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Blissfest plans new recreation center

Robert Downes - January 5th, 2009
A new Blissfest Arts Recreation Center is in the works at the music organization’s 120-acre site outside Cross Village.
Blissfest Director Jim Gillespie says the new center will offer a range of attractions in a quiet, natural setting.
“The center will place special emphasis on traditional music, dance and crafts education,” Gillespie said in a release. “In addition, general recreation activities such as camping, hiking, nature walks and gardening will be available. Guests and members will be encouraged to participate in developing and maintaining the facility’s gardens, orchards and trails.”
The project is contingent on approval of township and county planning commissions that review special use permit zoning requests and allow for public input.
Several years ago, the Blissfest attempted a similar expansion and was met with opposition from a number of neighbors in Readmond Township. Since that time, the music organization has worked hard to prove itself a good neighbor by tightening up regulations and oversight at Northern Michigan’s biggest music festival, which is held the second weekend in July.

QUIETER ROLE
On that score, the Blissfest intends for its new Arts Recreation Center to be a low-key operation, compared to the folk festival. In addition to its nature experiences, the center will be used for “occasional retreats, school programs, workshops and small summer concerts and dances, in addition to general recreational camping use by Blissfest members, guests and the general public.”
Music, of course, will provide a common ground.
“We are following our Bliss,” says Jim Gillespie. “Music is the universal language and a quality of life essential. To be able to explore the diverse music and dance traditions of American and other cultures at a small retreat center in Northern Michigan is a legacy project we aspire to.”
Gillespie helped found the organization 29 years ago when the first Blissfest Folk Festival was held in a farmers field near the crossroads of Bliss in 1981. “We were musical gypsies at first, moving the festival site each year to our farmer friend’s current fallow field. The festival eventually migrated to its current location in 1988 and the property was purchased in 1995. “Now we are really setting down permanent roots with a center where folk and roots music and dance can grow and flourish in our area.”

CAMPING TOO
The Arts Recreation Center will also offer 35 campsites with 10 of the campsites as walk-in only. The rustic campground will cater to tents and small trailers, with a few sites will be constructed to accommodate disabled individuals. There are also plans to build 10 small cabins that will demonstrate historic and innovative designs. Plans are to include renewable energy components, such as wind generators and solar panels for power sources. The existing historic farmhouse will be remodeled and be used as a guesthouse. The maximum design capacity of the facility accommodations will be 200 people. In addition, a multiple-use solar pavilion building is being planned, along with a camp information center that will house a souvenir and snack shop for guests.
“We are very excited to present this project to the community,” says Bob Humphrey, Blissfest board president. “Blissfest is a primary source for cultural heritage programming and folk and roots music education. To be able to do that on the land that we have such a historical connection with and respect for will be a great advancement for the organization and the community.“

-- Robert Downes contributed to this story
 
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