Unusual Michigan Festivals to Put on Your Summer Bucket List

Michigan is home to a number of “off the beaten path” festivals you won’t find anywhere else.  From Elvisfest to Cheeseburger fest, and everything in-between, there truly is something for everyone to enjoy. Here are just a few of the most unique Michigan festivals to add to your summer bucket list. For more, visit michigan.org/events.

lumberjackJack Pine Lumberjack Show
May 16 – September 1, Mackinaw City
Come cheer the Lumberjacks in this fast paced competition of chopping, chain-sawing, pole climbing, logrolling and more. You’ll see turn of the century skills of the lumberjack in action!

Train Expo 2014
June 20-22, Owosso
See the very best in steam locomotives from all over the U.S. as well as vintage WWII airplanes and some of the finest in automobiles from across the generations, all in Owosso! A giant midway, an auto race and the history of transportation will be available for the family to see, ride, and experience for this unforgettable weekend.

Marquette Mountain Mud
June 21, Marquette
Enjoy natural river showers via snow guns, river crossings, a huge mound of snow to climb, a giant slippery slide, plenty of other challenging  obstacles, and fresh mud to run and crawl through.  Enjoy a scenic chairlift ride to the top of Marquette Mountain, then complete your chosen 4-mile or 2-mile race to the finish line at the chalet. The courses will lead you through a set of switchbacks and various obstacles along your 550 foot descent  to the finish!

PIC SHOWS: FROM SHOOT: Chough bakery, Padstow.Michigan Pasty Fest
June 28, Calumet
Celebrate the Keweenaw’s “Pasty” history with a parade, children’s games, a pasty sale, live music and dancing with the Pasty Bake-Off for the coveted Copper Pasty Award. Event held at Agassiz Park.

Cedar Polka Fest
July 3-6, Cedar
Held yearly in Cedar, Michigan, under the big tent on the tennis courts. Highlights include a parade on Saturday at noon, softball tournament, a polka mass and polka under the big, big tent with the big names of polka.

Michigan ElvisFest
July 11-12, Ypsilanti
The Annual Michigan ElvisFest brings the best of Michigan’s Elvis impersonators together!  It’s just around the corner – Friday, July 11 and Saturday, July 12.

Maker-Faire-Detroit

Photo courtesy of The Henry Ford

Maker Faire Detroit
July 26-27, The Henry Ford
Tinker, hack and mingle with over 400 makers during the ultimate festival of invention and creativity at the world’s original Maker mecca. You won’t believe your eyes!

Fish Sandwich Festival
August 1 -3, Bay Port, MI
Fresh fish sandwiches are the stars of the show during this festival! Free entertainment, parade, classic car show, bingo, kid’s games, raffles. Check out website link for full event schedule.

Michigan Pirate Festival
August 4-10, Grand Haven
Michigan Pirate Festival’s 8th year in western Michigan is this August 4-10, 2014, in Grand Haven. This year’s event will include pirate hunters, re-enactors, literary and fantasy characters, encampments, and pirates from more eras than ever before. Come out and see for yourself what the excitement is all about!

Rubber Ducky Festival
August 16, Bellaire
See two-thousand rubber ducks race down the Intermediate River! Also, visit the Arts and Craft show at Duckling Park on Broad Street with kids games, sidewalk sales and parade.

005The US-127 National Yard Sale
August 7-10, Hudson, MI
Dubbed the “World’s Largest Yard Sale”, this unique festival spans across five states!  Starting in Gadsden, Alabama and ending just north of Hudson, this national event is something bargain hunters can’t afford to miss (pun intended).

 Cheeseburger in Caseville
August 8-17, Caseville, MI
This family-oriented, 10-day event offers daily music, homemade boat races, parades, classic car shows, and more!  Not to mention the many different varieties of cheeseburgers you can enjoy as you spend time on the shore of picturesque Lake Huron.  Purchase your Cheeseburger Button to get into all of the events for the entire 10 days!

If you’re a cheeseburger fanatic, this festival is the one for you. If you’re more of a barbecue lover, be sure to check out Caseville’s Country Rib Stock Festival happening June 27 – 29th!

