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Frankenmuth’s Bavarian Festival eyes Thursday kickoff, unaffected by labor, volunteer shortages

Updated: Jun. 9, 2021 at 9:48 PM EDT
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FRANKENMUTH, Mich. (WJRT) (6/9/2021)--In just a matter of hours, Frankenmuth’s iconic Bavarian Festival takes over downtown.

It comes amid a labor shortage forcing some businesses to adapt. It’s a question ABC12 asked festival organizers and a local hot spot gearing up for a busy weekend.

“I am so excited.”

The finishing touches, taking shape at lightning speed under the big tent on Main Street. The setup here takes three days, wrapping up just in time for Thursday’s 5:00 kickoff.

“It’s always a struggle,” Tonya Quackenbush related. “I expected more of a struggle this year than we have had.”

Given just how fluid the planning process needed to be year, with a changing slate of restrictions, the Festival evolved, remarkably, President Quackenbush said, without a significant hitch.

“We can’t do the festival without our volunteers,” she explained. “That was one of our biggest concerns about actually having it, was if we were going to be able to get people out.”

The festival goes live as businesses and events nationwide continue to see their reopening plans tempered by a lack of labor.

“It’s been wild.”

James Boyd, revealing in a May conversation with ABC12 that a shortage of volunteers had forced another signature Frankenmuth event – the World Expo of Beer -- to switch things up this year.

“Traditionally, we have about 75 different beer booths,” Boyd said. “We have to staff those with volunteers… This year, we decided to put into effect what’s called a beer pod… So we could just have a handful of volunteers.”

“We are hiring, just like pretty much any restaurant in the state.”

Bavarian Inn Restaurant General Manager Amy Zehnder-Grossi says she’s making do with fewer helping hands at the outset of the busy summer season. Like others, the restaurant recently had to slash its operating hours until that gap can be bridged.

“We’re just trying to tweak things a little bit here and there to help get us through,” she related.

While they’d like a few more hands on deck, the shortage, Quackenbush said, won’t mean a significant hit, nor a different experience for crowds.

“The entire community, the sponsors, the businesses, everybody has really come out for us this year to make sure that this is a successful event,” she explained.

“Everybody loves a good comeback story?”

“Everybody does,” Quackenbush responded.

The Bavarian Inn will host a job fair later this month in hopes of filling more than 100 openings.

For more information, click here.

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