How To Make The Most of An Indie Film & Music Festival on Historic Hell’s Half Mile

Today, guest blogger Blair Giesken gives us some tips for making the most of Hell’s Half Mile Film & Music Festival happening in Bay City September 25-29, 2014! 

The name “Hell’s Half Mile” started in the late 1800’s when a stretch of Bay City’s riverfront was peppered with rowdy saloons and seedy hotels where loggers and shipmen would go to “blow off a little steam.”  Then, locals came to call it Hell’s Half Mile.  Today, they call it home to one of the most collaborative and inspiring film and music festivals around.

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Photo courtesy of Go Great Lakes Bay

As a writer and director of 4 films showcased over 2 years at Hell’s Half Mile Film & Music Festival, Rider Strong (yes, 80’s babies— we’re talking former Boy Meets World actor Rider Strong), sees the irony in it all.  “’Hell’s Half Mile was the strip of waterfront where lumberjacks used to go boozing… Now, a bunch of us from Hollywood go there for a film festival. Not much has changed.”’

Jokes aside, Hell’s Half Mile does more than satisfy those who live for great independent films and music.  It’s a movement.  A grassroots effort to grow and celebrate a community that hasn’t lost (and will never lose) its love for the arts.  And in its 9-year history, HHM has been bringing independent filmmakers, actors, and musicians from across the country to experience how truly alive with the arts the Great Lakes Bay Region is.

If you love independent film and music even half as much as the artists, directors, actors, and musicians who attend Hell’s Half Mile Film and Music Festival each year, you’ll want to plan ahead so you can soak up the total experience when it returns to Bay City, September 25-28.

Here are a few tips for taking in all the great film & music that spans this all-out 4-day festival:

Don’t just sit there!

Photo courtesy of Go Great Lakes Bay

Photo courtesy of Go Great Lakes Bay

HHM isn’t about plopping down mindlessly in a seat to watch a movie or squishing into seat number 2,001 at a sold-out arena concert.  If you’re looking for that type of passive experience, this isn’t your jam.  It’s about connecting people to true, raw independent film and music.  Connecting musicians to filmmakers, filmmakers to festival-goers, filmmakers to film students, and so much more.   Our suggestion?  Get involved.  HHM makes it easy for you to sit in on panel discussions from the film directors and actors themselves, attend workshops to learn more about the art of filmmaking from the pros, or mingle with the musicians you came to see firsthand.  You can even volunteer at the festival to get behind-the-scenes access (and in some cases, entry into the opening night party & premiere film!)

Get Your Bearings

While HHM Film & Music Festival takes place primarily along… you guessed it… Hell’s Half Mile… there are other venues and festival hotspots you’ll want to explore between films and performances.  Check out HHM’s festival venues & hotspots map ahead of time so you know how to hop from venue to venue (and where to stop for a cold brew or a bite to eat along the way!).  And be sure to pay special attention to the list of restaurants, bars, and coffee shops on the list of festival hotspots – many of them host special dinners and live music performances during the festival to round out the total Hell’s Half Mile experience.

Do Your Homework

Photo courtesy of Go Great Lakes Bay

Photo courtesy of Go Great Lakes Bay

Hell’s Half Mile Film & Music Festival is a totally hands-on, involved experience for independent film & music lovers.  So if this is your first time attending, you might want to get in the spirit of the festival by revisiting some past classics.  Get your hands on films from past years of the festival, or download a few tracks of some musicians who have graced the Hell’s Half Mile Stage.  Though the lineup changes each year, it’ll give you a feel for the types of film and music that flood Hell’s Half Mile during the 4-day celebration (and will get you familiarized with many of the writers, directors, and actors who are repeat visitors to HHM).

Don’t View & Run

With so many great films and performances packed into just a few short days (this year, September 25th-28th), you’re not going to want to miss a minute.  So find a place to cozy up, and do it well in advance.  Hell’s Half Mile has put together a list of hotels near the film and music venues, or you can book your stay directly at the new GoGreat.com.

Blogger- Blair GieskenBlair Giesken is the Founder & Creative Director of Brandscape, a boutique branding and marketing firm based in Grand Rapids.  She was born and raised in the Great Lakes Bay Region, and loves to come back often to visit family, friends, and the place that will always still feel like home.

Back Roads and Time Travel, Discovering Sleeping Bear Dunes’ Best-Kept Secret

Today, Northern Michigan photographer Aubrieta V. Hope lets us in on Sleeping Bear Dunes’ best-kept secret.

