MENOMINEE - The 31st annual Waterfront Festival starts Thursday. The four-day family fun event will attract thousands of people to downtown Menominee and Great Lakes Memorial Park. As in years past, parking will be at a premium since 1st Street between 6th and 9th avenues will be closed from 2 p.m. Thursday until midnight and from 3 p.m. Friday until 6 p.m. Sunday.

Police Chief Brett Botbyl said anyone with a handicapped permit may park on the west side of 1st Street. Handicapped parking is also available in the lot next to the Zelm Building and in front of the American Legion. General parking is available at several municipal parking lots on 2nd Street, next to Spies Public Library and on area side streets.

Two other street closings will take place, one during the 5K, 10K and kids run on Saturday. The area of 1st Street south of Veterans Park to the Menekaunee Bridge will be closed until the race concludes. On Sunday the parade route from 30th Avenue south on 10th Street to 10th Avenue will be closed from noon until about 2 p.m. Traffic will be rerouted on 13th street to the Interstate Bridge.

"We ask everyone for their cooperation to keep this a safe and fun event for our community," said Botbyl.

There will be plenty of fun on the grounds with four days jam-packed with live bands, games and an incredible selection of food and drink. Those attending the festival this year may want to bring a video camera Thursday to capture a precision flying demonstration by Enstrom Helicopter pilot Bill Taylor. On Friday, area fire departments will hold the annual waterball contest.

"We look forward to a soaking good time," said City Council Member Mark Erickson, who also serves as a festival volunteer. "Of course, we hope our guys win but these departments are all great first responders and it's very special to have them at the festival."

Following the waterball competition, there's more heart pounding action with the Doonbali Drummers and a scorching display by a group of fire dancers at around 8:30 p.m.

"The drumming and traditional Mediterranean dancing of this group is spectacular," said festival director Nancy Douglas. "Once it's dark on Friday evening, the south end of the grounds will light up with flaming batons and torches, drumming and dancing."

The Triple C Riders Motorcycle Club will do a drive by salute around 4:30 p.m. Saturday with fireworks that night.

The final day of the Waterfront Festival is just as fun-filled as the rest. Bill Plemel's Pancake Supper Band has provided entertainment on the south end of the park since pretty much the start of the festival, according to Douglas.

"This Sunday afternoon entertainment gives folks an option to sit and enjoy refreshments with some mellow music in a quieter atmosphere along the bay," she said. "The Band has been a recurring hit with our senior citizens, and we're glad they are with us again this year. We try to have something for everyone to enjoy and along with great activities for youngsters at the north side of the American Legion Building."