2023 AuSable River Festival features strong numbers for several activities

Kids Day, Classic Car Show remain popular events during annual festival

The Grayling Regional Chamber of Commerce reported several successes this year with established AuSable River Festival events and growth for a few new additions to the festivities. It was reported one crowd-favorite had to be cancelled again this year due to lack of participation.


The Chamber of Commerce’s Classic Car and Truck Show – held Saturday, July 22 – helped kick off the 2023 AuSable River Festival. The event had strong numbers with regard to vehicles on display and spectators; the show stretched from the I-75 Business Loop to Michelson Memorial United Methodist Church on Michigan Avenue.


“It was around 130 cars,” said Nicole Kent, Grayling Chamber of Commerce Event and Marketing Coordinator. “We gave out like 50 awards.”


The AuSable River Festival’s Well Being Evening, in its second year, had some quality offerings but did not have big attendance numbers, according to officials. Kent said the Well Being Evening – held in the city park Monday, July 24 – had seven registrants, including a kids yoga class.


“Community participation was low but it was only our second year doing it,” Kent said. “We’re excited to look for ways to make it more popular next year.”


On Tuesday, July 25, AuSable River Festival Kids Day offered a lot of stations – 25 businesses/non-profit organizations signed up, according to the chamber – with activities for kids.


“I heard it was one of the bigger turnouts since (COVID-19),” Kent said. “It exceeded our expectations. We ran out of food in the last hour.”


The chamber had to cancel the HUP ABC Race – slated for Wednesday, July 26 – due to lack of participation, despite an attempt to make it easier for people to compete in the event. The plan for this year’s new version of the HUP Race – adding the ABC, “Anything But a Canoe” – was to allow competitors to use old HUP boats or anything that would float (other than a canoe or kayak) in order to boost participation. The HUP Race was also cancelled in 2021 (because of low competitor numbers) and 2020 (because of the COVID-19 pandemic).


“We had three teams signed up and we needed at least six,” Kent said. “This year, we even tried to make it easier by not making them build a boat, trying to build up participation. Obviously the word didn’t get out enough or there was still a lack of interest. Everybody was so disappointed the HUP was cancelled but at the same time, there was no participation, so there wasn’t much we could do.”


Kent said the Chamber of Commerce is undecided with regard to next year’s HUP Race and will explore options.


The AuSable Main Stage on Michigan Avenue offered live music over the course of three days – Thursday through Saturday, July 27-29 – and hosted the Miss AuSable River Festival scholarship pageant on Saturday.


Kent said the stage had “a lot of good bands” during the festival and the pageant was a success.


“For it being the first year, everything went really well. All five contestants did such a great job. There was a really good crowd,” Kent said.


The Grayling Youth Booster Club sold concessions at the AuSable Main Stage as a fundraiser Thursday and Friday, Kent said.


The AuSable River Festival Street Eats Food Court offered a variety of fare – coney dogs, barbecue, tacos and more – on Michigan Avenue Friday and Saturday, July 28 and 29.


“We were pretty much full down there. I think we had 10 vendors of all different varieties,” Kent said.


The Chamber of Commerce was looking to continue the process of returning the Arts and Craft Show to pre-COVID-19 participation levels, and officials reported success this year with 80 vendors. Kent said a committee looks at potential entries in order to make sure everything is “handcrafted to keep the standards of the show high.”


“We were definitely up in vendors. We’re getting back to where we were before (COVID-19),” Kent said. “We had a lot of new vendors this year.”


Friday and Saturday at the AuSable River Festival also included businesses and non-profits gaining some exposure via informational booths on Michigan Avenue.


Kent said the chamber sold more than 350 ducks for the Duck Derby held Saturday, July 29, in the city park, and it gave out cash prizes for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place. The event is a fundraiser for the AuSable River Festival, organizers said.


“We were happy with the turnout,” Kent said. “We’re going to be making some tweaks for next year to make everything run a little smoother.”


The Grayling Main Street/Downtown Development Authority conducted the AuSable River Festival Parade this year.


Jack Pettyjohn, one of the parade organizers, said turnout was good for this year’s event.


“We were excited to get so many entries for this year’s festival parade and everything from the Grayling Marching Band to the Jeep Babes were crowd favorites,” Pettyjohn said. “The Grayling DDA and the chamber were thrilled that so many active community members wanted to take part in the festivities and look forward to growing the Grayling parades more and more each year.”


Crawford County Avalanche

Mailing Address
Box 490
Grayling, MI 49738

Phone: 989-348-6811
FAX: 989-348-6806
E-Mail: information@crawfordcountyavalanche.com

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