SAUGATUCK — A new organization will take over leadership of the popular Saugatuck Venetian Festival.
The Rotary Club of Saugatuck-Douglas will plan the event, at least for 2023, following an unanimous vote on Jan. 13 from its board of directors. The decision comes after the event’s previous organizer, Cow Hill Yacht Club, relinquished control in a letter to Saugatuck City Council.
The club cited increased complexity and costs associated with organization, expressing hope the event could transition to “another charitable organization with the resources to organize and manage it in the future.”
The Rotary Club decided unanimously to accept one year of provisional leadership.
“While it is our intention to organize the event indefinitely, in 2023 we also wish to evaluate the return on investment from the festival and work with you (members) and various partners around town to optimize the event for the future, if possible,” the organization wrote in a letter to members.
The Venetian Festival has been a mid-summer tradition in Saugatuck for decades. Its most recent iteration involved multiple events held over two days the last weekend in July. Friday has featured a concert, cash bar and fireworks — while Saturday has been reserved for water activities, culminating in an evening illuminated boat parade along the Kalamazoo River.
“The board stepped up to continue Venetian Fest because it represents what we felt was both an obligation to the community and an opportunity for Rotary,” wrote Mark Smaller, club president, in a statement.
“We have decided to dedicate the annual net proceeds of the festival to our environmental imperative, with a special focus on the health of our waterways — the river, harbor and lake. This emphasis is a natural linkage with a summer festival celebrating our communal life along those waterways.”
The club doesn’t intend to change much this year, in order to evaluate how much effort will be required to “pull it off successfully.” But, in the future, it may look to innovate for efficiency and environmental responsibility.
This year’s festival will take place July 28-29 and will feature 1980s cover band “Star Farm.”
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— Contact editor Cassandra Lybrink at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @CassLybrink.