Saugatuck mayor on film festival: 'Why leave?'

8:39 PM, Sep 5, 2012   |    comments
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Waterfront Film Festival (File photo.)

SAUGATUCK, Mich. (WZZM) - A dramatic turn of events could jeopardize one of Saugatuck's biggest attractions, the Waterfront Film Festival. After 14 years, organizers say they plan to make it into a regional event and are now looking for other places to locate.

In the past 14 years, Saugatuck has been at the center of Midwest premieres like 'March of the Penguins' and 'Napoleon Dynamite.'

"Why leave after 14 years and start over?" asks Saugatuck Mayor Jane VerPlank.

VerPlank says she's surprised the festival is looking elsewhere, even a little offended.

"They've gotten a lot of the venue for free, so yeah it's kind of insulting," says VerPlank.

The anticipated move comes despite increased attendance and upgrades to Coughlin Park. In fact, Mayor VerPlank says the city spent $10,000 on new circuit systems to improve movie quality and keep the festival coming back.

Festival Founder Hopwood Depree says he's gotten proposals from a handful of places including Grand Haven and South Haven.

"Instead of it being localized to one area, we love the idea of it being a West Michigan festival that benefits the entire region," says Depree.

Depree hopes to increase attendance to about 100,000. Meanwhile, local businesses are expecting a decrease in customers.

"It's like a Holiday weekend. It's quite busy, so it will impact us quite a bit," says Chris Wilson, co-owner of Scooters Cafe and Pizzeria.

"I think its a mistake to leave Saugatuck. Saugatuck is very welcoming," says VerPlank.

Organizers say Saugatuck has not been eliminated for next year's event. The festival is accepting proposals until September 14. A decision is expected by the end of the month.

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