By Kristi Kates 9/7/09
Wheatland associate Pamela Peach Burke calls the Wheatland Music Festival the last hurrah of the warm summer months - perhaps an understated description of the much-touted event that draws around 12,000 people each year.
With this years event happening September 11-13, Wheatland, as its commonly shortened to, is now in its 36th incarnation, and rain or shine, itll take place once again near Remus, Michigan, at the eastern edge of Mecosta County.
NOT RAIN, NOR SLEET
Wheatland festival goers are a hardy bunch, Burke says, mud, frost, rain, or heat does not keep them from attending the stage concerts or taking part in the dances, jam sessions, workshops, or more. They are also folks who value homegrown music and arts that represent various eras and ethnicities and tend not to be staged or overly produced like some commercial music. Nearing the fourth decade of Wheatland, many festival goers arrive in friend or family clans of multiple generations.
The very first Wheatland, Burke explains, was a fundraiser for the local Mt. Pleasant food co-op way back in 1974.
If funds were raised that year beyond the costs, I dont remember, Burke chuckles.
Shortly after, the small group of volunteers that held the first festival believed that the music presented had value, and chose to incorporate with a mission statement to preserve and present traditional music and arts, she continues, now that small group has grown to more than one thousand volunteers from across Michigan and beyond; the organization now serves as a known regional resource center for traditional arts and hosts educational activities all year long.
NEW AND FAVORITES
This years Wheatland will kick off with the first Main Stage act on Friday at 6 p.m.; although the Wheatland team is still hard at work on all the scheduling details, theyre already looking forward to plenty of the acts.
I expect that Ruthie Foster, a Texas born rocky blues singer, will be a new favorite, Burke says, also sure to please are Sam Amidon with Isaac Alderson a young New Englander singer songwriter with Irish/American influences. And the French Canadian group DeTemps Antan with Éric Beaudry, André Brunet and Pierre-Luc Dupuis playing traditional Quebec music will be a draw as well.
Burke says shes also looking forward to Drew Nelson, whose songs reference familiar Michigan places, as well as returning acts Robin and Linda Williams and Rhythm and shoes.
But even though music is the main focus, Burke emphasizes that theres a lot more to Wheatland than just that.
Dont sit in front of a stage the whole time, she suggests, move around - there is so much to see, hear and do. Head over to Third Stage for yoga, dance instruction and dances; there will be cajun dances, old time squares and contra, and more. The Folk Tents and Workshop Lane have full schedules of participatory instrument workshops ranging from ukulele and harmonica to Cajun fiddle and mountain dulcimer, and the instrument makers can be found in the Luthiers Tent. And theres a gospel sing on Sunday morning.
In addition to Wheatlands scheduled events, Burke says there are plenty of spontaneous spectacles to witness
There are always jam sessions taking place in the pines, campgrounds, food buildings and parking lots - any time of day or night. You can wander from a group of country western crooners to hard driving Irish fiddlers and move on to the Bluegrassers, she enthuses. There is at least one group of Wheatland regulars who never miss their annual late night walk-a-bout to see the wide array of decorated theme oriented campsites created by festival goers - from the Underwater Experience to the tent surrounded by mannequins or pink plastic flamingos.
Be sure to set a time to shop and bring a shopping bag, too, she continues, this is your chance to buy dozens of gifts to cover all those birthdays and holidays throughout the next year at Arts and Crafts, Performers Recordings, the Luthiers tent, and at the Marketplace.
There are plenty of food choices at Wheatland, too.
The food area includes about a dozen or more vendors, Burke explains, and these are not your typical carnival vendors; they are service organizations, nonprofits, school organizations and food co-ops who offer a wide variety of meal choices for festival goers from organic foods to sausage and pancakes on a stick. Some of the vendors have been at Wheatland for years. The best part is that the money these groups earn is re-invested back into their communities.
Finally, Burke has a little advice for those who may not have been to Wheatland before - or who may not be used to a more rustic outdoor type of music festival. She suggests that - first things first - festival goers should pick up a map at the information booth so that theyve got a better idea of where theyre going in Wheatlands 160 acre territory.
Learn the name of your campground, locate your safety station, and find out where things are while its still daylight, she suggests.
Shuttle buses will be available to transport festival goers into town to purchase food and other supplies, and to prevent those who drink from driving.
Burke also suggests bringing lawn chairs or blankets for the Main Stage and Centennial Stage performances - to remember sunscreen for the daytime -
and to keep your mittens, scarf, woolen socks, boots, and down vest handy for evening wear.
But most of all, Burke suggests a friendly attitude and plenty of participation.
Introduce yourself to the folks camping and dancing next to you; meet musicians too, at workshops and at the Performer Recordings booth. You will all be old friends by next year.
More information on Wheatland and detailed ticket prices/purchase info can be found at www.wheatlandmusic.org
or by calling 989-967-8561 (telephone only available weekdays 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.). Primitive camping will be available on-site.