First, say whoa.
Then draw up a list of issues to be resolved, questions to be answered and concerns to be addressed and try again next year.
In that year, take the time to debate the pros and cons of the "Great Wakes Festival" being proposed for this June — do we really want another major festival to eat up another weekend at the Open Space? Why is a festival that will draw young people emphasizing local beer and wine? Since when are professional wakeboarders a "celebration" of water? Since when does a celebration of water mean hauling the chlorinated variety to the Open Space and then hauling it away again? Why would we want to take the chance of turning the grass in a 200-foot area somewhere on the bayfront to mush just a month or so before the Cherry Festival?
And what makes anybody think we can hash all this out with just weeks to go?
You have to hand it to Sam Porter of Porterhouse Productions, Traverse City's answer to music promoter Bill Graham, for his imagination and chutzpah. He's the man behind a host of programs at the Opera House, Paella in the Park and the Traverse City Microbrew & Music Festival, both the winter and summer versions. His productions have been a major hit with 20- and 30-somethings looking for something new and unique.
Now, he's floating the Great Wakes Festival, which he calls a "celebration of water" with an environmental and entertainment focus.
The festival, which Porter wants to put on at the Open Space June 1-2, would feature music, art, a boat show, family activities, educational programs, local beer and wine and a wakeboarding pool that would measure about 200 feet in diameter, Porter said. Professional wakeboard riders would do tricks in the pool.
In concept, it appears to be a unique idea. Despite being smack-dab in the middle of the Great Lakes and right on West Grand Traverse Bay, Traverse City doesn't do much to formally "celebrate" water. The city has its beaches and parks, it has the Open Space, it has the volleyball courts. And work is to begin this fall on upgrades of the Open Space, including more attractions for families with kids.
But great concept or not, this needs to be debated, not just rushed into at the last moment, and city residents must have a chance to weigh in. There is little time for planning, let alone debate, between now and June 1 — just 61 days, in fact. That's simply not enough time.
Then there's the pool. Anyone who has blown up one of those inflatable pools on their lawn for even a few days knows the grass quickly turns yellow and mushy. Do we want to do that just 30 days or so before the Cherry Festival? Probably not.
How do we mix local beer and wine with the hordes of teens who would flock to a wakeboarding exhibition?
And do we really want another major festival eating up another Open Space weekend? The Cherry Festival dominates the space for two weekends in July plus a few days before and after the festival to put up and take down tents. The Traverse City Film Festival hosts free films at the Open Space for a few days in late July and early August. There aren't many summer weekends to go around.
Someday, the Great Wakes Festival — and variations of it Porter wants to export to other Great Lakes cities — may be a big hit here and elsewhere.
But the city needs time to consider policy issues and residents need time to talk. Rushing ahead could create problems that could dog future Great Wakes festivals, and that serves no one.
When they discuss the issue Monday, city commissioners should give the city the time it needs to make a reasoned decision. Just say whoa.