By Kristi Kates
The Mission: To build and launch the Blissfest Arts Recreation Center, a
facility for cultural, recreational, and sustainable living experiences,
to be enjoyed in a quiet natural setting.
The Man: Jim Gillespie, Blissfests founder and executive director, and a
well-known character to anyone familiar with the Blissfest scene.
Gillespie is leading the charge to make the Blissfest Arts Recreation
Center a reality, with Emmet County granting Blissfest a Special Use
Permit, and the Blissfest Music Organization embarking on a major capital
campaign. The process is just getting underway on this ambitious building
project that is taking place on Blissfests 120-acre property just east of
Included in the project will be a 7,200 square foot multi-use, year-round
assembly building; a multi-use administration and greenhouse facility; 10
resort cabins and 35 permanent campsites.
Gillespie explains that the main focuses of the center will be a trifecta
of complementary ideals.
Our vision is to combine cultural, agricultural, and ecological
experiences at the new recreation center, Gillespie says, Sustainable
Tourism is the buzzword that incorporates this concept. From the
beginning, the Blissfest organizations values have included not only
preserving and promoting music and dance, but also being good stewards of
the land we are entrusted with, and preserving a sense of community.
Part of that stewardship means that Blissfest will be utilizing nature to
help power much of the center naturally, aiming at covering 40% of the new
complexs energy needs with a residential wind turbine and solar panels.
We are committed to low-impact, sustainable practices in the construction
and operation of the new facility, Gillespie confirms.
He further explains that construction materials will be sourced locally,
and that the designs for the center itself will include traditional and
innovative sustainable concepts.
We will use wind and solar energy to provide power to the new
facilities, he says, for example, folks will be able to experience
off-the-grid living when they stay in the new cabins.
Gardens and orchards, a gate house, and a camp store are also part of the
bigger picture, but will arrive a bit later in the schedule; for starters,
Gillespie says, theyre finishing up an earlier remodel.
Were progressing into phase one of construction which will include
completion of our farmhouse remodel project, construction of the permanent
rustic campground, and construction of two cabins and a gazebo in 2011,
So other than the buildings and facilities themselves, just what will be
happening at the Bliss Recreation Center? Plenty, according to Gillespie.
The center will be placing special emphasis on cultural heritage, with
performances, dances, and arts and crafts workshops, plus general
recreational activities like hiking, camping, and gardening, with everyone
encouraged to pitch in to maintain the whole works.
Educational programs and workshops in building, renewable energy, and
sustainable farming will also be made available as time goes on.
Gillespie, as would be expected given his other role as overseer of the
yearly Blissfest music event, is perhaps most looking forward, he says, to
the music-themed activities.
I look forward to artists recording new songs in our solar-powered cabins
with a built-in recording studio, he begins, having regular community
concerts and dances during the summer in our new solar pavilion; hanging
out and jamming with friends in the campground. I also look forward to the
expanded use of the festival farm, with small groups able to enjoy
hands-on, cross-generational activities that provide a holistic
experience; working in the gardens and orchards for a weekend, harvesting
agricultural products with our BlissFeast label - there are so many
possibilities it is hard to list them all.
SUPPORT THE CAUSE
With the Center in such early stages, Gillespie explains that celebratory
and opening festivities will arrive in phases.
Well start doing some activities in 2011, he says, for example, we are
planning an Earth Day/Arbor Day Planting Weekend on April 29-30, where we
will plant 50 fruit trees and 50 blueberries and have a workshop on how to
grow mushrooms. But I have not even thought of a grand opening - I think
that is in the future when we have more infrastructure built, like the
Solar Pavilion and the greenhouse/crafts building.
The project is still seeking donations and funding for the larger goals,
but the current economic climate seems to have had an impact, Gillespie
says, and donations have been slow to arrive.
So we will build as we have the support and come up with the resources. I
see the project in phases evolving over the next five years, so we may
have multiple grand openings, he smiles.
Most importantly, Gillespie says, is to develop the center as a resource
for people to experience music, community, and learning at a beautiful
We want to grow local food crops and bring them to the local market, he
enthuses, we want to spin the electric meter backwards into the future.
We want people to create culture and sustain community. Life is Bliss,
life is art.
More info on Blissfest and on the new Bliss Recreation Center, as well as
ways to help the cause, may be found online at
www.blissfest.org/retreat-center.html. Blissfest may also be reached via
Blissfest Music Organization, 2000 M-119, Petoskey, MI 49770, telephone