Traverse City’s Comedy Festival is back on for 2013 – and it’s coming back bigger and better than ever.
The Ticker has learned that organizers of the TC Film Festival – who, along with comedian Jeff Garlin launched the annual TC Comedy Arts Festival in 2010 – have teamed up with National Cherry Festival organizers to combine the laugh fest with NCF’s annual winter event, the Cherry Capital Winter Wow!fest.
The new incarnation, the Traverse City Winter Comedy Festival, will run Thursday through Sunday of Presidents Day weekend (Feb. 14-17) – and perhaps prompt an unprecedented experience: the shutting down of Front Street for several days and nights to make way for an ice skating rink.
“This is a new, expanded comedy festival, and we’re really excited,” says Deb Lake, executive director of the TC Film Festival. “A lot of people have contacted us to tell us they wanted the comedy festival to return.”
Organizers had cancelled the 2012 Comedy Arts Festival, voicing concerns about running the downtown event on the same February weekend as the Winter Microbrew and Music Festival, which also would be held downtown. (In 2013, the Winter Microbrew and Music Festival is scheduled for February 9.)
The lineup of comedians and improvisation troupes has yet to be determined, though organizers tell The Ticker that comic Mike Birbiglia is slated to return to TC with his film Sleepwalk With Me. Past stand-up acts have included Roseanne Barr, Patton Oswalt and Whitney Cummings, as well as Garlin.
Now, Moore and Garlin – who co-stars with Larry David on HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm – are touting “major comedians plus snowmobile races.”
Trevor Tkach, executive director of the National Cherry Festival and Winter Wow!, says family-friendly outdoor events will be a major part of the coming Traverse City Winter Comedy Festival; organizers are working to determine which events will fit best now that the comedy fest and WOW! are joining forces.
He says attendees will likely see the sled-dog pull – a crowd favorite in years past – as well as a Sunday-morning pancake breakfast to benefit the area’s food pantries. In addition to the talk of blocking off Front Street and building an ice rink, organizers also are considering bringing in a Ferris wheel and projecting 3-D movies on walls of a downtown building.
Two things that won’t return: a beer tent or food concessions – they could be seen as competing with downtown restaurants and bars, Tkach says.
The comedy/Wow! combination should bring a wider range of visitors to town, says Mike Norton, spokesman for the Traverse City Convention and Visitors Bureau: “Both bring different demographics, enthusiastic supporters and their own bases of volunteers.”
Venues for the festival include the State Theatre, the City Opera House, the Old Town Playhouse and InsideOut Gallery. The full lineup of comedians will be announced within the next couple of months; tickets will go on sale in January.