OLD TOWN LANSING—Every September The Old Town BluesFest makes its yearly appearance in the heart of the community, showcasing various musicians, food establishments, and cultural vendors.
The Michigan Institute for Contemporary Art (MICA) hosts this free, two-day event. The festival not only benefits the musicians and vendors that come out, but also the surrounding small businesses that Old Town has to offer. This year, the Old Town BluesFest was held on Sept. 19 and 20.
Where it all started
MICA is a nonprofit organization that has been a part of Old Town for 30 years. Administrative Manager, Katrina Daniels, said that MICA’s goal is to use the arts in support of economic growth and to sustain community living.
Daniel said that even after 21 years, the Old Town BluesFest continues to achieve these goals, bringing in about 7,000 visitors from all around Michigan.
“The BluesFest started as actually just a small street festival by a few artists and musicians,” said Daniels. “It used to be something that maybe people in the neighborhood would attend, or something people in marketing would attend. Now we have people coming in from all over the state.”
The affect on local businesses
Approximately 30 vendors came to this year’s festival, both local and outside of the Mid-Michigan area. Of these was Lansing resident, Beth Weinstein, who came to promote her ceramic business, Strawberry Mud.
“I’ve only been in business for two years and so far I’ve learned a lot,” Weinstein said. “This is my first year at the BluesFest and I came here to get my name out.”
Katalyst is a gallery and gift boutique that sits on Turner Street, right on the main stretch of the BluesFest. Employee, Yvonne Gonzales, agreed that festivals like these are a turning point for small businesses.
“There were so many more people than normal in the store,” she said. “We stayed open until 11 p.m. and our closing time is normally 7 p.m. We ended the night with a lot more in sales.”
Businesses outside of the main area get just as much attention.
Part-time employee of Grace’s Boutique, Racha Kardahji, said that business at the local dress shop sees a peak in new faces every year during the Blues Fest.
“People may not buy anything, but they know our name after they leave the store,” she explained.
The future ahead
Old Town is on the rise and with locally run festivals such as MICA’s Old Town BluesFest, this tight knit community sees only a prosperous future.
“Most of the businesses locally are very, very supportive of the festivals,” said Daniels. “The
restaurants tend to have a huge increase. Even businesses that aren’t retail, like the graphic design firms have thousands of people that notice them.”
Kardahji agreed on the impact that the BluesFest has in the area.
“Festivals, anything bring business in,” she said. “[It] may not bring business that day, but it does.”