The Marquette Exchange Club deserves kudos every year for its work at the International Food Fest - but this year they may have earned a special hazardous duty commendation.
The 27th annual food fest, which serves as the club's major fundraiser each year, ran Tuesday through Thursday. And it turned out not to be a smooth run, after the weather turned ugly Wednesday night.
A series of violent thunderstorms tore through the central Upper Peninsula late Wednesday, interfering with the crowd for the annual fireworks. Another thunderstorm hit early Thursday morning, wreaking havoc on the food fest grounds at Mattson Lower Harbor Park, pulling tents from their posts and strewing trash and banners over the field.
It would have been easy for the Exchange Club to give up and cancel the last day of the festival which, after all, is happening midweek this year. Not an ideal time.
But the committed volunteer group supports about two dozen local organizations with funds raised at the fest.
Club member Bob Vidlund said the group was determined to see the show go on. "We're going to do our best to do it, because it's our biggest fundraiser and with all the nonprofit groups we support, we might get less," he said.
Organizers say their job isn't getting any easier as the years go by. Club members find it harder to get people to help put the event together because membership in service clubs is dwindling across the board.
The final numbers may not yet be in, but we're betting that the Exchange Club did well. Which means non-profit groups like Harbor House, Beacon House, Little League, youth soccer, Bay Cliff Health Camp, the Alzheimer's Association and many others, will do well, too.
The food fest is good for the city on many levels. Beyond the fundraising component, it's an economic boon to the area. The fest always pulls thousands of pedestrians through the downtown to the area's waterfront district.
And the food fest is one of the summer's best opportunities to get families together. It's a chance to reconnect with old friends and make new ones while enjoying outdoor music, food, fun ... and fireworks.
We hope you made it to the Lower Harbor this year to join the fun and support some great local charities. If not, we'll see you next year - rain or shine.