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Posted on Mon, Oct 10, 2011 : 4:13 p.m.

Ypsilanti Heritage Festival leadership in flux after organizers announce departure

By Tom Perkins

The future of Ypsilanti’s Heritage Festival is in question after a group of its leaders announced they will not renew their contracts with the festival for next year.

Barry Marshall, chairman of the festival’s Board of Trustees, said several members of the Festival Steering Committee and its co-coordinators are parting with the festival at the end of the year for separate personal reasons.


Ypsilanti residents Doug and Jody Wrathall contemplate a chess game during the Ypsilanti Heritage Festival in August in Ypsilanti.

Angela J. Cesere |

The board of trustees and steering committee are inviting the community to an informational meeting on the openings and festival’s needs on Oct. 18 at Spark East. Those interested in signing up for any of the positions may do so at the meeting.

Marshall said the current leadership team has been in place for 13 years and some had personal reasons, such as job relocation, for leaving, while others were simply tired from organizing the event for so long.

He said the high number departures at once was only a matter of timing.

“They’re tired, and it seemed like a good idea to see if we can bring in some new, community-minded people who can help us out,” he said. “There was no disagreement over the direction or anything like that. Everyone agreed that they wanted to see the festival continue and (the former leaders) will be around in some capacity next year, even if it’s just for a phone call, so no one is taking off and running.”

Marshall said the remaining committee is looking for people who live in and understand Ypsilanti, are highly creative, possess project management skills, can work with multiple groups from around the city and have a passion for the festival. The position is paid, though Marshall declined to say how much.

“I know they’re out there, so now is a great opportunity,” he said.

If the committee is unable to quickly assemble a new team, then the festival could be canceled or scaled back, Marshall said.

“If we don’t have a clear picture of who is going to run this next year, I’m not sure we do this,” Marshall said, adding that there will be a period of transition from the old coordinators, Cathy Bennett and Lynda Hummel, to the new coordinators.

Hummel and Bennett also served on the board of trustees and steering committee. Three other steering committee members also are planning to leave, and Marshall said some on the board of trustees could soon depart, as well.

Hummel declined to discuss her departure with

The festival also is looking for volunteers to serve as treasurer and food vendor coordinator, among other positions.

One of the biggest challenges facing the current leadership is identifying new funding sources and keeping the festival solvent, Marshall said. The Heritage Festival, which started in 1979, is a free three-day event held each late August.

Because it is free, fundraising and sponsorship is crucial to the event’s survival, Marshall said.

“It is a big concern,” he said. “Fundraising in this economy, particularly in Ypsilanti, has been difficult. So keeping the festival free has been an increasing challenge over the last several years.”

He added that no options are off the table, and the leadership might look at different entertainment, activities, food vendors and more.

The meeting with the public is Oct. 18 at 7 p.m. at Spark East, 215 W. Michigan Ave. in downtown Ypsilanti. For more information, email Marshall at



Wed, Oct 12, 2011 : 4:21 p.m.

@lumberg and roger dodger, Nice try, I have volunteered at the Heritage Festival for the last 14 years. And you????


Fri, Oct 14, 2011 : 3:10 p.m.

from 2004-2010 since you asked -- and I am guessing I was more involved than you everyone needs to attend the meeting next week <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 1:08 p.m.

Hey Ypsidog, instead of just complaining, why don't you step up and help out? And there weren't any problems with teenagers this year because the schools were involved. The committee has done an excellent job in working with the schools and the police to deal with the teenager issue and it's obviously paid off for the better. So instead of complaining, why don't you come up with some useful ideas to keep the festival around? Don't like the way it's headed, make some suggestions for changes. Don't just be a Debbie Downer. Cathy and Lynda - Thank you for all of your hard work over the years. You all did a lot of problem solving, especially with our hard economy to still make it a wonderful festival for all involved!! We'll miss you!


Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 9:30 a.m.

Let the Heritage Festival go. It is old and stale. Nothing positive about this event any more. Droves of unruly teens causing trouble for law enforcement. Most of the people that attend don't spend much money, and the unruly teens drive away the people that do have money to spend. GOOD BYE Ypsilanti Heritage Festival the dog

Roger Dodger

Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 5:55 p.m.

You are seriously advocating scrapping the entire festival because of a small group of unruly teens? Don't like it? Don't go. We can address problems rather than forgetting about the whole thing. That is what builds communities. Your suggestion is what destroys them.


Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 1:45 p.m.

Ypsidog is one of &quot;those&quot; people who stand from afar, making judgements and critcisims but only offers a solution of &quot;let it go&quot; ... wow - what an enormous contribution you and similar people make to the community


Mon, Oct 10, 2011 : 10:41 p.m.

I can understand them getting tired or burned out. I worked at the Yankee Air Museum as a grunt, aircrew, and management. After 22.5 years of service to them I retired myself for those same reasons. Good luck Cathy and Lynda, you efforts were sicerely appriciated!!


Mon, Oct 10, 2011 : 9:58 p.m.

Kudos to the team that has brought a wonderful Festival to Ypsi the past years, great people each and every one. However it may be time to charge a small entrance fee like $2.00 for adults, children free under 12, to raise the needed funds to make it even better. Then consider adding a carnival too.


Mon, Oct 10, 2011 : 8:52 p.m.

The steering committe was the heart and sole of this organization - but they need more help. i can totally understand getting burned out - there is sooo much to do everyone should thank the organizers and help spread the word for some new recruits the festival needs to plan its future and get younger