Charlevoix, Michigan is celebrating their 81st annual Venetian Festival July 17th through the 23rd. Over 100,000 people attend Venetian Week in Charlevoix to partake in the exciting maritime festivities. “Most of the festivals are an evening or a weekend, and we’ve expanded [the festival] to last longer so we can bring in more music and add the games to it,” Joan Miller, an organizer of the festival, said.
Generally found around beach front and water front areas, Venetian Festivals are geared towards boating communities. 80 years ago the Charlevoix Venetian Festival began as a summer event when a small boating community began embellishing their boats with candles and other sources of light to showcase their vessels to the neighborhood. Now this festival of lights has made Charlevoix one of the most legendary and leading Venetian Festivals in the nation. Rather than focusing on a carnival aspect, Charlevoix sets themselves apart by spotlighting family and sporting events, athletic games, and music.
A variety of events are offered to the community that allow citizens of any age to participate. Tennis, soccer, basketball, disc golf, volleyball, horseshoes, golf, softball, and more! You name it, they have it. In addition to the usual sports, the festival also offers unique events such as croquet, a sailing regatta, and the Venetian Jam which includes bikes, rollerblades, and skateboards. The festival is also bringing in the Detroit Pistons and the Detroit Shock who will be hosting a basketball clinic at Charlevoix Middle School.
Live entertainment is one of the main focuses of the festival and this year, Rhythms of Venetian has been added to spotlight a wide variety of music. Rhythms of Venetian will be playing concerts throughout Venetian Week, including a Pink Floyd cover band.
All of the great events that go on during Venetian Week all lead up to the most popular event: the fireworks. Fireworks are displayed on both Friday and Saturday nights. Friday night includes low velocity fireworks at the mouth of Lake Charlevoix. Saturday however, is the big finale. Prior to the finale fireworks is the Venetian boat parade. This parade of lights allows boaters within the community to decorate their boats with lights that coincide with this year’s theme “Hollywood on the Water.” This boat parade is the longest running tradition of the Venetian Festival and any type, length, size of boat is allowed to enter. The spirit of the festival is displayed through the decorative lights, music, and enthusiastic participants.
Immediately following the parade are the world class fireworks display: “The Pyrotechnic Amphitheater of the North,” produced and choreographed by Colonial Fireworks Company. Miller describes the show as a: “high velocity, close proximity fireworks display that is extremely different from the typical fireworks that you see.” Because she is an avid firework enthusiast, Miller enjoys the rapid, intense fireworks on Saturday, dubbing them spectacular and states there is no place else that has fireworks like the Venetian Festival.
The Charlevoix Venetian Festival is a fun, family oriented event that represents the character of Northern Michigan’s boating community. For more information about the festival, how to take part in the fun, or to learn of other events going on, go to www.venetianfestival.com. ~Mel Libby, Regional Director