By David Fleet
Groveland Twp.– Another Michigan Renaissance Festival opens Aug. 19 and extends for seven weekends though Oct. 1, attracting an estimated 250,000 visitors over the course of the event who can expect plenty of turkey legs, grog and jousting in the village of Hollyshire.
However, local officials say attendees of the late summer event should not encounter serious long traffic congestion on Dixie Highway.
On several weekends in September and October of 2015, a host of issues on Dixie Highway snarled traffic bumper-to-bumper for miles in both directions for several hours.
Traffic stretched from the Renaissance entrance north to I-75 then south to McGinnis Lake and on Grange Hall Road west over the I-75 ramp.
The gridlock boxed in the township fire station and at one point forced an emergency service vehicle to travel the wrong way down Dixie Highway.
Following the incidents, township officials, along with those from Holly Township, have worked with Renaissance mangers to contend with the congestion during the festival days.
So far it’s worked, say township officials after the township planning commission voted 5-0 to OK a one-year permit for the Renaissance Festival to continue the late summer attraction.
“Last year the traffic congestion was far less,” said Bob DePalma, township supervisor. “The parking capacity was better—they planned for 30,000 visitors so when 25,000 show up, it’s not a problem. I’m not saying you don’t notice when 250,000 people come to the township on weekends from August to October, but with some changes it’s a lot smoother.”
Kathy Parker, director and general manager of the Michigan Renaissance Festival, said several factors have improved traffic conditions on Dixie Highway during festival days.
“One key factor that prompted significant traffic congestion in 2015 was road work on I-75 that sent traffic to Dixie Highway,” said Parker. “Once that was alleviated much of the weekend backups along Dixie Highway were gone. In addition we worked well with the township to find some solutions.”
Significant changes in traffic control:
nFour electronic digital signs will be located at two I -75 ramps and two Dixie Highway locations north and south of the festival that can be changed remotely by Renaissance Festival managers if the traffic backup on Dixie Highway becomes too great.
nThe Oakland County Sheriff Office, the township fire chief, and/or township supervisor can close the parking lot to the Renaissance Festival if the Dixie Highway backup is so great that access to Fire Station 1 at Grange Hall Road is compromised.
nThe traffic on Dixie Highway will be monitored by a township fire department drone. The visual data will be recorded and analyzed. A traffic count of vehicles entering the Renaissance parking lot will be provided.
nSignificantly larger main parking lot south of the festival west of Dixie Highway.
nIncreased number of parking lot attendants from ten to 20.
nIncreased number of Oakland County Sheriff deputies from seven to 13.
nMt. Holly Ski and Snowboarding Resort will be utilized for additional parking for the last four weekends of the festival. Also, 20 acres of additional parking in the 13000 block Dixie Highway on the east side of the road has been leased.