Founders of the Traverse City Film Festival receive Downtown Traverse City's 18th Annual Lyle DeYoung Award

The annual award is presented by the DTCA to community members who have made a significant contribution to the vitality of Downtown Traverse City.  It is named in honor of the late Lyle DeYoung, a downtown leader who passed away in 1992.  The trio received the award from 2009 Lyle DeYoung honoree Todd McMillen.

Each is a distinguished citizen of our community worthy of the award alone, but on May 15, 2005 Moore, Stanton and Williams met at the downtown bistro Amical, and set a path towards a monumental community event and ultimately a significant economic development project. In the last 5 years, the Traverse City Film Festival has made Traverse City the tinsel town of the north and resulted in the opening of one of the most special of Downtown institutions, The State Theatre.

John Robert Williams, a Traverse City native, who served on the Traverse City Planning Commission when he was 18 and went on to open a long time successful downtown photography business.  He was co-founder of the Traverse Area Recreational Trails and he and his brother entertained literally millions on Front Street over more than a decade.

Doug Stanton, a writer who not only has international success and fame by being on the New York Times Best Sellers List for his success with Horse Soldiers and In Harm’s Way, but has put Traverse City in the limelight for writer’s and publishers. The National Writer’s Series, a year-round book festival bring great conversations to life with America’s great writers will only become more influential over the years.Michael Moore is a filmmaker who’s critically acclaimed film, Bowling for Columbine, resulted in an Academy Award. He has put Downtown Traverse City on the international map and continues to contribute to our community by co-creating the recent Comedy Arts Festival.

The Traverse City Film Festival launched with four venues and over 40,000 attendees. “The way this festival came together in such a fast and furious way with massive numbers of volunteers, stroking and soothing of naysayers, and donors who signed on with not much more than faith in Traverse City was nothing short of amazing!  This festival has contributed so much to Downtown and with the reopening of the State Theatre, the economic impact has been insurmountable,” says Todd McMillen, 2009 Lyle DeYoung honoree.  Last year, over 136,000 people attended films during the festival and the estimated economic impact exceeded $6.5 million dollars in the space of six days.

Once, the founders made their agenda clear, in 2008 Rotary Charities, owners of the State Theatre, stepped in and told them “You can have the State Theatre BUT you have to be held accountable!”  The organization was to host 9 community programs, but they hosted 75.  Rotary said you must be open 70 summer days and 78 winter days, but they were open every single day.  More than 700 volunteers contribute thousands of hours each year, and in 2008 the State Theatre ranked in the top ten movie theatres in North America for 30 weeks.  For 15 weeks, this long closed landmark across the street from the former DeYoung’s store, ranked as the #1 movie theatre in North America and serves as a true gem in Downtown Traverse City.

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