Thursday normally marks the start of one of southwest Michigan's largest festivals. But for the first time in 33 years there will be no Venetian Festival in St. Joseph, Michigan.
Last September the Festival committee decided to end the annual four-day event after the city of St. Joseph pulled its support.
"People from across the country, possibly the world, came back to St. Joe the third week of July. They knew they would see people, meet people, they wouldn't see any other time, even Thanksgiving or Christmas," said Gayle Olson.
Olson was a 30-year Venetian volunteer and says the loss of the festival is like the loss of a family reunion.
But parts of Venetian will live on. Olson is president of Midwest Family Broadcasting and his company is sponsoring SummerJam on Saturday night at the Shadowland Pavillion. It's a concert headlined by up and coming country artist Lee Brice.
"If people like country music at all this will be a fantastic concert event," said Olson.
"It was a little disappointing," said Danna Strain of Indianapolis after finding out Venetian was cancelled for good.
She and her family normally rent a beach house on Elm Street, near Silver Beach, so they can be right in the middle of all the Venetian activities.
"It was a neat experience. We're going to miss it."
But it's an experience some are glad is gone.
"For us local people it's kind of nice not having all that traffic and stuff," said 19-year old Eric Shultz of Benton Harbor.
Jim Gil of Sister Lakes enjoyed the Venetian when it first started, but says it just got too big for the town.
"At the end I didn't even go anymore because it's just too much."
His wife, Karen Gill, says she would like to see Venetian come back, but on a smaller scale.
"I loved the music and the fireworks. I'm going to miss it."
Last fall the city of St. Joseph pulled its support of the festival after a survey showed two-thirds of residents and business owners didn't like it any more. The survey targeted the Carnival Rides
But some of the popular events will continue this week.
"Our local sponsors and partners have stepped up to the plate, the show must go on," said Brian Smith, executive director of St. Joseph Today, a non-profit agency whose goal is to promote the city.
Things that will go on include the Mike Yore Memorial Classic Car show on Thursday night, along with the Tabor Hill wine and beer tasting tent, and free music at the Band Shell all week long.
For Olson seeing the Venetian Festival end is bittersweet, but he's happy the city is moving forward.
"Life goes on. We miss Venetian Festival, but we look ahead. It will be a special memory in time."
The annual Venetian Run on Saturday, which drew hundreds of participants, is being replaced by the Race for YMCA sponsored by Chemical Bank. There won't be any carnival rides either, but the SummerJam Concert will have a Family Fun Zone which includes a petting zoo, fishing pond and bouncy houses.
For more information on all the activities going on in St. Joseph this week, click here.