CADILLAC — There’s a good chance one of the city’s signature festivals will not be happening next year, or any other year, for that matter.
Shawn Dostal, the chief organizer of the North American Snow Festival for the last two years, said he can no longer afford to keep the event going.
“I’ve been trying to keep a dead horse alive for two years,‘ Dostal said. “I told people last year, ‘don’t be surprised if it doesn’t happen again.’‘
Indeed, Dostal aired his concerns about the future of the festival to the Cadillac News earlier this year, following exceptionally low turnout every day of the three-day event.
Back in its heyday, the NASF (which was formerly dubbed the North American Snowmobile Festival), was a huge draw that attracted legions of visitors and covered Lake Cadillac with snowmobilers, tents and onlookers.
“I always saw what it did for Cadillac,‘ Dostal said about the festival. “I loved the unity of people coming together to put it on.‘
In recent years, as snowfall grew increasingly unpredictable, snowmobiles took a back seat and the festival became more known for some of its other features, including the chili cookoff, Miss NASF pageant and arm wrestling competition.
Whereas the festival easily attracted thousands of visitors in decades past, during the event last year — which was held mostly indoors at the Wex — attendance barely exceeded a couple hundred people.
Dostal said weather changes definitely affected the popularity of the festival, in addition to the willingness of businesses to sponsor the event.
“We used to have companies competing for sponsorships," Dostal said. “The last few years, I’ve spent money out of my own pocket and been in the negative when it was over."
Dostal said the situation became critical in 2018, when the Cadillac Area Festival and Events dissociated itself from the NASF. With NASF operating as an independent entity following the departure of CAFE, Dostal said the festival’s success or failure fell solely on him.
This wouldn’t have been as big of an issue, Dostal said, if he had adequate volunteer support from the community to help put the event together each year.
“Finding volunteers has been like pulling teeth," Dostal said. “Community support is so important. I gotta have people there that want to be there."
Dostal said he’s thinking about putting something much smaller together during the weekend that the NASF would be held at the end of January, but nothing is set in stone at this point.
He said that if a group or organization were willing to provide some seed money, he’d be available to help “pass the torch‘ to the next generation of NASF organizers.
“Maybe the thought of the festival not happening will spark some sort of movement," Dostal said. “But nobody has stepped up yet to take it over."
The Cadillac News will be following up with this story to find out more details about some of the events from the festival that may be continuing independent of the NASF.