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  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 2018 Festival is scheduled for the weekend of July 20-22 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, former 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 “Hiawatha on TAAP”,  or HoTAAP, referring to Traditional Acoustic Arts Performances and formerly called “Warm Up Wednesday”.  This is held on the third Wednesday of each month, January through May, at the Ore Dock Brewing Company from 6-8pm. 

Each month, a local traditional music band is featured. The HoTAAP Concert Series now in its fourth 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. The 2018 concert season will feature local traditional music historians Phil and Annette Watts along with Dan Truckey and Bill Hart and Eddie Consolamongo.  These historians will take us down memory lane, back to the roots of traditional music and show us how this music has evolved.  And for the 3rd season, we present Ben Hassenger for our Yooper Use Week with expanded program in Alger County this year, a free Community Strum, HoTAAP kids concert, school assemblies and a Saturday workshop for Use enthusiasts of all abilities.  March will find us with Them Coulee Boys with April featuring Mustard’s Retreat and finally in May, The Appleseed Collective.  

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, 2016, and 2017 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.  A very special concert was held in June 2017 with Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary fame.  This event brought out a huge crowd hungry to hear songs from their youth.  Peter did not disappoint. In October 2017, our annual master artist was guitar aficionado, Wayne Henderson with Helen White.   Our November Annual Meeting featured local bluegrass band, Chasin’ Steel.  

For the 2015, 2016, and 2017 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.  

2018 is proving to be very exciting with all hands on deck to help organize our 40th Festival celebration!