A show-stopping partnership

LRBOI donates $20,000 to Forest Festival fireworks show

Connie Waitner (left), Little River Casino Resort assistant general manager, presents a $20,000 check to Stacie Bytwork (right), Chamber president, alongside other LRBOI and Forest Festival representatives. (Ashlyn Korienek/News Advocate)

MANISTEE — A staple of the Fourth of July holiday is the firework display, and in Manistee the show is uniquely set-off right above Lake Michigan.

Each year, the Manistee National Forest Festival draws in thousands of people to the Manistee area, spanning several days during the Fourth of July weekend.

From the parade to the fair, there is something for everyone, but most visitors look forward to watching the grand fireworks display at the local beaches. The fireworks are traditionally set off at First Street Beach, but can be seen all around the area.

This year, the Little River Casino Resort and Little River Band of Ottawa Indians (LRBOI) are once again making the show extra special through a $20,000 donation to the Manistee Area Chamber of Commerce — which hosts the festival — sponsoring the fireworks display.

Stacie Bytwork, Chamber president, said they simply could not provide such a large fireworks display without the extra help.

“We could not do this without their support, so we are tremendously grateful for that,” Bytwork said. “They are wonderful partners in the community, and they really help us enhance the experience for residents and visitors.”

With the donation, Jeff Mikula, Department of Public Works director and Forest Festival committee co-chair, said plans call for making the fireworks show three times larger than in past years.

Last year, the tribal council and casino increased their donation to $20,000, which was more than in past years.

“When they announced that they were going to increase their sponsorship of the fireworks, we were able to add almost three times to the show and really increase the quality,” Mikula said. “We have already met with the fireworks team… they are super excited to do this enhanced show. There’s nothing like it in the Midwest.”

Similar to last year’s show, Bytwork said they will be playing music in partnership with Eagle (101.5 FM), and people will be able to tune in while the fireworks blast off over the lake. However, this year the music will also be live.

“We tripled the show last year, so we are going to continue that,” she said. “We had it synced to music last year, so we are working with the radio station again this year and hopefully we will be also doing it live down at the beach, as well. It was unique, it was different and just added something extra to the whole experience.”

Connie Waitner, Little River Casino Resort assistant general manager, said the casino and tribal council are proud to donate to the fireworks display, as it benefits everyone in the community through tourism, entertainment and more.

“It’s another way to build good partnerships with our community,” Waitner said. “It’s also another good way to welcome tourists into our area.”

Waitner herself has enjoyed Manistee’s fireworks since she was young, and now, she gets to share the holiday with her grandchildren.

“The fireworks always meant a lot to me as a kid growing up here, and now as an adult here it does too,” she said. “I am really excited about this year’s show.”

Since enhancing the show, Mikula said he has heard plenty of compliments.

“I have heard nothing but extremely positive feedback,” he said. “(I have heard) comments like it was the best fireworks show that Manistee has ever had. So we are super excited that they are going to support and partner with us again this year.”

For 2019, the 83rd annual Manistee National Forest Festival will take place from July 4-7.

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Posted by Ashlyn Korienek

Ashlyn is the cops & courts and city reporter for the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach her at (231) 398-3109 or akorienek@pioneergroup.com

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