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Photo courtesy of Aubrieta V. Hope Photography (michiganscenery.com)

Sometimes the best travel secrets are hidden in plain sight. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, known for its Dune Climb and majestic Scenic Drive also harbors a secret place off the beaten path that many visitors never see.  It’s a quiet place that invites exploration, where the past seems so near that maybe you could just slip into it.  To discover this special place, travel north on M-22 from Glen Arbor and turn west on Port Oneida Road into the Port Oneida Rural Historic District.

Drive slowly, or better yet, ride a bicycle along the back roads that branch out from Port Oneida Road.  It’s a storybook landscape with more than a dozen farmsteads dating from the mid-1800′s surrounded by rolling hills, wildflower-tangled pastures and beautiful Lake Michigan beaches.

Photo courtesy of Aubrieta Hope Photography

Photo courtesy of Aubrieta Hope Photography

The old pioneer community is quiet now.  But life goes on: wild roses and poppies bloom, orchards bear fruit, and migrating birds and other wildlife proliferate. Two well-marked hiking trails (the Bay View Trail and the Pyramid Point Trail), traverse the region, both offering panoramic views.  You can spend an entire day here and feel like you have just begun to explore.

Port Oneida offers endless inspiration for artists. As a photographer, I visit the area every chance I get.  I especially enjoy photographing the old farms on misty days and during the fall color season when the trees glow like candles on the hills.  I find secrets of Port Oneida’s pioneer past everywhere, in the glint of an old window at sundown or the crunch of a vintage apple in late summer.    ­

Photo courtesy of Aubrieta V. Hope Photography (michiganscenery.com)

Photo courtesy of Aubrieta V. Hope Photography (michiganscenery.com)

Every season brings beauty to Port Oneida, but summertime is special because that is when many events bring the old farms to life.  It’s a fun way to connect with the area’s rich history.  Some events during the summer in Port Oneida include: the Port Oneida Fair, a 5K Barn to Barn Trail Run/Walk, ranger-led interpretive programs, art classes, horse and wagon tours, and volunteer building and restoration projects.

Go ahead, take a back road and time travel into the heart of Sleeping Bear Dunes’ past.  Bring your hiking boots, your binoculars, a picnic, a friend, maybe even your whole family.  You might just want to stay awhile…

For maps, schedules and other information, stop by Sleeping Bear Dunes’ Visitor Center in Empire.

Aubrieta V. HopeAubrieta V. Hope is a landscape photographer with a special interest in Northwest and Upper Michigan.  To see Aubrieta’s images, visit her website, www.michiganscenery.com, check out her Michigan Scenery Facebook page, or stop by Petoskey Pete’s in Glen Arbor or Great Goods in Suttons Bay, Michigan.

 

10 Fun Facts About Michigan International Speedway

Photo courtesy of Craig Gardiner Photography

Photo courtesy of Craig Gardiner Photography

Pure Michigan 400 race weekend is here! More than 100,000 fans will be at Michigan International Speedway to cheer on their favorite drivers as they race around NASCAR’s fastest track on August 17th.

Think you know NASCAR? Test your knowledge with these lesser known facts about Michigan International Speedway

  • The 40 trams used at MIS that bring fans from the parking lots to the track were the same trams used at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.
  • Five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson has never won at MIS, but he’s the honorary president of the MIS Kids Club. He even holds special events at the track.
  • There are 9,000 campsites at MIS – making it the largest registered campground in the State of Michigan.
  • Marcos Ambrose broke the 200 MPH barrier in qualifying in 2012. Marcus was recorded at 203.241 mph.
  • Bill Elliot is the active driver who has led the most laps at MIS. In his 37 year racing career Elliot has been in the lead at MIS for 1004 laps.
  • Parking is always free at MIS! Guests can also bring in their own food and beverages, and parking lots open two hours before the grandstand so there is plenty of time for tailgating.
  • MIS is NASCAR’s fastest racetrack! MIS is superfast due to the repave in 2012 and long straightaways on the track that let drivers reach their highest speeds.
  • People have gotten married at the track before, but did you know that Roger Curtis presided over the wedding? It’s true! Roger Curtis, the president of MIS is an ordained minister and married a happy couple in Gatorade Victory Lane on June 17, 2012.
  • David Pearson has won the most Cup poles at MIS with 10. Who will take the pole this year?
  • MIS is the only racetrack where a fan awards a special trophy to the winning driver and team. It’s part of MIS’s Fan Appreciation Program.

Plan a visit to MIS and other Michigan automotive attractions at michigan.org. Follow the race on Twitter at #PureMichigan400.