By Rick Coates
The 46th Alpenfest in Gaylord kicks off on Tuesday. The five day festival is loaded with family friendly activities that are at no cost or are free of charge after purchasing an Alpenfest pin for $3, making it one of the best entertainment values in the Northern Michigan.
The Alpenfest pin is a great value because it allows you to attend the many food events we have for no additional charge, said Gayla Lamberies, festival special events coordinator. Otherwise to participate in these events they are $5 each.
Food is one of the focal points of the Alpenfest with Wurst Wagon on Tuesday being the first as troopers from the Michigan State Police post in Gaylord don aprons and serve guests at the opening night ceremonies. On Wednesday is the Die Groeste Kaffee Pause (The worlds largest coffee break) at 9:30 am under the pavilion with coffee, donuts and milk. For dinner, enjoy a chicken BBQ hosted by Dowkers Meat Market, also under the pavilion. Other food events through the weekend include a sausage and sauerkraut dinner, pancakes and sausage breakfast along with the Pontresina Suppen Mahlzeit featuring the Festivals secret Pontresina soup recipe.
BURNING THE BOOGG
One Alpenfest tradition that is enjoyed by locals and visitors alike is the Burning of the Boogg. This takes place on Tuesday night and is quite the ceremony. Everyone is encourage to put their troubles on a piece of paper and drop them in the Boogg to watch them go up in smoke.
Alpenfest is known for its many wild events from a Goldfish Eating Contest to a SPAM Carving Contest. Everyone thinks their dog is cute, but if you think yours might be ugly then give the Ugly Dog Contest a try. Other contests include Swiss Stone Spitting, Yodeling, Alpenfest Idol, Bubble Gum Blowing and a Mens Knee Contest.
The festival will feature musical entertainment ranging from the Young Americans to country sensation Blackhawk. Thursday night enjoy Lights, a Journey tribute band and Detroit-based Annabelle Road, an up-and-coming country band that play a mix of covers and originals, swinging between Eric Clapton and Johnny Cash to Faith Hill and John Mellencamp.
Closing out the 46th Annual Alpenfest will be The System, a Bob Seger tribute band. The Michigan-based band has been on the Midwest festival circuit for the past nine years building quite a following.
Segers music is loved all over but in particular it resonates with those from the Midwest , said George Nichols, lead singer for The System. We are from Muskegon but we play all over the Midwest.
The popularity of tribute bands has been on the rise. Almost every weekend a venue or festival in Northern Michigan has been hosting one. Nichols says there is good reason for it.
Most festivals cant afford the price tag of the original artist, said Nichols. In our case we were born out of the fact that Seger had basically quit touring. It had been several years since he had toured when we formed nine years ago.
So exactly how did Nichols go about starting The System?
Well I have been in bands for 30 years and Seger songs have always been a part of my sets, said Nichols. People would keep telling me I look and sound like Seger. I laughed at the idea at first and eventually when it looked like Seger wouldnt tour again I started tossing the idea around with my band.
Their name comes from one of Segers early bands in the late 60s, although The System plays Seger tunes from throughout the Rock and Roll Hall of Famers career. So does Nichols find it a challenge trying to emulate a rock legend?
Yes, I think people dont realize what a great and distinctive voice that Seger has, said Nichols. I have to really work hard at it because this is just a part-time gig. The reality is that we are all in other bands because we perform maybe a couple dozen shows as a Seger tribute band. If you want to make money performing Bob Seger songs then you need to be Bob Seger.
But Nichols finds The System to be among the most rewarding bands he has been in.
What I like is Seger has a huge following and people come out to the show to listen to the music, said Nichols. We perform two hours of his hits and people sing along and they love it. I have been in cover bands and opened for big names, but you are just the opening act and no one is there to listen to you. This is different; people are actually there to listen to us and you walk away energized.
The System will bring the Alpenfest to a close on Saturday July 17, performing on the Alpenstage. There is no cost for the concert. For additional info check out www.alpenfest.com or call 989-732-6333. Their website has a printable brochure with a detailed listing of all the events.