Businesses profit from comic relief

Rosie O'Donnell headlined opening night of the Traverse City Winter Comedy Arts Festival.

The Traverse City Winter Comedy Arts Festival is here.

Events kicked off Thursday night in downtown Traverse City, and businesses couldnâ??t be happier.

Front Street was busy around dinner time before the big show.

â??We're really filled up tonight on a Thursday night which is great for us,â?? Joanna Miller, manager at Red Ginger. â??It's so cold, people want an excuse to get out and go downtown.â??

â??Downtown is really bustling during the comedy fest,â?? said Aurora Murray, co-owner of Philâ??s on Front. â??We're so happy to see a lot of business. A lot of people try our restaurant for the first time and then we get return customers. So it's a pretty exciting weekend.â??

â??It's nice to see the foot traffic and reservations come in during what's normally a very slow month,â?? said Jeffrey Noell, assistant general manager at Amical.

The comedy festival gives people a reason to brave the cold and come downtown.

â??It's a nice little change of pace from a long winter. So we're happy to see it. We're all warming up with the people,â?? said Murray.

Some places are extending their hours to accommodate the crowds. Red Ginger is usually closed on Sundays, but this weekend, they'll be open for business.

â??There's still plenty of room open on Sunday. So anyone that calls for a reservation, we've been suggesting that,â?? said Miller.

The rest of the weekend, a portion of Front Street will be overtaken by an ice rink, a Ferris wheel, frozen mini-golf, and a zip-line.

O'Donnell took the stage Thursday night, kicking off a weekend full of comic relief.

Headliner Rosie O'Donnell said she's excited to be in northern Michigan.

Oâ??Donnell was surprised to find out Traverse City is known for its cherries. She is deathly allergic to the fruit.

â??Once I got here, everything I got was cherries,â?? said Oâ??Donnell. â??The hotel gave me a cherry pie. I got a basket of cherry everything: chocolate covered cherries, cherry arugula, cherry stroganoff, cherry lasagna... I have cherries coming out... I can't have a cherry. So it's a dangerous place for me to be.â??

O'Donnell got into town Wednesday. She had a chance to walk around and bought her kids some souvenirs and toys.

â??It's good to be here. It's a beautiful city, a wonderful little town. It's a great festival. Anytime comics get together it's really fun for everyone and for the town,â?? said Oâ??Donnell.

She said someone in the crowd would win her cherry gift basket.