Blueberry-Festival-2012-043-1024x768Montrose Blueberry Festival
August 14-17, Montrose, MI
The Montrose Blueberry Festival is a weekend full of fun for the whole family!  Come enjoy delicious blueberry pancakes and pies while you sit back, relax, and watch the parade go by. This annual festival includes a flea market, carnival, 5k/8k road race, and much more.  Make your way to Montrose for a weekend you won’t forget!

For more celebrations dedicated to the blueberry, head out to Marquette’s Blueberry Festival on July 25th or the National Blueberry Festival in South Haven August 7th-10th!

Edmore Potato Festival
August 22-24, Edmore, MI
Celebrate all things ‘potato’ with a farmer’s market, parade,  rodeo, fireworks and more!

If you’re looking for more quirky and unique Michigan festivals throughout the year, be sure to keep the Trenary Outhouse Races or Potterville’s Gizzardfest on your radar!

Do you know of any other unique festivals happening around the state this summer? 

 

Beauty and History at the Great Lakes Lighthouse Festival

Michigan lighthouses bring history, beauty, and uniqueness to our coastline. Each year, visitors can take an in-depth tour of some of these lighthouses at the Great Lakes Lighthouse Festival. This year’s festival will be held October 10th- 13th in Alpena, MI. Guest blogger Peggy Allen of the Michigan Historical Center walks us through what visitors can expect at the upcoming festival. 

Visiting the coastline of Lake Huron, stopping at a Michigan state park, fond memories can be made so easily.

Although modern navigational technology has made lighthouses nearly obsolete, some still do serve as a guiding light for ships on the Great Lakes. More than 115 lighthouses dot Michigan’s Great Lakes coastline providing unique opportunities for visitors to learn about our maritime history.

Tawas Lighthouse Tawas Point State Park and Lighthouse in East Tawas invites you to experience the sights of Michigan.  This fall, Oct. 10-13, brings the Great Lakes Lighthouse Festival to the sunrise side of Michigan.  Visitors can explore many lighthouses from short to tall, white to stripes, all found along the great Lake Huron up to the Mighty Mackinac Bridge.

Headquarters for the 18th Great Lakes Lighthouse Festival is in Alpena.  At the APLEX Event Center there will be over 100 maritime vendors, artists, authors and more.  This half-way point allows you to rest up, listen to presenters and talk with other lighthouse enthusiasts.  There is plenty to do and see for every family member.

When traveling north on US-23 your autumn view is spectacular with painted foliage and pristine water guiding your way past several historic lighthouses.

Stopping at Tawas Point is a highlight. The land curves out into the blue water as the lighthouse nestles between Lake Huron and Tawas Bay.  This allows a majestic view of Michigan’s sunrises and sunsets with plenty of wildlife along the way.

This festival is the only time during the year that visitors will be able to tour the Guest Keeper Quarters above the museum.  Guest Keepers themselves will be able to show you around the entire lighthouse and give you the inside scoop on staying in the lighthouse and becoming a guest keeper yourself.

Tawas LighthouseEntering the park, Tawas Point Lighthouse will guide your way.  The gift store is an historical landmark itself and was built in 1906. There you can purchase unique souvenirs to mark your visit, as well as your ticket into the lighthouse.

At the lighthouse itself, you will experience the history that helped make Michigan. You can learn about past keepers, their family life, the trials of keeping the light burning and reasons why there are so many lighthouses on the Great Lakes. You are welcome to walk in and explore the space, where you can touch as well as look as you learn about life at the lighthouse.

Tawas LighthouseYou may also climb the 85 steps up to the lens room and see the original 4th order Fresnel lens that still guides ships today.  The 360-degree view from the top reveals the beauty of this point. The significance of our lighthouses in years past can be discovered over many visits – the importance of keeping lighthouses in our future can be found in just one.

For more information on the Tawas Point Lighthouse, including tours, the lightkeeper program and upcoming events, go to www.michigan.gov/tawaslighthouse.

