By Kristi Kates
Founded in 1992, when it was more of a private party, according to
current festival overseer/producer Ryan Lake, the Dunegrass Music
Festivals goal was simply to promote local music and help people
Today, 18 years later, the festival outside Empire in southern
Leelanau County still has that same spirit, but has grown to the point
of having more acts than ever.
The late Mike Vanderberg was the original founder, Lake says, and
he wanted to create a festival that was based primarily on Michigan
music, with a few choice national acts; you know, large enough to put
on a great show, yet small enough to maintain the integrity of the
The festival, however, has gone through a few growing pains, as
evidenced by the uncertain, shaky nature of its 2008 show, which was
expanded (and overbooked) by a company called Grassroots Productions.
To put it delicately, there was a little trouble paying the bills -
headliner Ritchie Havens abruptly canceled his show at the event and
creditors were reportedly left holding the bag for more than $300,000
in unpaid bills.
Dunegrass survived, which was the first step to getting this
festival back on track, Lake explains. After the losses suffered
under the previous production company that took over when Mike passed
away, last year was a challenge to say the least, but in the end, a
very rewarding one. Weve had as many as 10,000 people at Dunegrass in
the past and expect a great turnout this year and for years to come.
Helping the turnout, perhaps, is the fact that Dunegrass has moved
back a weekend, avoiding a conflict with the Traverse City Film
Festival. And, as was the case last year, the festival returns to the
Empire Eagles Club property east of Empire, offering a more private
site than its original location in town.
Now in its 18th year, Dunegrass is back in force this summer for an
entire weekend, at a reasonable price point and with plenty of music
to choose from, most of it literally home-grown.
The vast majority of our music comes from right here in Michigan,
Lake says proudly, including Steppin in it, Greensky Bluegrass, The
Macpodz, Delilah DeWylde and the Lost Boys, Rachael Davis, Jen Sygit
and Sam Corbin, K. Jones and the Benzie Playboys, Detour Bluegrass,
Luke Winslow-King, Rootstand, Fool Rooster and so many others.
The 2010 Dunegrass Festival will also be featuring a Louisiana legend,
namely Sammie Big Sam Williams, known for his trombone talents as
well as his musical work with everyone from the Dirty Dozen Brass Band
to James Brown, Dave Matthews to Elvis Costello. Williams band, Big
Sams Funky Nation, will bring Dunegrass a true taste of New
Orleans, as Lake puts it, when his band takes the stage on the night
of August 6.
Of course the music is the focal point at Dunegrass, but Lake also
emphasizes that theres a whole lot more to the fest that can be
enjoyed between the acts.
We will have over 20 arts and crafts vendors, a wonderful food menu
to choose from on site, morning yoga, camping, open mic, music
workshops, poetry, Cajun dance, Contra dance, Waltz hour, and the
gospel hour on Sunday morning with Rachael Davis, Lake says.
But perhaps even more than all of the above, Lake - also a musician -
appreciates the fact that Dunegrass is very much a local festival,
true to its Up North roots and welcoming to the surrounding
My favorite aspect of Dunegrass is the local connection, he says,
we are featuring the best of Michigan. This is an opportunity to get
out and see whats going on in the Michigan music scene - and that is
a very cool thing.
The 2010 18th Annual Sleeping Bear Dunegrass and Blues Festival will
take place August 6, 7, and 8 at the Empire Eagles property right off
of M-72 near the village of Empire. Day passes will be available at
the gate for $35, weekend passes at the gate will be $90. Get all the
details at www.dunegrassmusicfestival.org.
Lac La Belle
Blue Dirt Band
Graham Parsons & the Go Rounds
Jen Sygit & Sam Corbin
K. Jones & The Benzie Playboys
Big Sams Funky Nation
Marco & Asim
The New 3rd Coast
Rachel Davis Band
Jessical Lea Mayfield
Delilah DeWylde & the Lost Boys
Steppin In It
Hawks & Owls
Red Tail Ring
Michael Anne Erlewine
Bob Bernard Waltz Hour
Luke Winslow King
Josh Davis & Fool Rooster