Arts, Beats & Eats canceled - drive-in and online events to take its place

Michael H. Hodges
The Detroit News

Another domino just fell. Bowing to the realities of COVID-19, Royal Oak's Labor Day Festival, Arts, Beats & Eats, announced Wednesday that it's canceling for this year.

But that doesn't mean the festival, supported by Soaring Eagle Casino and Flagstar Bank, is entirely disappearing. Instead, festival producer Jon Witz said in a statement that they'll sponsor a range of "virtual and small-scale live activations" to keep the AB&E spirit alive.

Even better, many of the planned events will be fundraisers to generate cash for local musicians, whose livelihoods have been crushed by the pandemic. With "The Beats Go On..." Witz hopes to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars with drive-in concerts and online performances Labor Day weekend.

Hundreds of people attend Arts, Beats, and Eats.

"We are committed to helping support some of the hardest-hit members of our community -- musicians -- and will not let our weekend pass without doing something fun and meaningful for the region," he said.

Witz has also put a donation link on the Arts, Beats & Eats website, and will promote "The Beats Go On..." and its fundraising component in local ads.

Live drive-in concerts will take place Sept. 4-7 at AB&E's traditional location at 6th and Main Street in Royal Oak, with five shows per day and room for 50 cars. Each performance will feature two Michigan bands, appropriately socially distanced, delivering 30-minute sets.

Tickets are $30, and admit two people per vehicle. Revenue raised will be split between the bands performing.

Cars will be 15 feet apart, and masks will be required on entering and exiting, whenever patrons have food delivered to their cars, and when they use the restroom.

In addition, Aug. 27-Sept. 3 over 400 bands will perform virtual concerts to raise money for the sector. Bands, Witz promised, will keep whatever money their performances generate.

Funds deposited at the donation link on the festival's website will be split between local musicians who can demonstrate that performance was their principal source of income before the pandemic.

In addition, "Art by Appointment" will let patrons visit a limited number of artists' booths on site. Visits must be scheduled online, and only 50 patrons will be allowed in every 75 minutes. Booth visits will be limited to one person at a time, masks required.

And if you're just hungry, "Eats on Your Street" will bring locally owned food trucks over the Labor Day weekend to neighborhoods in Royal Oak, Clawson, Berkley, Huntington Woods and Ferndale.

Finally, on Sept. 5 the festival will sponsor a 100-person Zumbathon-style fitness dance event, with participants 12 feet apart from one another. On Sept. 6, you can join a 100-person yoga class courtesy of Thrive Hot Yoga, also in the fair's traditional main stage area. Entry fees will be split between COVID-19 charities and local fitness instructors.

In both cases, masks will be required.

Witz emphasized that they're complying with COVID-19 health regulations throughout, and the Oakland County Department of Health and Human Services seems to agree.

"If we can provide a managed outlet that uses prescribed safeguards, such as requiring masks and physical distancing," said department Director Kathy Forzley, "we see activities like these delivering a safe and fun environment."

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Twitter: @mhodgesartguy