Ready for the new Great Wakes Festival?


One thing about Sam Porter. The guy never runs out of ideas.

Traverse City’s 35-year-old promotional wunderkind has ruffled feathers, shaken foundations and seismically altered the town’s musical landscape since moving his company, Porterhouse Productions, here from Montana in 2008. In the process, he’s created a raft of new “mini-festivals,” including two popular Traverse City Microbrew & Music festivals (a summer and a winter version) and the Paella in the Park celebration for the wineries of the Old Mission Peninsula.

Now Porter and his crew have turned their attention to the city’s waterfront and the sport of wakeboarding, with a June 1-2 event they’re calling the Great Wakes Festival. Typical of Porterhouse events, it promises to blend music and entertainment with a social cause – in this case, raising awareness and funds for local water conservation efforts.

“This event is REALLY big,” says the exuberant Porter. “Ambitious is my middle name on this one!”

The new festival will be held at the edge of West Grand Traverse Bay in the city’s iconic Open Space Park — already the site of many local events, including the week-long National Cherry Festival in July – where organizers are erecting what they describe as “the country’s largest self-contained wakeboarding pool system.” The pool will be used for a series of professional wakeboarding demonstrations and a “Wakes War” Tournament Cup featuring local and professional riders.

Sam Porter promises that the wakeboarding pool at the 2012 Great Wakes Festival will be “a hair larger” than this one in downtown Grand Rapids.

Wakeboarding is a sport that combines techniques from surfing, snowboarding and waterskiing, either while riding the wake from a boat or while being pulled across a long pool by a cable.

But the celebration will include a host of other water-related activities – kayak, boating  and kiteboarding demonstrations and displays, water education activities, Coast Guard helicopter tours and rescue demonstrations.

Other highlights of the two-day festival include:

  • A 2K “Traverse City Beach Race” where contestants will have to negotiate zany water-themed challenges and obstacles like the Squirt Gun Alley, Beach Ball Sand Pit, Pool Noodle Forest and Frisbee Challenge.
  • The Great Wakes Stand-Up Paddleboard Race, which will be held on the Boardman River.
  • A day-long Great Wakes Beach Volleyball Tournament, which will help fund new sand for the city’s West End beach volleyball courts.
  • A community “aerial art” display project, where volunteers will create an enormous image of the Great Lakes (meant to be photographed from the air) using two tons of blue jeans and other recycled materials.

There’ll also be organized beach and water clean-up activities, family-friendly games and events, a “teen zone” featuring a silent disco tent, and plentiful servings of Michigan wines and microbrews, food and live bands playing on multiple stages – including “one-man entertainment system” and champion beatboxer Heatbox, high-energy dance outfit Funktion, Reggae Indy Rock of The Movement and “musical mad scientist” That 1 Guy.

A beach volleyball tournament (like this one at the National Cherry Festival) will be part of the new Great wakes Festival.

Porter’s company is partnering with a local nonprofit group, Bay Area Recycling for Charities, which will distribute any proceeds from the various events to other nonprofit organizations that work to protect and maintain the Traverse City area’s rivers, streams and lakes.

Complete ticket and festival information for the Great Wakes Festival can be found online at Interested sponsors, vendors, partners and participants can contact Porterhouse Productions at 231-499-4968 or


About mikelovestc

These days, I’m the media relations guy for the Traverse City Convention & Visitors Bureau, but before that I spent 25 years as a reporter and columnist at the Traverse City Record-Eagle, a job that frequently took me out into the most remote backroads, forests, beaches and islands of the beautiful Grand Traverse Region. My strategy was pretty simple — just drive, paddle, ski or walk until you’re certain you’re lost, and then find somebody to talk to. It was a great job! I never intended to live in Traverse City. I grew up in Grand Rapids, spent four years in the Coast Guard in places like Miami Beach, Monterey and San Francisco, and when I finally graduated from college I took a summer job at the Miami Herald. To my surprise, I discovered I didn’t like the tropics nearly as much as I thought I would — and when the Record-Eagle offered me a job I took it, figuring I’d put in a year or two and head off to someplace like Seattle or Portland. What I discovered very quickly is that this place gets to you in a variety of unexpected ways. The beaches here are as lovely as anyplace else I’ve ever been, the weather is mild all year round — warm enough for swimming in September and cold enough for skiing in December — and just about the time you’re getting tired of one season you get another one every bit as pleasant. The people are laid-back and friendly, the music and arts scene is awesome, and the place still hasn’t gotten so sophisticated that a guy like me feels out of place.
This entry was posted in Festivals, Outdoor Sports, races, summer and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Ready for the new Great Wakes Festival?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s