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Was Arts, Beats & Eats a Success?

So, was Arts, Beats & Eats a success? Going by the numbers, yes. The 2010 edition of the festival, now at its new home in Royal Oak, brought in over 400,000 people over Labor Day weekend. The event in Pontiac in 2009 drew a total of 225,000 attendees.

We went on Saturday specifically to hear two bands. I remember seeing Rhythm Corps sometime in the mid to late 80’s with my brother. Their anthem “Common Ground” still resonates. The distinctly 80’s hair and fashion, however, are now replaced with middle age baldness. And, I’m OK with that.

Mayer Hawthorne played directly after Rhythm Corps and the difference in the audience was dramatic. The fans of Rhythm Corps were 40-ish, devout fans that sang along to every tune and were happy that the band had gotten back together. Hawthorne’s fans were young, trendy hipsters ready to listen to the soul man and he put on a great show.

Mayer Hawthorne performing at Arts, Beats & Eats.

I thoroughly enjoyed both performances.

What about the rest of the festival, you know, the art and food? We tried to walk around and experience everything but it was frustrating. I don’t mind crowds but it just seemed like the festival was crammed in too tight. I’ve heard a lot of people grumble about the crowds and the parking.

A mural being painted live during Arts, Beats & Eats.

Royal Oak will, most likely, make a great home for this Labor Day tradition in the future. They have some kinks to work out and they need to address the problem areas to make the event a more enjoyable experience.

I just hope it doesn’t become like the Woodward Dream Cruise where the residents of Royal Oak and the surrounding communities flee the area during this time of year to avoid the hassle.

Did you attend Arts, Beats & Eats? How was your experience? 

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    There are definitely kinks that need to be worked out before next year’s festival, but overall we had fun and came out with a list of restaurants we want to try out, stores we wish to shop at and a gallery we really want to visit.

Reader Comments (15)

My post on this is coming tonight, butbasically, the crowds ruined the whole experience. and the "eats" part of it was terrible. i'm not gona start my u were very diplomatic in asking what we thought. I dont know if I can be. I was very dissapointed.

September 7, 2010 | Unregistered Commenter++MIRA++

I agree. The festival seems like it found a new home, and living in Royal Oak, I was glad the festival took place there. I too was frustrated with the crowd though. It seemed as though they should have opened up main street or maybe even go farther down Washington? I dunno the solution but a new layout would be nice to see for next year.

Still a good time though, even though I was only there for a little bit.

Seemed like a great first run to me though!

September 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMatt Haupt

Crafts, Cheats & Spoiled Milk

$15 for parking was robbery and was enough to set the tone. Out of the gate, ABE had me on notice to make sure that this was a top event - it wasn't. I've never paid $15 to park anywhere. Not even in Chicago or New York.

$3 to enter? For what? Didn't they have enough sponsors where this could've been free? Surely the excess from parking should've covered it. No? There were big money logos everywhere and the even is now sponsored by Ford. Also, not allowing drinks from "outside" made no sense. People are there spending money in their yuppie, over-priced city... does it really matter where?

Cramming the majority of things onto Washington definitely didn't work... this also made the street narrower with less room for the hoards of people to walk through. Didn't do much walking for hours... more foot shuffling and stopping... and waiting for people to pass or move. If it's hosted in Royal Oak again, they definitely need to open up Main St.

We got there around 4 on Sunday and they were out of maps/handouts. When we did find the posted map, it was posted behind a booth, low to the ground, really small type and not everything looked to be listed. It wasn't helpful and neither were the people at the ticket booths. I could understand not knowing things on Friday when it first opened, but not 4 days later, hours before ending.

The art there was the same as every other art fair. I'd love to see an fair where it was affordable for new talent to participate rather than the same, tired artists from the past 10 years. I'd also love to see the event hosted in a new city each year and feature more artists, food, etc. from those areas, rather than continuing to be the same as every other city art fair in recent memory.

The bag check/gates to enter were more of a joke than those at airports and the fenced-off perimeter set a sterile, prison-like tone... much like the DEMF.

With 5 stars being the best, Arts, Beats & Eats 2010 gets a ZERO. Maybe a one if I'm being nice and you catch me on a good day, but that day is not today.

September 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKostandinos

Becks, I think a lot of people share your opinion of the crowds at the event (I attended Saturday and Monday). You hate to be pessimistic because we're so fortunate to have an event like that here, but the logistics of the entire thing certainly brought the excitement level down. Fortunately, I don't live or work right downtown, but I know those that do, and I heard more than one story from people who weren't able to come and go easily. Sounds like some of the "beats" were great, regardless!

September 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterErica Finley

I agree with the tight crowds. My friend and I took our kids and we had a hard time seeing anything, getting to the food or even getting near a stage during the day. I heard a lot of frustration in the crowd as well. I was impressed with the amount of people, it ended up being more frustrating. If it was opened up a little more, I might go back. Parking was expensive, more than a typical sporting event.

September 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCurt Montague

Oops. Correction. I went on Monday.

September 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKostandinos

I'm probably in the minority here, but I had a pretty good time at ABE. We went on Saturday afternoon. There was plenty of free parking on side streets, and if you looked far enough away from the Festival, no permits were required. We found a clear spot about six blocks away and took an easy walk to the grounds. We do the same thing for Plymouth events.

The $3 to get in was minimal, considering how much entertainment was going on. And any "profit" from the event went to a long list of charity partners - so I didn't mind paying admission. We're not really into eating while standing up, so we went to Woody's for lunch.

