One of Northern Michigans newest festivals also has one of its most
dramatic locations: Elbertas Solstice Festival is held in the towns
expansive Waterfront Park on Frankforts harbor, with great views of
the lighthouse and Lake Michigan.
The Benzie County event is the first music festival of the summer in
Northern Michigan (along with Brethrens Spirit of the Woods
Festival), taking place this Saturday, June 19 from noon - 1 a.m.
Plus, you cant beat the entrance fee for this family-oriented
festival: its all free of charge.
Its a big local party that the whole family gets to have fun at,
says co-chair Josh Stoltz. And it all wraps up with a fireworks show
that a lot of people say is the best in Northern Michigan.
MUSIC & HANG GLIDERS
With headliners including local heroes, K. Jones & the Benzie
Playboys, the festival at Elberta Waterfront Park offers a full
afternoon and evening of music along with fun for kids and their
parents. Some highlights will include a kite building class and
exhibition by Third Coast Kite and Hobby; hang gliding and paragliding
exhibitions off Elbertas legendary bluffs; a 75-foot sun dial created
by Dean Conners; crafts related to the summer solstice; teen music and
dance; a beer garden; games, dancing, an open mic and more.
The festival started out in 2002 and weve had some slower years, but
it has picked up since then and were expecting a great turnout this
year, Stoltz says.
Stoltz joined the Solstice team last year, bringing a wealth of
experience in marketing and festival organization. The son of Benzie
Playboys washboard scrubber Mark Stoltz, he grew up in Lake Ann,
attended Benzie Central High School, and went on to pursue a career in
direct marketing in Phoenix and Miami before returning to the area. At
one point, he was employing up to 70 people, marketing for businesses
such as Staples in Arizona.
Stoltz has had a colorful past here in the area: he recalls traveling
with his dad to Cajun music festivals in the Louisiana bayou and to
Mardi Gras as a child -- a musical experience that shaped his interest
in festivals. He also owns The Future school bus, a camping vehicle
painted with Earth-inspired scenes which he used to travel around the
country. Additionally, he was part of the team that staged the
Dunegrass and Blues Festival in Empire, leaving the organization over
budget issues before the ill-fated 2008 festival that lost more than
an estimated $300,000. My budget advice was ignored, so I got out
before the festival went down, he notes.
But Stoltzs expertise in marketing and organization was recognized by
those putting on the Solstice Festival and he was approached to lend a
hand at the fundraiser for Elberta Waterfront Park.
One of my goals is to make enough money so that we can make this a
sustainable festival that will bring in a really big band every few
years, he says.
How do you make money at a free festival? Beer sales. Mom or Dad can
enjoy a brewski at the Festivals beer garden while still keeping an
eye on their kids at the open landscaped park.
DOWN THE HATCH
Youll also find some unusual cullinary opportunities this year,
including the Gross Eating Contest for kids ages 8-13 which involves
consuming things like beet jello, or a brussel sprout and pickle juice
For adults, there will be the introduction of the Green Plate
Challenge by Jim Barnes of Crystal Lake Catering and Eco-Building
Products. Five chefs from the area will be creating green plate
dinners that have to include at least 90 percent local ingredients,
Stoltz says. Then theyll be serving these dishes at their
restaurants throughout the summer.
Participating restaurants include the Cabbage Shed, Betsie Bay Inn,
Tali Bistro, Coho Cafe and The Thistle, all of which will be offering
a taste of their green plates at the Solstice Festival.
-- by Robert Downes
UPPER DECK STAGE
M.C. & Music: Brett Byrnes
Noon-1:30: Acoustic Dynamite
3:00-4:00: Dear Sasquatch
6:15-7:00: Gross Eating Contest
7:00-7:45: Hannah Rae Beale
8:00-10:30: K Jones & the
10:45-11:45pm: sub-Prime Blues Band
12:00-1:00am: Free Love
9:00-10:30: (live music)
Upon Your Pedestal