Flint, MI—Executive Chef at Churchill’s Food & Spirits Tyler Hardisty looks forward every year to Flint’s biggest festivals, Back to the Bricks and the Crim Festival of Races.

“We count on those weekends and the summer in general with all the downtown parties. It really boosts our sales for the year. For those events to not be happening, we’re struggling,”

Back to the Bricks was scheduled to kick off next week but it, like many other festivals this summer, was canceled due to COVID-19 safety concerns. The Crim will be hosted virtually.

To make up for the lost revenue, the Hardisty switched to a limited dine-in menu and now offers craft cocktails to-go.

Festivals like Back to the Bricks and The Crim Race bring thousands of people to Genesee County. “The tourist’s dollar turns over six times when they’re in our region,” said Alaina Wiens, Director of Convention and Visitors Bureau and Marketing for the Flint and Genesee Chamber of Commerce. “Not having the festivals in Flint is going to result in decreases in overnight hotel stays, decreases in businesses, restaurants, and shops.”

The economic impact caused by the cancellation of these events may not be known for some time, maybe even years, Wiens said.

It’s a different story at 501 Bar and Grill. General Manager Blake Alejandro said he is not worried about the canceled festivals.

“[Back to the Bricks] has been one of the busiest times of the year. Naturally, being right at the corner of First and Saginaw, we see quite a bit from it. It is going to be different, we’re not going to get as much business, but at the same time we’re still doing all right,” he said.

The Flint and Genesee Chamber of Commerce is keeping a close eye on the industry and tracking “health” of local businesses post-festival season, Wiens said.

Local businesses aren’t the only ones dealing with setbacks from the canceled or modified events. The festivals themselves are also feeling the effects. The Crim Fitness Foundation, which puts on the annual festival of races, is anticipating budget setbacks, said Race Director Andrew Younger .

The Crim’s August race is the foundation’s biggest revenue generator, Younger said. Each year, the proceeds go toward initiatives that are not grant-funded, like the Flint Community Training Program, which offers reduced-rate walking, running, and fitness training for residents.

“Thankfully, at least for this year, we can shoulder that loss. But we can’t do that on a [regular] basis,” Younger said.

Because the Crim will be hosted virtually, businesses stand to lose a lot of revenue and public exposure, he said. “That hurts me personally because this is my community. I want to be able to support them. I want to be able to drive business downtown.”

Carmen Nesbitt

Carmen Nesbitt is a journalist with diverse experience in news reporting and feature writing. She wrote for Hour Detroit and SEEN Magazine before joining the Flint Beat news team as an education and public...