2017-11-16 / Viewpoint

The VIEW from here

Heavy lifting ahead


Phil Foley — Staff Writer Phil Foley — Staff Writer The Blueberry Festival is dead. Long live the Busker Festival. After nearly 40 years of celebrating a tiny tasty fruit that isn’t grown in any particularly larger numbers in the area, Imlay City’s business community has decided buskers would be bigger draw.

So, is it a good idea? I don’t know. Anybody remember New Coke? On the other hand, there is nothing quite so American as reinvention.

It’s not even the first time Imlay City’s festival has been reinvented. It began in 1980 as a vegetable festival celebrating the lettuce, carrots and onions grown in the area’s muck lands, but some enterprising blueberry growers convinced the chamber that their fruit was cooler.

Thing is, all but one of the blueberry farmers eventually went out of business and for years the chamber has had to purchase blueberry products from out-of-town suppliers to fill their festival needs.

At least Yale has a company that produces bologna for its Bologna Festival.

Imlay City’s Blueberry Festival has always made as much sense as the University of Michigan’s Wolverine mascot that’s been seen once, outside zoos and licensed merchandise, in the state in 200 years.

But it’s tradition. There are lots of things that are tradition that make no sense. Lapeer Days began as a grand opening for a foundry. The foundry closed decades ago, but Lapeer Days goes on. It’s tradition.

You tinker with tradition at your own peril. There are decades of Little Miss Blueberries out there. Generations of Imlay City families have planned their reunions around the Blueberry Festival.

A lot of the activities surrounding the Blueberry Festival that are almost on autopilot. Hadley’s Fourth of July parade isn’t so much planned each year as it just happens. People there just seem to genetically know to gather in town at the right time.

Reinvention is a scary thing. It means the people behind the new festival are going to have to invest a lot of extra time, energy and cash to ensure their new endeavor takes off and they’re going to have to commit to putting in extra to their new event to make sure it works.

The year before Imlay City held its first Vegetable (Blueberry) festivals, two guys decided a Halloween parade would be a good way to lure a few more tourists into their town during one of the slowest times of the year. Key West’s Fantasy Fest has grown into 10 days of insanity that draws thousands of people from all over the country.

But that didn’t happen overnight and there was a lot of community buy-in that contributed to the success that event enjoys today.

Imlay City’s new Busker Festival is going to take some heavy lifting and leadership to get off the ground. If the people involved are willing to make the commitment necessary, the Busker Festival has the potential to be bigger and more entertaining that Blueberry ever was.

If not five years from now people will be asking, “What were they thinking,” if they remember it at all.

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