Arts, Beats & Eats attracts nearly 400,000 people

By: Victoria Mitchell | Royal Oak Review | Published September 11, 2017

 Anthony Schomberger, with Famous Dave’s, grills ribs for the eats portion of Ford Arts, Beats & Eats  Sept. 2 in downtown Royal Oak.

Anthony Schomberger, with Famous Dave’s, grills ribs for the eats portion of Ford Arts, Beats & Eats Sept. 2 in downtown Royal Oak.


ROYAL OAK — More than 385,000 people visited downtown Royal Oak over Labor Day weekend for the 20th annual Ford Arts, Beats & Eats festival.

Festival officials said a record crowd of more than 8,000 people attended the 311 concert that headlined the event on Saturday, Sept. 2.

“This was a special year for Ford Arts, Beats & Eats,” Jon Witz, event producer, said in a statement. “We hit a milestone of 20 straight years of having a successful festival, and reached a new fundraising plateau.”

Total donation dollars that will be passed out next month to dozens of charitable and cultural organizations were not tallied as of press time, but Witz expects the amount will, at a minimum, reach $300,000.

Witz said that since its inception, Ford Arts, Beats & Eats has donated more than $5 million to partner organizations.

Two Priority Health events held Saturday and Sunday mornings also drew a large number of participants. The Priority Health Zumbathon Celebration had an attendance of about 1,300 participants, and the new Priority Health Practice for a Purpose yoga classes had more than 500 yogis participate in its inaugural year, festival officials said.

Witz was proud to announce that a record number of 2,350 children with autism and their family members enjoyed a free day of fun and entertainment — including a free lunch, parking, admission and carnival rides throughout the day — through the Autism Alliance of Michigan and Kroger.

Royal Oak Police Lt. Keith Spencer said it was a great weekend from a public safety standpoint.

“No significant incidents happened during the festival,” Spencer said.

With the exception of a passing thunderstorm Monday evening, the weather was favorable throughout the Labor Day weekend.

The sun shined brightly on opening day Sept. 1, as people filled the streets and took advantage of free admission until 5 p.m.

“We hope residents will take advantages of cooler temps and ride bikes, which are free to park, to the festival,” Royal Oak Community Engagement Specialist Judy Davids said Sept. 1. “There is lots of family-friendly entertainment, including a kids zone, so it makes for a great day outing.”

Davids said that every year, the festival organizer asks the crowd in front of the main stage, “Who is from Royal Oak?”

“And he always gets a big response — like the majority of the crowd is our residents,” she said. “Whether they really are or not, we’re glad they are here and having fun.”

Witz was banking on the fact that plenty of Royal Oak residents and many more from throughout the state would head downtown over the weekend for the nice weather and the more than $100,000 in additional money spent on entertainment this year than in years past.

Headlining acts included The B-52’s, Candlebox, 311, Jordan Davis, Dwight Yoakam, Grand Funk Railroad, The Wallflowers, and George Clinton and the P-Funk All-Stars.

Plenty of other musical acts rounded out the weekend on nine stages throughout the festival footprint.

Greg Jablonski came to the festival Friday afternoon to watch his niece, Kate Jablonski, perform on the Ford Alternative Rock Stage.

“It’s such a beautiful day to come out,” he said.

Jablonski said he hadn’t been to the festival since it took place in Pontiac, and he was enjoying the Royal Oak atmosphere.

He was also proud of his niece.

“Oh yes, she’s great,” he said.

The smell of barbecue and other delicious treats wafted down Washington from more than 40 food vendors throughout the event, along with plenty of artisans selling and showcasing their creations.