Farmington Voice 2021 watchlist: Farmington Founders Festival

A month after cancelling the 2020 Founders Festival, the Greater Farmington Chamber of Commerce dropped the event altogether this year and sent Farmington officials on the search for a new owner.

This is one of 2020’s cliffhangers, stories that promise major developments in the coming year.

The Festival had a tough 2019, with severe thunderstorms greeting its first year in Shiawassee Park. The move from downtown Farmington was controversial, but the Chamber had planned to give it another shot in 2020.

COVID-19 concerns scuttled the Festival, Art on the Grand, Rhythms in Riley Park concerts, and other warm weather events, and it played a role in the Chamber withdrawing from management.

“We love the Festival, but we wanted to focus more on our members and the business community as a whole,” Executive Director Connor Osborn said, “helping them navigate this ‘new normal’.”

Within hours after the Chamber announcement, Farmington Mayor Sara Bowman vowed to keep it going.

“Neither I as mayor nor this council has any interest in letting the Founders Festival fall by the wayside,” she said. “Rest assured, Founders will be back in some iteration. We will not let it die here.”

Over the next several months, Bowman met with community leaders who also stepped up to offer assistance. In October, Farmington city council and Downtown Development Authority (DDA) officials signed off on agreements to hire 360 Event Productions to manage the 2021 festival.

The Chamber worked with the Auburn Hills-based company in 2018 and 2019. Owner Julie Law expects to release more information in early 2021, but at a minimum, the Festival will include a parade, beer tent, music, crafters, food trucks, a run, bingo, and bounce houses. All activities will be held in downtown Farmington.

In 2021, look for more discussions about the future of this signature summer event, including the possible formation of a community nonprofit to run it.


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