Ford returns as Arts, Beats & Eats title sponsor

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News

Music, food and fine arts will return to Royal Oak this Labor Day Weekend with the 18th annual Ford Arts, Beats and Eats festival.

On Wednesday, organizers announced sponsorship and charity initiative details. The big news is that Ford, a title sponsor since 2010, has expanded its sponsorship through 2018. Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort continues to be a presenting sponsor and has committed to give financial support through 2017. In all, Wednesday’s announcements included $1 million in new partnership commitments through 2018.

OUR Credit Union and Vibe Credit Union have signed on as the new financial institution sponsors for Arts, Beats & Eats. OUR Credit Union will host the Gleaners Community Food Bank food drive that is held in the weeks leading up to the festival. Donors can get free admission to Arts, Beats & Eats by donating three or more nonperishable food items at the downtown Royal Oak or Troy branches Aug. 21-Sept. 2.

Last year’s food drive collected 3,175 pounds of food for Gleaners, which fed 2,635 people.

Besides those who donate to the food drive, veterans may also attend the festival for free (four passes total, good for one day), courtesy of Oakland County Parks.

Charity partnerships like these have helped Arts, Beats & Eats raise $4.5 million over the past 17 years for local nonprofits and civic organizations. These funds were raised through gate admission, beverage sales and other initiatives.

To enrich the “arts” wing of the outdoor bash, the Detroit Institute of Arts will return with a mobile, hands-on classroom for students called “DIA Away: Think Like An Artist.” The Detroit museum will also present on-stage art demonstrations.

In the past several years, Arts, Beats & Eats has added “health” as a major component. The annual 5K and 10K returns on the morning of Sept. 5. This year’s twist is that runners will be cheered on by local DJs and live bands placed throughout the race route. Proceeds from the run, sponsored by Priority Health and Lifetime Fitness, benefit the Rock CF Foundation (cystic fibrosis awareness) and the Life Time Foundation (children’s nutrition group).

Another health-related component sponsored by Priority Health is the return of the color-coded food designations to let guests know which vendors are offering gluten-free, low-carb, low-fat, sugar-free or vegan food.