Arts, Beats & Eats gives more than $250,000 to community organizations

By: Victoria Mitchell | Royal Oak Review | Published October 21, 2015

ROYAL OAK — Ford Arts, Beats & Eats executives announced last week that the organization will distribute more than a quarter-million dollars to community organizations from proceeds collected during the 2015 Labor Day weekend event.

This year, $255,802 was raised from gate admissions, beverage proceeds and other festival-sponsored community initiatives that will be distributed to more than 60 nonprofit and community organizations.

In total, $101,382 of the money raised went back to Royal Oak organizations and nonprofits.

“That was one of the selling points when they first brought the event into town,” said Mayor Jim Ellison. “That was one of the first things I told them, ‘I want our local charities to benefit.’ And they have. They’ve benefited dramatically.”

The mayor said it is one of the positive aspects of the event that people sometimes forget about.

“There are so many smaller nonprofits of Royal Oak that actually get a lot of money,” he said. “For some of these groups, it is their largest fundraiser.”

Gate proceeds, totaling $107,250, went to 13 organizations, including Boys & Girls Clubs of Oakland and Macomb Counties, the Royal Oak Schools Performing Arts Committee and Stagecrafters.

Proceeds from beverage sales,  totaling $81,950, went to 25 participating groups, including Interact of Royal Oak High School, St. Mary’s Church, St. Paul’s Church, the Royal Oak Dance Team, Football Team Inc., the Jaycees, the Lions Club, the Women’s Club and the high school’s lacrosse program.

Other Royal Oak groups receiving proceeds included the Arts Commission, the Chamber of Commerce, the Historical Society and the Police Department.

The City of Royal Oak — which collects all official event parking revenue — also paid $8,950 in donations to nonprofit organizations that helped with parking operations, including First Presbyterian Church of Royal Oak, Royal Oak First United Methodist and St. Mary’s Church.

Ellison said parking proceeds are used first to pay off the cost of the event, and secondly to pay back the Downtown Development Authority for its $100,000 event seed money.

“Whatever is left goes to the park improvement funds,” Ellison said.

Last year, the city was able to purchase and install a new play structure at Starr Jaycee Park, and it hopes to do a similar improvement after this year’s net profits are calculated.

“We love Royal Oak as a home, and we have been able to help Royal Oak organizations raise $100,000 annually, and we just want to continue the good will with the city that hosts us and does such a great job hosting the event,” said event producer Jon Witz.

The 2015 dollar amount brings the grand total donated by Arts, Beats & Eats to more than $4.5 million dollars throughout the 18 years that the event has taken place. The event came to Royal Oak five years ago.

Witz said he is impressed with the number, and especially with this year’s total considering there was no crowdfunding in place, nor was there a charity preview event.  The total breakdown of contributions included $107,250 to organizations from gate proceeds; $81,950 to organizations from beverage sales; $8,580 to organizations from parking donations; about $11,000 donated to area cultural groups from various festival activities; $8,382 raised for Cystic Fibrosis from the 5K/10K; $6,159 raised for the St. John Providence Cancer Center from the Priority Health Zumbathon; about $23,531 raised throughout the event for 19 charitable organizations; and $8,950 in parking proceeds, which the City of Royal Oak donated to local groups and organizations.

In addition to monetary donations, Arts, Beats & Eats conducted a food drive and partnered with community organizations to support veterans and children with autism.

Festival executives said the Oakland County Parks’ Veterans Admission Program gave 1,400 veterans and their families free admission to the festival.

The festival’s partnership with the Autism Alliance gave 1,100 children and their family members free admission along with complimentary parking, lunch and unlimited rides.

Festival executives said the sixth annual food drive hosted by OUR Credit Union benefiting Gleaners Community Food Bank of Southeastern Michigan collected 3,979 pounds of nonperishable items in exchange for free admission, while The Deaf Arts festival featured donated booth space to 10 deaf artists.

“It’s great to be able to do a lot of positive things with one event, and it’s an important part of what we do, and it’s not just the funding — it’s the community collaboration, it’s the sense of volunteerism and the sense of bringing people together,” Witz said.

Attendance for Arts, Beats & Eats totaled 385,000 visitors, making it the third-largest attendance in the festival’s history. Attendance was up 5 percent from last year.

Witz said he was proud that the Priority Health Move to the Beats 5K/10K Walk and Run supporting cystic fibrosis research saw an increase to 570 runners this year from 521 last year, and the Priority Health Zumbathon Celebration benefiting the St. John Cancer Center saw an increase of 38 participants from last year.