ROYAL OAK — Due to social distancing guidelines and the health threat of COVID-19, Arts, Beats & Eats organizers officially announced the cancellation of the long-standing Labor Day festival July 22.

Producer Jon Witz said organizers remained optimistic about holding a modified festival until several weeks ago, when a renewed wave of cases of COVID-19 flooded southern states.

“We certainly hope this is a one-year situation. We look to get back as close to normal as possible in 2021,” he said. “We’re hoping that all the good work going into treatment and vaccine research comes through for everybody, not just for us — more importantly, for schools, other industries and other critical aspects of our society.”

However, the lifeblood of the festival will continue — its charitable fundraising and support for musicians, artists, food truck operators and fitness instructors, who have all been hit hard by the pandemic.

“These folks just have not had the best go of it in the last six months,” Witz said. “We want to show some spirit and just remind people that we’re about good times and everything, but we want to play by the rules. We have to respect keeping our fellow citizens safe.”

“The Beats Go On” is a campaign that seeks to raise $500,000 for local musicians, including online and “drive-in” musical performances. The “Arts” and “Eats” will also “Go On” with live events, plus two limited-capacity health and wellness events.

Oakland County is expected to provide matching funds to bolster “The Beats Go On” campaign. A donation link, as well as a to-be-announced list of bands, will be available at

Funds raised through the donation link will be earmarked and split by qualifying local performers whose pre-COVID-19 earnings were more than 50% generated by music-related and band performance income.

“We applaud the commitment to work closely with our health department on entertainment plans, and the creativity to help musicians,” Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter said in a prepared statement. “I know so many of our local musicians have been severely impacted because of the pandemic, with most events and performances canceled. We see you, and we value your work in our community, and we will work together to get through this together.”

From Aug. 27 to Sept. 3, more than 400 bands across 15 genres will perform virtual concerts for fans, and each virtual concert will serve as a fundraiser for the band. Bands interested in joining the virtual performance lineup should contact Jaime Wilkins at

From Sept. 4 to Sept. 7, the festival will offer a series of drive-in concerts from local musicians to support the cause. Up to five shows per day will take place in the national stage parking lot at Sixth and Main streets in downtown Royal Oak, which has room for 50 vehicles per show.

Each show will include two 30-minute sets from a wide variety of Michigan bands, including Thornetta Davis, The Reefermen, The Orbitsuns, Larry Lee & The Back In The Day Band, Your Generation In Concert, Jennifer Westwood & The Handsome Devils, and Alise King.

Tickets cost $30 and admit two people per vehicle, with revenue divided between the bands performing. Organizers expect the drive-in concerts will raise an additional $30,000.

Cars will park more than 15 feet apart; all band members will perform at least 6 feet from each other and 20 feet from the audience; masks will be required at all times in the backstage area for crew members and musicians waiting to perform; and masks will be required for everyone entering the drive-thru, as well as when food is delivered or when exiting vehicles to use the restroom.

From Sept. 4 to Sept. 7, “Art by Appointment” will allow patrons to view artists’ work online and then schedule a 75-minute visit with up to 20 participating juried fine artists. Fifty guests every 75 minutes will be allowed to enter the art fair, with one visitor at a time allowed per booth.

All artists and patrons must wear masks, and physical distancing markers will be placed every 6 feet outside booths for individuals waiting in line to view art. Booths will be placed 10 feet apart.

During Labor Day weekend, the festival will work with neighborhood associations to provide “Eats On Your Street.” Locally owned food trucks will set up in Royal Oak neighborhoods and nearby communities, including Clawson, Berkley, Huntington Woods and Ferndale.

The opportunity is not open to the public — neighborhood associations should contact the festival at to learn how to participate. Staff at each stop will ensure physical distancing and mask-wearing when appropriate.

On Saturday, Sept. 5, a 100-person Zumba dance fitness event will take place in the main stage parking lot. Participants must maintain a minimum distance of 12 feet, as well as wear a mask for entry and exit and until they are in their assigned locations. A live portion of the fitness dance event will be streamed online. All funds raised from the event will be split between Forgotten Harvest and “The Beats Go On” campaign.

On Sunday, Sept. 6, Thrive Hot Yoga will offer a 100-person yoga class in the same area. A fee for the class will be split among COVID-19 charities and fitness instructors who have been out of work. Masks will be required for entry and exit and until participants are in their assigned locations.

All events have been designed in collaboration with the Oakland County Health Department and meet current state guidelines for events.

Oakland County Department of Health and Human Services Director Kathy Forzley said she felt the carefully planned “cultural vignette format” is an example for future arts and cultural events in the region to keep people connected while being apart.

“People naturally seek arts and cultural engagement, as well as a sense of community for their well-being,” Forzley said in a prepared statement. “If we can provide a managed outlet that uses prescribed safeguards, such as requiring masks and physical distancing, we see activities like these delivering a safe and fun environment.”

Royal Oak Mayor Michael Fournier said the festival has raised a significant amount of funds for Royal Oak charities and that the cancellation is a sign of the times, but he looks forward to Arts, Beats & Eats in 2021.

“We’re happy to push ourselves into new, innovative realms to find ways to keep people engaged. If we can find ways, either digitally or otherwise, to support local artists’ and musicians’ craft, I think it’s a good idea,” Fournier said. “I applaud the promoters’ effort to keep some semblance of the event in a very safe way.”

For all lineups, links to fine artists, registrations and more, visit or call (248) 541-7550.