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Live venues excited to hold events this summer following governor's announcement

From the Homeplate of Midland’s Dow Diamond on May 20, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced the state plans to ease more COVID-19 regulations this summer. That means weddings, funerals conferences and more will see a return to relative normalcy.

However, the news is most welcomed by Michigan’s live performance industry.

According to the state’s newest reopening plan, all outdoor capacity restrictions will be lifted June 1, and any indoor gathering can proceed at 50% capacity until July 1.

A 2020 study from the Brookings Institute predicts the entire U.S. performance industry has lost almost 1.4 million jobs and $42.5 billion in sales since the start of the pandemic. In Michigan, the lifting of restrictions will start the industry’s recovery.

Peggy Frazier, president of the Lake Superior Theatre in Marquette said for the past year, she and her small staff have been holding fundraising and community service events in lieu of holding performances.

“For the last 22 years we’ve all been saying to each other, ‘gosh if we could just have a summer off.’ Last year we had a summer off and, you know what, it wasn’t that great,” Frazier said.

Lake Superior Theatre has 9 different performances booked starting in July including musicals like The Last Five Years and Ordinary Days. By July, Frazier expects people will be ready for some live entertainment.

“I do think from the number of phone calls I get every day, from people wanting to know when they can buy their tickets that we will have a good summer and a good season,” Frazier said. “It seems to me there are a lot of people that are anxious to go out and do something.”

Larger, outdoor venues such as Soaring Eagle Casino and Resort in Mount Pleasant are expecting much bigger crowds. Executive Director of Marketing, Entertainment & Sales Raul Venegas said upcoming shows have sold thousands of tickets for artists like Luke Bryan, ZZ Top and Megadeth.

Until July 1, however, indoor venues must contend with the 50% capacity limit.

Bill Peters owns The Vault in Saginaw - a brand new facility that he said can fit over 1000 people. The Vault opened the winter before the pandemic, and when COVID hit, he said it was a struggle to make ends meet. With restrictions, performances have rarely capped at 300.

Now, Peters looks forward to welcoming larger crowds.

“I want to see people getting back to life. I want to see people being happy again,” Peters said. “That’s why I opened this – I’m a musician and I built this thing for musicians. I want people to have an experience.”

Michael Livingston is a senior at Central Michigan University majoring in Journalism and International Relations. He grew up in Hartland, a small town in Livingston County. After graduation in 2022, he aspires to take his reporting abroad as a correspondent.