MENOMINEE — The Waterfront Festival is off for this year.

Festival Director Nancy Douglas, at Monday’s City Council meeting, said that the 2020 Waterfront Festival would be cancelled for the first time in the festival’s history. “I’ve talked to many people over the last couple of weeks, and I just don’t see a clear path to us being able to do this in a safe and successful manner. None of us feel good about this, but we think it is the right thing to do,” she said.

She said the primary concern of the Waterfront Festival Committee in making this decision was public safety and the inability to provide the increased levels of sanitation and social distancing required during the pandemic and the liability that puts onto the City of Menominee.

“It clearly is going to be difficult to do social distancing during the fireworks or at the beer tent,” said Mayor Jean Stegeman.

“We use porta-johns (for the festival), and we do have hand-washing stations but they’re few and far between. We’re not sure what the Health Department is going to require in addition to what we already do, and I’m not convinced the Liquor Control Commission will give us a license, as the governor’s executive order still says ‘no large gatherings of more than 10 people,” Douglas said.

The committee made the recommendation to cancel the festival to the council. 

Douglas said she has talked to several of the festival’s major donors recently and received mixed replies from them in regard to whether or not to cancel.

“One of the major donors isn’t going to be able to contribute this year, and a couple were not so sure that it was a good idea, but if we went forward they would probably contribute. I had three ‘not this year’ (replies) from other donors, so it’s going to be difficult to raise the kind of money we need, and that would mean the city would have to pick up the shortfall,” she said.

Douglas said based on what she has gathered from talking to the festival’s major donors, the committee would only be able to raise $15,000 of the budgeted $25,000 from donors.

She also said most groups that run food booths for Waterfront have not been meeting, so the committee can’t commit to the needed number of tents. “We would incur the cost whether or not organizations planned to attend,” she said.

She also said the contracts for securing fireworks and entertainment for the Bandshell would need to be signed soon, but because the last few months have lent themselves to uncertainty she said the committee didn’t want to sign any contracts unless they knew for sure the festival would take place.

Councilmember Bill Plemel made a motion to accept the committee’s recommendation to cancel the festival for this year, which was seconded by Councilmember Josh Jones and passed unanimously.

Douglas said, however, that the committee is very committed to continuing the festival next year. “It’s a Menominee tradition, and I don’t think anyone wants to see the festival go away,” she said.