2 summer events for Alpena canceled

ALPENA – Two marquee events that likely would have brought thousands of visitors to Alpena this summer have been forced to cancel.

Six visits by the cruise ship “Yorktown” have been scrapped by owner Travel Dynamics, as well as most of the “Wings Over Alpena” air show, which was scheduled to take place in August.

The Wings Over Alpena show, which takes place every other summer, was going to have some changes this year. It was to be held downtown instead of the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center, and the planes would perform over Thunder Bay. Downtown Development Director Lesslee Dort said it appears the main attractions of the show will not be performing because the amount of funds needed to secure bookings with the aerial and ground acts were not raised. She said Wings Over Alpena Chairman Andy White was still attempting to have some sort of event to honor Vietnam veterans, but details have not yet been worked out.

“I know that there was some funding issues and the acts couldn’t be booked, so it looks like we aren’t going to have the air show,” Dort said. “I think there are some plans being made to have a one-day event for the veterans, but I’m not sure at this time what that is going to entail.”

The Alpena Convention and Visitors Bureau was notified Wednesday that the six stops by the Yorktown had been canceled due to what Travel Dynamics claimed was low interest in the Great Lakes tours. Last year the Yorktown made three stops in town and all were filled to capacity.

CVB President Mary Beth Stutzman said she is still waiting to receive more information from Travel Dynamics, but early indications are that it has nothing to do with how Alpena was received by its customers last year. She said all of the scheduled stops the Yorktown was scheduled for have been canceled.

“It is important for the community to know that is has nothing to do with Alpena or anything we did or didn’t do,” Stutzman said. “We always received positive feedback on our ability to welcome and service our cruise visitors. We can consider this a promising beginning to the recruitment of other cruise companies.”

After the final visit to Alpena last summer the cruise line was so impressed with the way the ship and its passengers were received it added three more stops for 2014. Recently the booking feature for the cruises were removed from the Travel Dynamics website, which moved Stutzman into investigating as to why.

The situation concerning the bookings was explained to her by Director of Program Development and Management Madelyn Carlin. She said all of the ports of call are being notified about the scheduling decision.

“Due to the low number of bookings for our domestic programs we have decided to not operate the Yorktown programs in 2014,” Carlin said. “I’m in the process of notifying all of our ports and suppliers and apologizing.”

Stutzman said the CVB is disappointed by the news, but already is working to try and fill the void and to gauge interest from other cruise companies that offer Great Lakes excursions.

“All of the feedback we got was positive. We have confidence as a community and we know now we can welcome the ships and their passengers. We know we can give them a great experience,” Stutzman said. “We can’t argue with Travel Dynamics’ decision, but it does give us an opportunity to look into other cruise possibilities. There are over 100 ships that cruise the Great Lakes in the same fashion as the Yorktown was, so maybe we can convince one of them to make a stop in Alpena.”

Stutzman said it is unlikely a cruise line could be lured to town this summer, but added that it is a possibility.

Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review … at www.thealpenanews.com