(Crystal A. Proxmire, 2/13/2011)
NOTE: The original publication of this article incorrectly listed seven as the number of years Pride had been in Ferndale. Error on our part looking at documents three years old and forgetting to add three on! Oops.
After ten years of calling Ferndale home, Motor City Pride has decided to move the annual LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender – and ally) event to Hart Plaza in Detroit.
The organization’s website http://motorcitypride.org confirms the change, and states “There is something truly energizing, exciting and empowering about holding Motor City Pride at such a prominent location as Hart Plaza because it solidifies the notion of LGBT people as contributing members of our larger community. It also demonstrates the strength, vitality and unity of our community within the collective fabric of Southeastern Michigan.” The festival will be expanded to two days, and offer a larger variety of musicians and kids activities.
“I don’t think Detroit “won” the festival away, since we were not given an opportunity to compete,” he said. “The decision was made by the Motor City Pride Board, on its own, without any input from Ferndale. Since the group puts on the event, they get to decide where they want to hold it. Ferndale was pleased and proud to host the event, and should this group consider coming back to Ferndale, I would be happy to work with them and the city and the business owners to make it a great event.”
‘They want to return to the roots of where the pride events started the parades of 1986-1989 in downtown Detroit, which I started and ran. But they should remember that we never grew there beyond about 5,000 people. I believe that the event may very well shrink this year when they move to Hart plaza.”
Even in 2010, Motor City Pride organizers publicized “Downtown Ferndale is an excellent host location for Motor City Pride, with its easy access via major freeways and bus route. For 67% of our state’s population, Ferndale is within an hour’s drive…A summer street festival has open-ended appeal. There is something truly energizing, exciting and empowering about holding Motor City Pride in a location where people work, shop and live. Holding a Pride event ‘on-the-streets’ versus a contained area solidifies the notion of LGBT people as an active part of our larger community. Additionally, it shows the strength, vitality, and unity of our community within the fabric of Southeastern Michigan.”
Motor City Pride brings million dollars into the Ferndale economy each year, and also raises money and awareness for Equality Michigan. The event in Ferndale has always been well-attended, and the location seems fitting with the visible presence of gay-owned businesses and Affirmations Community Center.
Officials speculate that the move might be financially-driven.
DDA Board President Veronica Lujic said that organizers from the festival wanted financial incentives to stay. “The City of Detroit offered them $15,000 to move down there,” she said. “How can we compete with that?” Lujic later corrected her statement saying “I know that money was an issue, but I am not sure exactly what the offer was.”
Motor City Pride organizer Dave Wait did not want to comment before the story came out, but said today “We moved to celebrate our heritage for where the first pride celebrations were and so that we could have a two day festival and have more space to provide more activities. We did not move because Detroit offered us money. All things considered the costs of the two areas are about the same.”
The Ferndale 115 News is now looking into what incentives, if any, were offered. Wait added “The other luxury that we get with Hart Plaza is the ability to have an entire day to set up and a day to take down the festival.”
Historically Ferndale has been supportive of this event, yet due to increasing budget restraints the City has scaled back it’s financial contributions and increased its fees.
The City gave an estimated a cost of $14,733.52 for fees for 2010, which included a $400 application fee, over $4,000 in Department of Public Works labor costs, $3,025 for Police Officers, $1,960 for Police Commanders, $560 for Fire Fighters, $180 for Fire Marshall, $519 for a street sweeper, $100 for an operational permit, $385 for allowing them to have tents ($35 fee per tent), and $385 to hang the banners.
2010 was the first year that the City did not become a sponsor of the event, and chose not to waive any of the fees.
In 2009 the City approved Pride’s event permit, but changed their lot rental from $1 to $500. They voted (3-1 with Councilperson Mike Lennon voting no, and Councilperson Tomiko Gumbleton absent) to sponsor the event for $5,000. According to the minutes from the May 26, 2009 Council Meeting “Councilman Lennon noted that he fully supports the event, and his mind was almost changed by the discussion, but stated he felt it necessary to remain with his initial determination to oppose using City funds to sponsor the event.”
Covey, who resigned as Mayor in January to sit on the County Commission, was critical of the City’s lack of support. “The City of Ferndale did get carried away in charging too much for the costs associated with the festival. In raising fees to over $11,000 for the festival organizers, I believe we were a bit penny wise, and pound foolish. The event brings a million dollars to our downtown, and the city should not have nickeled and dimed Motor City Pride. That said, it should not be that difficult to raise an additional $10,000 for the festival in Ferndale. We do that easily each year with the Blues Festival, the Pub Crawl, and other events,” Covey said.
Covey also added that Motor City Pride moving out of Ferndale does not mean that Ferndale doesn’t have to be without a Pride Fest. “In fact, we already host a women’s march, a family picnic, and could create new events for our downtown. There are plenty of options during the month of June,” he said. “I believe people enjoy being in a downtown with local friendly shops, restaurants, bars, and clubs. Ferndale is also home to thousands of GLBT and ally persons.”