History festival preserved

Alex Doty • Jul 21, 2015 at 12:19 PM

Event founder Ernie Marvin of Robinson Township said he was pleased and surprised with the board’s decision.

“I think that it’s responsible, given the community’s reaction,” he said. “Usually, the director makes all of the decisions.”

Marvin noted that the event is vital to Grand Haven.

“This is an important event for the community because it brings together a lot of people,” he said.

The board's decision came after nearly 100 people listened to museum officials discuss the issue, with some providing comment about their love for the annual historical festival.

“I think that the Feast is a value to our community,” board member Bob Monetza said. “I think this recommendation to abandon the Feast was made precipitously.”

Organization for the annual June event typically begins immediately after the previous one concludes. Given the short period of time until this year’s event, board members are calling on community volunteers to make the June 8-9 weekend event happen.

The museum board will meet in August to review this year’s event and consider what to do next year.

“I think we need to talk very seriously after the Feast about the organization,” Monetza said.

Options include continuing the event as it is and spinning the Feast off to an outside group with the museum’s support.

Word spread rapidly about the recent plans to possibly cancel the history festival. A group called “Friends of the Feast of the Strawberry Moon” launched a Facebook page that encouraged people to attend Monday's meeting.

Museum Director Kenneth Pott said because the Feast has been going on for 12 years, focusing on re-enacting the area's 18th-century fur-trading era, the museum should consider addressing other areas of local history.

“It was felt that we’d more than given this subject its due,” Pott said, noting that the museum was looking to increase its efforts to promote agricultural history as an alternative.

Pott said there are also financial and sustainability issues to consider.

“There was a professional facilitator ... who felt the goals we’d established weren’t achievable,” he said. “And I had to listen to that.”

Among those concerns by the facilitator was that attendance at the festival was dropping each year, the event dates didn’t work well for school involvement and a strategy for marketing wasn’t considered, Pott said.

It was previously reported that the museum budgeted $25,000 to host the 2013 event, up from $18,000 last year. The museum director estimates the event loses between $1,000 and $5,000 each year.

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