To say the last year has been hard on event locations and organizers is an understatement. Coronavirus has changed the way these venues and companies do business, and a key example of that commitment to reopening safely and with health precautions in mind is Pontiac’s celebrated Crofoot.
The concert venue at 1 Saginaw Street has had to pivot, modify, shift and grow in new and unexpected ways over the past 14 months, said Dan McGowan. But knowing that Pontiac, its vendors, its customers and the public have its back and that events will continue despite the hardships from 2020 and into 2021 makes the exhausting days and nights a bit easier, he said.
The Crofoot and its event-planning business produced anywhere from 700 shows in some years to as many as 1,000 in great years. Between March 2020 and March 2021, the number of shows dropped to six. There were a couple outdoor events, a couple outdoor weddings and a couple outdoor concerts, McGowan said.
But finding its way through this health and financial crisis is what Crofoot and its related spaces had to do and will continue to do, McGowan said. Live music, comedy and other events will continue at the Crofoot and its Crofoot Festival Grounds, he added, and he hopes the public will come back not only for the fun but for the community in Pontiac and live performers in general.
So far, the Crofoot has about a dozen shows planned and hopes to bring in more as public interest and safety is willing.
“We’re not sure how long we’ll do this – it all depends on the appetite of the public and the desires of bands involved and agents,” McGowan said. “But we’ve got our first weekend under our belts. There was some learning involved but, all in all, it was a success. We’ll spend the summer improving.”
He said he is excited personally about Umphrey’s McGee, who will be performing two nights at the Crofoot Festival Grounds, and Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness in June. Here is a complete list of shows coming to the Crofoot.
What makes live events at the Crofoot Festival Grounds – which is across the street from the Crofoot in Pontiac – is that outdoor entertainment will look different this year and have unique services, McGowan said. That means pods, app-based food ordering systems and lots of health and safety protocols for all parties involved.
The pods are one thing that McGowan said should be a great addition to the festival grounds. These spaces are not bubbles or enclosures like you might imagine – those aren’t the best for listening to live music or events, he noted. Rather, these are 6.5-foot by 6.5-foot squares marked off with racks that give everyone in your group the space to spread out blankets, bring folding chairs and enjoy the show within a proper social distance.
The Crofoot team also created an app that lets you order food from nearby restaurants and approved vendors. The app lets you order and pay. It then pings you when the food is ready to pick up and a single person in your group can go get the order for your pod, McGowan said. He added that local restaurants are excited for the opportunity to serve people again and hope that they can help keep the summer fun rolling at these events.
“It’s a different kind of experience,” McGowan said, but he hopes people enjoy it and can see the light at the end of this long tunnel for live events.
One challenge McGowan and the Crofoot crew couldn’t overcome was its plans to create the Riverside Station venue in Detroit. It was supposed to host live events but its proximity to a coronavirus testing station made that site unviable, McGowan said. He understands that many people were disappointed as was he and his staff. He hopes to bring that name and concept back soon.