Peggy Allen of the Michigan Historical Center has been the caregiver to the Tawas Point Lighthouse and grounds for the past decade. She works to renovate, up-keep and introduce many events and opportunities for guests to experience the many facets of Tawas Point Lighthouse and State Park.  

Will you be at this year’s Great Lakes Lighthouse Festival? Let us know!

Be Part of the Benton Harbor Arts District

Benton Harbor is home to a thriving art and culture scene – including events like Artoberfest, an Oktoberfest-style celebration of art, culture, music, and food that’s coming up on September 21. Read about Artoberfest and more in the guest post below from Joshua Nowicki.

Shortly after moving to Southwestern Michigan two years ago, I fell in love with the Benton Harbor Arts District.

My first introduction to the Arts District was during one of the Art Hops organized by the New Territory Arts Association (NTAA).  I was amazed at the number of people downtown and by the variety of local businesses, restaurants, and galleries that invited artists to show their work.  The Art Hops, which are free and family-friendly events, are open to everyone; many of the participating organizations provide light refreshments for guests.  The upcoming Art Hop dates are October 18th and December 20th, 2013.

"Icarus" by David Kolka located in Thayer Park (part of the Krasl Art Center Biennial Sculpture Invitational)

One of my favorite places in the Arts District is Water Street GlassWorks, a non-profit, studio, gallery and school which is dedicated to the glass and metal arts.  Visitors are invited to overlook the school’s ‘hot shop’ and watch students’ and artists’ glassblowing and casting.  The perfect complement to the warmth of the GlassWorks is ice-cold gelato from Water Street GellatoWorks.  The GellatoWorks which serves Palazzolo’s gelato and Uncommon Grounds coffee, is an arm of the GlassWorks and provides funding for the organizations’ FiredUp! program and job skills training for the participating students.

While in the Arts District, you will probably notice a number of orange metal sculptures located on various rooftops and walkways. These sculptures were created by Michigan based artist, John Suave, and are part of the ‘I Am The Greatest Project,’ a program of Anna Russo Sieber Gallery.  The gallery features exhibits of both local and national arts, along with art, language and cultural classes, and outreach programs.

The artist studios at 210 Water Street offer a great opportunity to meet local artists working in their studios. 3 Pillars Gallery, an intermittent urban gallery, offers various creative events. The Arts District is also the location of Richard Hunt Studio Center which is one of the galleries/studios of internationally acclaimed sculptor, Richard Hunt.  Moreover, it is home to The Citadel Dance & Music Center along with The Oak Room at the Citadel; both are performing arts organizations.  Further, the Arts District has recently expanded with the addition of the Wall Street Studios just across Main Street.

There are a variety of unique dining options in the Arts District including The Phoenix, Larks Bar-B-Que, Charlie’s Piggin’ N’ Grinnin’, The Library Pub & Eatery, and The Ideal Place.  Also nearby are Cafe Mosaic and Bread + Bar by Bit of Swiss.  If you love Michigan beer, The Livery offers a tasty selection of ‘hand-forged microbrews’.  The Livery is also the place to go for concerts and entertainment including Open Stage sponsored by the NTAA which features regional musicians, poets, and storytellers on the first Monday of every month.

Interior of a loft in the Benton Harbor Arts District

Earlier this year, the NTAA hosted a Loft Hop which gave participants an exclusive look at the unique living spaces in downtown Benton Harbor. The level of comfort and luxury that the historic downtown buildings provide to their residents is amazing.  In fact, downtown living is so poplar that there is a wait list for available spaces.

If you are in Southwest Michigan on September 21, you will not want to miss Artoberfest, an Oktoberfest-style celebration of art, culture, music, and food. This year, it features two headliner bands: The True Falsettos and Deacon Blues.  Artoberfest will feature Michigan microbrews from Arcadia, Bells, Greenbush, The Livery, Shorts, and Tapistry.

Be sure to visit the Arts District as part of your next trip to Southwestern Michigan.

To learn more about the Benton Harbor Arts District, Art Hops & Artoberfest, visit www.newterritoryarts.org.

Joshua Nowicki is a St. Joseph, Michigan based photographer and a member of the New Territory Arts Association board of directors.