By Jason Wesseldyk
The City of Otsego was the place to be on Saturday, Sept. 30.
In addition to hosting the annual Creative Arts Festival in the downtown area, the city also played host to the Bulldog Invitational cross country meet and the Otsego Band Invitational.
The Creative Arts Festival took place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with the Bulldog Invitational beginning at 8 a.m. and the band competition starting at 3 p.m.
Otsego city manager Aaron Mitchell was thrilled to welcome so many visitors to town.
“The weather we ordered came in as we hoped, and we saw an endless amount of visitors and spectators to the multiple events,” Mitchell said. “This was probably the largest single-day attendance the city has ever seen.
“We got to show off ‘The Greatest Small Town in Michigan!’”
“The Greatest Small Town in Michigan!” is the new slogan the city adopted earlier this year.
Although no official numbers are available, Mitchell said he estimates 20,000 visitors were in Otsego on Saturday.
And in addition to the three big events hosted by the city, rocket football was also held at Dix Street School on Saturday morning/afternoon.
“Rocket football is always quite a crowd by itself,” Mitchell said. “With everything we had going on, we had every barrel, sign, cone and ‘No Parking’ sign out. Our bins were flat empty.”
To deal with the large volume of traffic, the city elected to close off a portion of Washington Street near the high school.
That change, said Mitchell, made a big difference.
“I think a huge improvement,” he said of the street closure. “We didn’t have to worry about anyone’s safety crossing that road throughout the day. It also allowed for food trucks to be set up.
“At the same time, it was hard on the locals who were simply trying to get to and from their home or work. I think in the upcoming years, it will become better known about the closure. As with all changes, the educational aspect is what will take the longest to accomplish.”
Mitchell was sure to thank the many people to contributed to the various events in the city. That included Otsego-Plainwell Area Chamber of Commerce executive director Jenny Boerman and Clarissa McDonald with the Creative Arts Festival; Otsego High School athletic director John Kubiak and cross country coaches Steve Long and Dave Goodrich with the Bulldog Invitational; and Otsego High School band director Mitch Piersma with the Otsego Band Invitational.
“It took a lot of people to make this weekend happen,” Mitchell said. “There were a lot of moving parts. And I can’t thank everyone who played a role enough for their help.”
And as busy as Saturday was, there was one more event in Otsego on Sunday.
Christian Neighbors held its annual PATH Walk, which brought 65 walkers to Otsego’s Riverfront and downtown area. The event raised money to help stock Christian Neighbor’s food pantry.
“Overall, this was just a fantastic weekend for Otsego,” Mitchell said. “A long weekend, but a great weekend. And we’re already looking forward to next year.”