We navigated the crowd without too many problems, but I think they would do better to put booths on only one side of the street and expand onto more side streets. That might have also allowed them to put up a few more seating areas - not enough of those. And they could have dumped the carnival rides. There didn't seem to be that many people in that area.

I didn't see a problem with the quality of the art at all. There just wasn't enough of it.

I'm sure organizers are already planning for next year and would welcome the feedback. It's all well and good to vent, but it doesn't accomplish much.

September 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJoni Golden

I walked by one booth that had some handmade belts for sale for $5. Then I walked up to a food card and they were selling corndogs for a little over $6. Really?

I was not able to see Mayer Hawthorne, but I did see Kansas. The stage was very nice, great sound and the perfect amount of space in front for people to watch. I think they nailed it on the "Beats" part.

As for the art, I too am frustrated with having to weed through craft booths and Comcast reps in order to find good art. Nonetheless, I founds a few artists that were very interesting, most notably Bruce Holwerda who won first place.

Don't even get me started on the food. I got a free parking spot from a friend, paid my $3 to get in, but I didn't spend a dime on food and drink tickets because everything there was disgusting carni food. I'm assuming that they were planning on making up the lack of entry fee with food sales, but if it came down to it, I'd rather pay $10 for a wrist band than to have to choke down garbage on a stick.

I still don't understand the decision to move this to Royal Oak. Pontiac was turning out to be a real up-and-coming town for the Detroit Arts scene, while Royal Oak is busy selling out their independently owned shoppes to cheese-dick bars like Blackfinn. Pontiac was starting to move up, while Royal Oak has been on its way down for the past 10 years. Pontiac NEEDED this festival, and it was a much better setting, with more open space and already existing concert venues that are just as good as the ones Royal Oak had to build temporarily. I hope they will consider bringing it back to the Yak when the contract is up.

September 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDJ Meph

I had a great time looking at art and listening to some INCREDIBLE bands while eating some decent food and wishing I wasn't vegetarian for a day smelling outstanding bar-b-q everywhere I went.

Oh, wait, I was at Jazz Fest. Why are these on the SAME WEEKEND? I think Royal Oak is lucky they were, or the crowds would probably have been worse.

September 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterToka313

Thanks for all of your comments. I know of people who had a blast at the festival and others who were disappointed, it's good to see the differing views represented.

Personally, the $3 admission didn't bother me at all.

DJ Meph, I agree that Pontiac needed this festival and I liked it there. But it seems, from the attendance numbers, that more people felt compelled to go to Royal Oak.

Toka, Very funny! Great events always overlap, especially on holiday weekends. I think it's great that we have so many options.

September 7, 2010 | Registered CommenterBecks Davis

It's great to have an fun li'l event with friendly tunes and pretty pictures and all but there was a lot to not like about AB&E.

Not to go off about the $15 parking hijacking but - sheesh. Locking down all public parking, structures, streets, neighborhoods for this racket is pretty darn shameful. Choking off access to the rest of Downtown Royal Oak for the weekend with that - goodness forbid you want to go anywhere else in RO - sets a bad tone.

The whole drink/food tickets thing is another slight of hand to wriggle a few bucks out of attendees. We all already have tickets w/o having to wait in two lines - it's called money. Did you order a beer and a bite to eat and now you're stuck with 3 useless tickets? I guess you can keep the change, Arts, Beats & Eats ... :/

Crowds were madness - no strollers next year, pls.

On the whole, the food was disgraceful. Metro Detroit has some of the smartest, tastiest and interesting culinary scenes in the country. With a prime stage to show off, we get ... Woody's? Cosi? Blerg. I appreciated the International portion but really poor selection by the organizers.

Art left me wanting but saw some cool stuff. BTW - did anyone else notice how busy/active the big tent with the HDR photos of Detroit were? Becks - you're a photogbug and know how kind of simple/hokey that is - there's an iPhone app for that now, even - were you as surprised how busy it was as I was?

Music was fine. Babies were dancing. Sun was shining. People were enjoying it. A good thing for the area - poor execution. Look forward to a better, more genuine one next year.

September 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTom Shea

As a Royal Oaker, I did *not* flee like I do during "Cruise Time." Yes, it was a bit crowded, but that is a damn good problem to have. I'm sure next year that the city will spread things out more toward the 696 service drive.


September 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLindsay Warren

We didn't maneuver through the crowds much so I missed the HDR tent. Interesting.

Good to hear! Yes, huge attendance is a good problem to have. As you said, now they just need to spread it out to accommodate the crowds.

September 8, 2010 | Registered CommenterBecks Davis

I was planning on writing a blog post about the festival anyway, so I attached my observations and experience in the reference section. There were a lot of people there and there are some kinks that need to be worked out, but we had a lot of fun.

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAlaina Kraus

I'd be very interested in how they did the counts. When I left on a Saturday night at about 9:45, LOTS of folks were just coming in -- they clearly weren't there for the half hour or so that was left...they were there for the bars like they normally are in Royal Oak on a weekend evening. You didn't have a choice...if you wanted to go to dinner or the bar that weekend, you had to go to ABE.

I feel for the people who live around only had two parking spaces, so anyone who wanted to have folks over for a Labor Day shindig...or have friends come by and go as a group to were screwed. Parking is a huge problem...where were the shuttles from the outlying areas? And $15 is just highway robbery plain and simple.

I couldn't tolerate standing and eating in that crowd; went to Lily's for dinner. They were doing a booming biz, so I think the businesses liked the event a lot.

So I think the numbers are inflated. But it could be a good event with more space and parking.

September 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCheryl

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