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Buskers find a faithful audience in Imlay City


Rain falls, but spirits rise for the organizers of 2nd annual Fest


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Crowd gathers around new Busker performer 'Snap Boogie' to witness his spectacular dancing and acrobatic skills on Friday. photo by Bobbie Lewis.

June 19, 2019
IMLAY CITY — After a year of planning and some lessons learned from last year's inaugural event, the Imlay City Area Chamber of Commerce's 2019 "Michigan Busker Fest"—held June 14-15—is now in the history books.

The 2nd Annual Busker Fest kicked off at 5 p.m. Friday with an opening ceremony at the corner of Third and Bancroft that included an Imlay City American Legion color guard and the the singing of the National Anthem by Imlay City DDA Director Lorrelei Natke.

City Manager Tom Youatt and Chamber of Commerce President Barb Yockey followed with words of welcome to community members and visitors, and kudos to the event organizers.

Setting the tone for the weekend's entertainment Friday afternoon was "Snap Boogie," a nationally-acclaimed freestyle dancer who wowed the large crowd of kids and adults assembled for his introductory performance.

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The crowd then dispersed to various other locations and Busker Fest activities including the cornhole tournaments, kids' inflatables, crafts and games, a pet parade, pickle and breadstick eating contests, and performances by Busker entertainers Sam Malcolm, Mike Davis, Tony Steinbach, Allez-OOPS and a fire-infused program featuring the Ohio Burn Unit.

The entertainment appeared to be well-received by Busker Fest attendees, some of whom were there for the first time. Chonda and Brian Hunt of Lapeer were among those taking in the festival for the first time on Friday night. The Hunts said they wanted to discover what the festival was all about and had the opportunity on Friday to witness the Ohio Burn Unit's performance.

So impressed were they that they returned on Saturday; this time with their daughter, Hannah, 8.

Brian said he checked the weather forecast that afternoon on his phone as gray skies threatened rain while Hannah did some coloring at the kids' workshop tent.

"It's been fun," Chonda said, saying they particularly enjoyed Snap Boogie's show.

Friday's activities culminated with the Lapeer-based band, High Moon, putting on a lively show inside the beverage tent.

Though ominous skies Saturday morning held off long enough for judges to select the winners of the 2nd Annual Tomorrow's Buskers talent contest, Mother Nature would later intervene with light, but steady rain showers for much of the day.

The top three winners in the talent contest included Christina Kaczor, Julia Kaczor and Melissa Kaczor in the age 9-12 category; Lindsey Daniels, Connor Schuh and Elizabeth Lauwers, ages 13-15 category; Delaney Natke and Shelby Webb, ages 16-18 category; and Ann Moss, Pearly Mae and Jesse Webb in the 18 and over category.

The Tomorrow's Busker Talent contest was sponsored by Doug Halabicky State Farm Insurance, with cash prizes of $100, $75 and $25 being awarded the winners in each of the four categories.

No rain on this parade

The rainfall continued but subsided around 5 p.m., just in time for the Busker Fest Parade to make its way along the route from the Eastern Michigan State Fairgrounds downtown.

The parade was sponsored again the the Imlay City Downtown Development Authority.

DDA Director Lorrelei Natke was pleased that so many people seemed unfazed by the less-than-favorable weather conditions.

"Thank you to all who gathered with us, even though the weather was not the most ideal," said Natke. "Much appreciation to all the parade entries who braved the weather with us.

"This parade would not have been possible without the support of so many," Natke continued. "Especially our parade sponsors Level Tattoo, Doug Halabicky State Farm and Nick's Country Oven. The support of our community is phenomenal."

Chamber of Commerce Director Shannon Hamel said she came away from this year's Busker Fest encouraged.

"I consider Friday to have been a huge success," said Hamel. "I feel this event is growing and there was a lot more positive feedback.

"The kids seemed to really enjoy all the activities and the Buskers themselves said they had a good time, too.

"I heard a lot of nice comments about Snap Boogie and how polite and friendly all the Buskers were," she continued. "When the weather got bad, they all teamed up together to keep the entertainment going."

She also acknowledged the performances of both High Moon, Friday night's band, and the Second & Stone band, who entertained Saturday night at the refreshment tent.

Chamber of Commerce President Barb Yockey credited the Busker entertainers for making the most of the weather conditions.

"On Saturday night at the end of the festival, there was a special finale with Ohio Burn Unit, Sam Malcolm, and a hilarious 'dance-off' between Snap Boogie and Tony Steinbach and Allez-OOPS," said Yockey. "At the end, the Buskers donated all of their tips from the finale to the Chamber of Commerce for us to be able to provide a youth scholarship for an Imlay City graduate in 2020.

"Frankly, I had a great time—it was so much fun," Yockey said. "I think that the people that came to the festival also had a great time—based upon all of the positive comments that I heard.

"Our Imlay City Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director, Shannon Hamel, did an amazing job of putting on this incredible and unique festival," Yockey said.

For more photos, turn to page 8.

Tom Wearing started at the Tri-City Times in 1989, covering the Village of Capac as a beat reporter. He later served stints as assistant editor and editor. Today, he covers Imlay City and Almont as a staff writer. He enjoys music and plays drums and sings with various musical groups in the Detroit Metropolitan area.
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