More than a festival…..
Say the words Hiawatha Music Co-op and most people think of that organization’s Traditional Music Festival, one of the most anticipated annual events in the Marquette area, the Upper Peninsula, and upper Midwest region. The 2017 Festival is scheduled for the weekend of July 21-23 at Marquette’s Tourist Park and typically brings between 3,200 and 4,000 people to the event.
But the Co-op is much more than an amazing weekend of music, blended voices, and fiddle tunes. One of their goals is to highlight the rich source (heritage) of traditional music groups living right here in Michigan, with focus on Marquette groups. “Community integration and collaboration with our local businesses is important to us,” says Julie Foster-Lindquist, president of the Board and founding member of the Co-op. For example, she says, “the Co-op looks to hold events in a variety of venues throughout the year”. To that end, the Co-op puts on a monthly concert called “Warm Up Wednesday Concert Series” held on the third Wednesday of each month, January through May, at the Ore Dock Brewing Company. This series is somewhat of a ‘play on words’ to reflect the winter season but also to reflect on the planning time leading to the annual Festival in July.
Each month, a local traditional music band is featured. The Warm Up Wednesday Concert Series now in its third year, has featured local traditional music bands such as Nick Adams and the Aral Sea Divers, Strung Together, The Union Suits, All Strings Considered, Jeff Krebs, aka ‘Papa Crow’, Corinne Rockow, The Knockabouts, Sarah Mittlefehldt and Johnny Gillette, and Michigan’s self proclaimed “Ukelele ambassador”, Ben Hassenger from the Lansing area and The Monday Night All Stars from the Baraga area.
That’s something that those involved with Hiawatha strive to do: Bring traditional music into the spotlight. “In addition to our Festival Committee that plans our annual Festival, our Events and Concert Committee is an active part of bringing traditional music to our area”, said Susan Divine, executive director of the Hiawatha Music Co-op. “The committee meets on a regular basis to brainstorm and bring events to life that expose folks to traditional American Music. Such music includes such music genres as bluegrass, old timey, Cajun, Irish, blues, gospel, Appalachian, to name a few”.
In 2015 and 2016, the Co-op was not only busy with the Warm Up Wednesday Concert Series, but held a fundraiser at the Chocolay River Brewery and Restaurant featuring a high energy lower Michigan bluegrass band, Dragon Wagon, and local favorites The Union Suits and Lost Creek; held a concert in September co-sponsored with the NMU UNITED Conference and the Beaumier Heritage Center featuring Appalachian master musicians, Ginny Hawker and Tracy Schwarz; co-sponsored with the Beaumier Heritage Center Northern Night Concert series in October featuring Canadian folk band Les Poules a Colin; and held their annual Members meeting at the Elks Lodge in October 2015 featuring swing band Lindsay Lou and the Flatbellys and November 2016 featuring The Johns. In December 2015, the Co-op once again partnered with the Beaumier Heritage Center Northern Nights Concert series to bring nationally known singer-songwriter Claudia Schmidt to the area for a concert held at the Marquette Regional Historical Center. September 2016 was the date of a standing room only concert with master musicians Dave Bing and protege Ben Townsend held in the Community Room at the Peter White Public Library.
For the 2015 and 2016 Festival, the local brewing company, Blackrocks Brewery collaborated with Hiawatha to produce a special craft beer for the Festival, called ‘Hiawatha Wheat’, complete with the Festival logo. The craft beer was sold in many local venues in the weeks leading to the Festival and is featured at a ‘release’ party at Blackrocks on Third Street a couple of weeks prior to the Festival.