Art fair, Village Fair nixed for safety concerns
By Lisa Brody
With safety top of mind, Birmingham city officials announced spring events such as Art Birmingham fair and the Birmingham Village fair will not take place this year, as COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the state.
Other upcoming events will be evaluated on an ongoing basis, officials said.
The Art Birmingham fair is typically held over Mother’s Day weekend, and the Birmingham Village Fair had been planned for June 2-6 in Shain Park. It is anticipated the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services order prohibiting outdoor events with more than 300 in attendance, currently in effect through April 19, will be extended due to the recent increase in cases.
“The Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber is disappointed to have to cancel this event for the second consecutive year,” said chamber President Joe Bauman. “We know how important this iconic fair is for local residents and the crucial role it plays in pumping economic development dollars into the downtown, but we must always place the health and safety of our staff, volunteers, residents and guests first and foremost.”
The four-day event is a long-standing community tradition and a critical fundraiser for more than 20 local non-profit organizations. In addition to being the chamber’s major fundraiser, representing about 25 percent of the chamber's annual budget, Bauman said, local non-profits like the Birmingham Lions Club, Birmingham Youth Assistance and Birmingham Rotary Club also receive proceeds from the fair through grants. He noted they also receive great visibility from volunteering.
“We have been donating more than $20,000 a year to local non-profits each year for the last 10 years,” Bauman said.
He said the chamber looks forward to the fair returning to Shain Park in 2022. While many residents and businesses have asked them to reschedule it to the fall, he said it's something they can't do as it takes months to plan, recruit businesses and volunteers for. In addition, “We're part of the carnival circuit. They have a date set for you, and when you lose your date, you lose your year.”
In an email to the Chamber of Commerce, Birmingham Fire Chief and Emergency Manager Paul Wells cited a potential extension to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services emergency order that limits attendees at events and an increase in statewide hospitalizations along with the spread of additional variants of the COVID-19 virus as reasons for cancelling the event. A permit to hold the fair was previously approved by the Birmingham City Commission, pending further review.
“At this time hospitalizations are on the rise, along with COVID-19 variants in Michigan. This decision is in the best interest of keeping Birmingham residents and visitors safe,” said Wells. “We hope to offer these events when case numbers are down and the public has full access to the vaccine.”
“Safety is our top priority as we consider upcoming activities in the city. I applaud this decision by our emergency manager and hope these treasured community events may safely return soon,” said Birmingham City Manager Tom Markus.