Erosion and high water levels force Burning Foot Beer Festival to leave Pere Marquette Beach for Heritage Landing this summer

A previous Burning Foot Beer Festival at Pere Marquette Beach. Photo courtesy of the Lakeshore Brewers Guild

Erosion and high water levels are forcing Burning Foot Beer Festival to change its location this year: the popular annual event will not be held at Pere Marquette Beach but instead will take place at Heritage Landing in downtown Muskegon, organizers announced today.

“The location change wasn’t based on anything more than necessity; the beach is gone,” said Allen Serio, chairman of Burning Foot Beer Festival. “It’s a fraction of what it was last year. We would love to be at Pere Marquette, but we hope people understand Burning Foot is still a great event that people will want to go to.”

Serio and Jimmy Hegedus, of the Lakeshore Brewers Guild and Burning Foot Beer Festival, explain the decision to relocate the festival, which has been held at Pere Marquette since its inception, in the video below.

The festival’s new—and temporary, Serio emphasized—home at Heritage Landing was approved by the Muskegon County Board of Commissioners’ Ways & Means Committee on Tuesday, Feb. 4. The entire commission is expected to vote on, and pass, the request to hold the festival at Heritage Landing, which is owned by the county, at its next meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 11, Serio said.

The sixth annual Burning Foot Beer Festival will take place on Saturday, Aug. 29. This year’s celebration of beer, music and art will feature more than 80 breweries from throughout the Midwest, local food, two music stages with local and national music acts, a pop-up art exhibition, overnight camping, a giant hop tower, and more. 

While organizers are disappointed to have to leave Pere Marquette, Serio said they’re happy to be at Heritage Landing—where he noted they’re close to parking at the Mart Dock, hotels, and other downtown amenities. This year’s event will be able to accommodate as many festival goers as usual—the celebration draws thousands of people each year—and, for the first time, Heritage Landing will offer camping during a festival.

Additionally, the Pearl Mist cruise ship will be in Muskegon the day of the festival, Serio noted.

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“There’s a lot of good; being closer to the central business district and a couple of the largest hotels in the county doesn’t hurt us,” Serio said. “But, at the end of the day, we’re all going to miss the beach. If there was any way we could keep it there, we would. For us to keep producing a festival that people love, a change in location was necessary.”

Provided water levels drop next year, Serio said festival organizers expect Burning Foot to return to Pere Marquette in 2021.

“We thank the Burning Foot family for being resilient during this time,” festival organizers said in a press statement. The organizers went on to say they “want to focus efforts on ensuring our beaches, which we’ve all known and loved for years, stay intact for generations to come.”

Erosion and high water levels have hit Muskegon, and the Great Lakes region in general, significantly hard this year. The Great Lakes water levels broke records this past summer, with some basins experiencing the highest levels ever recorded since 1918. In December 2019, Lake Michigan and Lake Huron—which have not yet broken records, but could this month—averaged water levels that were 16.5 inches higher than the year before, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Unusually high water has plagued shorelines throughout the Great Lakes, causing beach erosion and disappearing waterfronts. In Muskegon County, high water levels have, for example, devastated Beach Street, the main access point to Pere Marquette; the city of Muskegon recently closed Kruse Park’s boardwalk because of high water levels and shoreline erosion; and the pathway to Norton Shores’ Lake Harbor Park was closed due to erosion and high water.

Story by Anna Gustafson, the publisher and editor of Muskegon Times. Photos by Anna, unless otherwise noted. Connect with Anna by emailing MuskegonTimes@gmail.com or onFacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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