Arts, Beats & Eats attendees peruse booths in the juried fine art fair portion of the festival this past summer. The city of Royal Oak recently approved a contract extension with the festival through 2024.

Arts, Beats & Eats attendees peruse booths in the juried fine art fair portion of the festival this past summer. The city of Royal Oak recently approved a contract extension with the festival through 2024.

File photo by Patricia O’Blenes


Arts, Beats & Eats extends Royal Oak contract through 2024

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published November 5, 2019

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ROYAL OAK — On Oct. 28, the Royal Oak City Commission voted 5-2 to extend its contract with Arts, Beats & Eats, which was in effect through 2021, an additional three years to 2024.

The four-day Labor Day weekend festival has called Royal Oak home for the last 10 years, which festival producer Jon Witz called the festival’s best years. It was originally established in Pontiac in 1998.

Witz said festival organizers would have to research other communities if the commission did not approve the contract extension. He admitted that the festival is not perfect, but that organizers have been and will continue to be willing to work with local businesses, residents and others on improvements.

“(This year), the event raised over $100,000 for Royal Oak-based charities, including the Women’s Club, historical society, war memorial, school groups and other organizations,” Witz said. “It supported an average of $200,000 to other nonprofits.”

Annually, the festival draws 300,000-400,000 people to downtown Royal Oak.

“(The festival is a) positive for us, not to mention the promotional value,” Mayor Pro Tem Sharlan Douglas said. “It’s enormous.”

Commissioners Randy LeVasseur and Kim Gibbs voted against the contract extension. Both said they wished for more time to reach out to businesses and residents in the festival’s footprint to get input.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, Alan Ashley, of Royal Oak Manor, expressed concerns about how Arts, Beats & Eats affects seniors, and Lost and Found Vintage co-owner Amanda Khoury said that she and other businesses along Washington Avenue are negatively impacted by the festival.

The City Commission also unanimously approved Witz’s request to host Rock ’n’ Rides, a festival held the third weekend in June, in 2020 and 2021.

The inaugural event took place this summer in downtown Royal Oak. 

The commission also voted 5-2 to approve an amendment to the contract, proposed by LeVasseur, to direct the Downtown Development Authority within 45 days after next year’s Rock ’n’  Rides to solicit community feedback about the event or, if they were not willing to do so, direct staff to provide the commission with other alternatives for gaining feedback.

Douglas and Commissioner Patricia Paruch voted against the amendment.

Witz said Rock ’n’ Rides, in its first year, attracted 30,000 people and raised $20,000 for charity.

“One thing we changed in the middle of the event was the name of the Unity Fair. We got feedback that not only was the name not strong enough, but we also reached out to religious organizations and tried to bring more than Christian-based organizations to it,” he said. “We found difficulty in doing that on quantity and participation, so it was not living up to the theme of bringing people together.”

The Unity Fair was a portion of the festival designed to bring together nonprofits, including churches, school groups and more. 

By securing a two-year contract, Witz said, organizers hope to ramp up sponsor support in order to bring in national acts The Romantics and the Gin Blossoms. The “rock” portion of the festival this summer only included local bands, and bars on Fifth Street did not see increased sales, he said. 

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