The Year in REVIEW • Buzz by the Bay

Posted In: Culture, ,   From Issue 889   By: Jason Dean

12th December, 2019     0

If there is one area where Bay City regularly punches above its weight, it is the ability to conceive and execute a festival. Much like Spanky and the Little Rascals, if they wanted a show, they organized it and put it on themselves. 2019 was a banner year for the kind of outdoor events that bring the community together and make it a great tourist destination.

The region’s flagship event, literally, is the Tall Ships Festival, which returned to the Saginaw River and Downtown Bay City in July. The flotilla of vessels comes in from around the world to display seafaring technology from across eras. Hundreds of thousands of people flock to the exhibits and to tour the ships. Maritime music and crafts are round out the weekend. The crews and sponsors of the ships have indicated that Bay City is one of their favorite stops in a season that might include stops from Sydney to Boston to San Francisco.

For many people the festival season swings into full force with the St. Stan’s Polish Festival. This year marked the 70th year for the event, which features a carnival and one of the largest polka dance floors in the State. Also, 2019 marked the 50th anniversary performances of Polka legends, the Steve Drzewicki Band.

2019 also saw the return of power boat racing to the Saginaw River after a one-year hiatus. The Rocking The River Formula One event, formerly known as the River Roar, featured time trials and racing over four days, with viewing possible from several vantage points along the River. The race was also accompanied by concerts at Vet’s Park featuring Kansas and Uncle Kracker.

Two local music festivals, the Mitten State Music Revival and RiverScene Indie Music Festival, lined up a variety of local and regional talent that entertained on both sides of the river.  Ken Shelton Promotions put on another monster Bay City Country Music Festival with headliner Billy Currington at Wenonah Park.

Hell’s Half Mile Film & Music Festival returned for its 14th year, screening 75 short and feature-length films as well as nearly a dozen music acts from the Midwest and beyond.

And finally, Band Roulette, the brainchild of Jeff Poirier, returned once again to bring together the area’s best musicians and singers for unrehearsed interpretations of classic rock songs drawn randomly from a hat. Part madness, part magic, the on-the-spot aspect of the evening keeps the audience on the edge of its seat. The annual event returns to the State Theatre in January.

The MI Made Marketplace made its second appearance on the City calendar this year. The three-day event features works by artisans and other Michigan-based businesses. Beyond the confines of a typical “art show” the event features boutique businesses of many types, including personal care, home décor, fashion, collectibles and “up-cycled” goods. Add in a variety of unique food vendors and it is a recipe a one-of-a-kind weekend.

Bay City and the surrounding area continues to be a mecca for the classic car circuit. Every business district in town - Uptown, Downtown, Midland Street – has a show at some point in the Summer. Events like the Cool City Car Show have become staples on the state circuit and local collectors and builders continue to grow in reputation as they rack up trophies at the region’s shows. You can see many of these local cars at informal gatherings, such as the weekly collective at the A & W on Lafayette.


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