This September 5-7, the Wheatland Music Festival celebrates 40 years of traditional music of the three-day weekend event that began a much bigger commitment to traditional music than the first festival might have foretold. This can be a one-day event or a three-day event that can include camping on the grounds. This picturesque and unspoiled rural festival setting, begun by music enthusiasts in 1974, holds much more than just a music festival, though music is always its primary focus and biggest draw.
I have been to this festival, located conveniently just 20 miles west of where I live. One thing you will always hear is happy people, wishing you, “Happy Wheatland.” It is a place of joy, traditional crafts, including workshops for building your own instruments. Festival goers can learn other traditional arts, including dance, such as clogging. Music permeates the 160 acres, and three stages. The festival is just south of Remus, off M-66 and M-20 in Central Michigan.
This year’s list of performers includes much blue grass, jazz, some ethnic variety, and plenty to appeal to traditional music enthusiasts. One of the stages is an open stage, where individuals or groups who wish to perform can sign up for their fifteen minutes of fame at the festival. Abundant crafts are for sale, and food tents are available.
This is a non-profit festival, and many volunteers are needed to run it. Volunteers get in for free. If you want to volunteer, you can contact the festival directors at Wheatland by calling the WMO Office at 989-967-8561, M-F, 8am-4pm, or to buy tickets. Tickets go on sale for non-members on June 1, as they do every year. I volunteered one year to work at the cotton candy booth for a group that was raising money for swim lessons for kids at a local lake. Volunteers also patrol the camp grounds for fire and safety, direct parking, and other tasks, like sanitation.
It’s a family oriented event, where children can participate in traditional crafts, have their faces painted, and more. Campers and tents are welcome for people with tickets for the entire weekend. In Michigan, the weather can be 98 degrees and sunny, or 60 degrees and rainy, so plan for anything in terms of gear. Bring plenty of water, a hat to keep the sun off your head, and whether you just buy a day pass or a weekend pass, bring your lawn chairs.
The main stage is truly beautiful, made in a traditional log cabin, with a stained glass window made in the logo of the group, a staff of wheat in a circle. The wheat, a local crop, is a traditional welcome to strangers. Thousands of people attend this festival every year. It is truly a music lovers dream come true.
This organization gives back to the community that has nurtured them. Other than the music festival, there is also a traditional arts festival every May, and workshops on traditional arts happen every month, year round. They even have a youth group, called “Wheatscouts.” This organization is groovy, in every aspect of its programs and events.