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 A Press-Ready Travel Feature From the Traverse City Convention & Visitors Bureau




Photo Credit: Traverse City Convention & Visitors Bureau
Photo Cutline: Wakeboarding pools like this one in downtown Grand Rapids are used for demonstrations of athletic and acrobatic prowess. Sam Porter promises that the pool at the 2012 Great Wakes Festival will be "a hair larger."


TRAVERSE CITY, MI – 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.

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.

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.

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