Downtown Traverse City Announces the Return of a Winter Comedy Fest
It’s no joke: Traverse City is gearing up for the return of a Comedy Festival coming to the downtown area this winter.
Hosted by the Downtown Traverse City Association, the Comedy Fest will feature a mix of stand-up comics, improv, live podcast tapings and other special events. Downtown Experience Coordinator Abby Taylor says, “It will be a nice change of pace to have something to look forward to.”
It’s no laughing matter: Traverse City will be bringing the jokes to downtown this February. Taylor says, “I think everyone is excited because we do want to keep downtown alive during the winter months. It gives something to look forward to. A chance to be able to get out and about and share lots of laughs with friends.”
The board of the Downtown Traverse City Association needed to brainstorm some ways to bring business back in the slower winter months. And that brain freeze led to the return of a popular festival. Board member and Cherry Republic General Manager Dawn Gildersleeve says, “We need comedy. Where’s the comedy? That made a lot of sense (to our board).”
If it seems familiar – it should be. The Winter Comedy Fest ran for five years from 2011-2015. Business owners wanted to bring it back, although they’ll start with the basics. Taylor says, “We are starting with comedy only, then we’re going to try to expand on it. Have some different fun… things to do for all ages,” she says. “That’s a future plan” for future comedy festivals.
When asked about the now defunct festival of years past, Gildersleeve says there was no apprehension from the board about bringing it back and seeing it be successful. “No apprehension. I think it was more excitement. We felt we needed something that time of the year in this town. It was successful before, we all felt it was.”
It’s 56 degrees in Traverse City on this Thursday afternoon in late September, but in February it could be 5 or 6 degrees below zero. Downtown businesses say it’s the perfect time to bring more traffic into downtown. Gildersleeve says, “We felt getting people into town, having – it’s just a good time of year for that. It’s the middle of winter, it can be dreamy. It can be non-sunny days. This way it’s bringing sunshine to all.”
Toy store owner Amanda Walton at Toy Harbor says, “I think the Comedy Fest would bring a lot of people downtown. They come for the restaurants, they come for the shows, and hopefully do a little bit of shopping as well… they probably won’t be bringing their children but hopefully they’ll take something back for them. That’s actually a large part of my clientele, are people that are away from the kids for the weekend and then they’re coming to get something to bring home for them.”
It will be an opportunity for business to heat up in the mid-winter cold. Walton adds, “Any event that can drive a lot of people downtown is great for all of us. It’s great for the restaurants, it’s great for all of the small businesses. It’s typically such a slow time, so anything that drives people up here during that kind of lull. It’s after the holidays but before we get the spring breakers. So I think it’s a great – a great thing.”
Organizers are planning 40 comedians to appear in stand-up, improve, and other special events over 20 different shows. Taylor says, “We’re going to have all different comedians come in, there will be improv shows all the way to karaoke at night.” Performances will be spread out at five different venues from February 2-4, 2023.
Details and a guest list will be released in the next few weeks. The DTCA says events will be held at the City Opera House, Traverse City Comedy Club, Encore 201, The Workshop Brewing Company and Hotel Indigo.