Manistee National Forest Festival as strong as ever

MANISTEE — How does one measure success of the Manistee National Forest Festival?

There are tangible ways, of course: head counts at various events or proceeds from their ticket sales. Or simply looking at its history: still running strong after 80 years means something must be working.

But real success seems to lie in subtler measurements: the smile of child feeding goats at the petting zoo, the screams from The Scrambler in the carnival and the collective “Oooos” and “Ahhhs” along First Street Beach and beyond as a fireworks display lights up the night.

The Forest Festival is for all ages and walks of life — perfect for famlies residing in town and visiting from afar. By any measure, the 2016 installment was a success.

“It was amazing,” said Stacie Bytwork, executive director of the Manistee Area Chamber of Commerce. “It exceeded our expectations. Happy 80 years to the Forest Festival.

This year’s festival — which kicked off Thursday and culminated with Monday’s annual Fourth of July Parade down River Street — offered a plethora of activities and events, some tried and true while others were new to the Forest Festival formula.

“We were able to pull in additional sponsors this year,” said Sherri Wehrmeister, co-chair of the Manistee National Forest Festival committee. “We tapped the shoulders of people who don’t normally sponsor events, and they were more than happy to dive in.

“We’re spreading the word, and the support has been incredible,” she said. “I would love to know how many people were in town this weekend, because the town was packed.”

Bytwork noted that the extended weekend of festivities couldn’t happen without sponsors, organizers, volunteers and support from the community.

“Everybody involved is running around all weekend, but it’s a blast,” she said. “It’s almost year-round preparation. It takes a lot of staff, volunteers and support from the community to put this together. It couldn’t happen with all of that.”

Any given night of the weekend, however, was proof of its success, as First Street Beach was bustling with friends and families, enjoying the festivities.

“This is my third Forest Festival and I’ve never seen that many people down there,” Bytwork said. “Everybody was singing, dancing and, you could tell, were really having a great time.”

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Posted by Dylan Savela

Dylan is the county reporter for the News Advocate, he also is in charge of the Small Town Life, religion and senior pages. He can be reached at (231) 398-3111 or dsavela@pioneergroup.com.

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