Stretch Your Summer Celebrations Well Into Fall With These 7 Festivals


As summer begins to wind down, you might think that it’s time to hang up your dancing shoes. Think again! Festivals in the Great Lakes Bay Region are ample into autumn, too! Lace up your shoes, gather your friends, and go have some fun.  After all, that’s what festivals are for, and opportunities to enjoy yourself can be found all season long.

Blues, Brews & BBQ – (Birch Run) 
August 21-22, 2015

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Bring your appetite (and book your hotel now), because the 4th Annual Blues, Brews & Barbecue is a 2-day, finger-lickin’ Kansas City Barbecue Society-sanctioned competition for the best chicken, ribs, pork and brisket flavors in the nation! Toss in carnival rides, local Michigan beer tasting tents, and live blues artists – and you’ve got some big plans come August 21 and 22, from noon til midnight!

  • Even though the fun doesn’t officially start ’til noon, the public is welcome ahead of time to watch the grillmasters in full swing.  Get there early for the first taste; BBQ teams hand out samples a’plenty. (Oh, and don’t miss the Saturday morning tradition – a shot of Jim Beam at 9:22 a.m.!)
  • Be sure to search down Bavarian Smoke and iBQ’n (the 2013 and 2014 competition winners, respectively) and check out the full list of competitors here.

Frankenmuth Auto Fest – (Frankenmuth)
 September 11-13, 2015

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Over 2,000 classic cars, street rods and muscle cars roll into Frankenmuth September 11 to 13, marking the start of the 32nd Annual Frankenmuth Auto Fest.  And we promise you won’t want to miss the kickoff —  locals and visitors rave about the Friday Night Big Block Party year after year.

  • Fuel up for long days of drooling over hot rods with daily 8 a.m. pancake breakfasts at Heritage Park Lions Haus (it’s a good chance to chat with fellow car enthusiasts, too!)
  • Catch the free shuttle buses (Saturday, 10 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. and Sunday, 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.)!
  • Snag a 3-day pass; For just $10, it’ll get you access to all the action for all 3 days of festivities

Frankenmuth Oktoberfest – (Frankenmuth)
 September 17-20, 2015

Oktoberfest 1 - Copy

Prepare for all-things-authentically German at the 26th Annual Frankenmuth Oktoberfest, September 17 – 20: Mugs and steins of authentic German Hofbräu beer; brats with kraut; live music by the Schuhplatters and many more; even traditional dancing on the wooden floor in the Harvey Kern Pavilion! Admission is $10 Thursday – Saturday, free on Sunday.

Michigan Antique & Collectibles Festival – (Midland)
 September 19-20, 2015

Does 80 acres and 1,000 antique dealers sound too good to be true? Then prepare to pinch yourself September 19-20 in Midland at the Michigan Antique & Collectibles Festival, named one of the Top 5 Favorite Summer Flea Markets by! Festival hours are 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. Saturday; 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $6 per person. Parking is free!

  • Beat the crowds from 11am-5pm on Saturday (Early Bird Day).  Admission is $15, but the pass will last you all weekend.
  • Be sure to fuel up at the Taste of Michigan so you can sample some of the best local flavors, then swing by the Shabby Experience & Industrial Way to find even more on-trend, timeless treasures

Hell’s Half Mile Film & Music Fest – (Bay City)
 September 24-27, 2015

This September 24-27, you’ll not only get a sneak-peek at first-time showings of independent films alongside live, original music performances, but you’ll also get to connect with the filmmakers and musicians themselves! It all comes together during the low-key, 4-day grassroots indie celebration known as Hell’s Half Mile Film & Music Festival. Sample artisan foods, visit historic theatres and other venues dripping with architectural eye candy, and enjoy a casual dip into the Bay City arts scene.

  • With four days and dozens of venues, showings, and performances throughout Bay City, you’re probably wondering where to go and when.  Research who’s playing and what’s showing, and base your routes around your favorite must-see musicians and films.
  • Another option is to base your Hell’s Half Mile experience around the hosted receptions — they’re a great way to get in extra time with the filmmakers and artists.

Northwood International Auto Show – (Midland)
 October 2-4, 2015

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View more than 500 vehicles on display from over 65 manufacturers at the Northwood University International Auto Show in Midland, October 2 – 4! The student-run event is the largest outdoor new car show on the entire continent, so it’s no wonder that over 60,000 enthusiasts attend each year!  Show hours: Friday, 12 – 6 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.; and Sunday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

  • 2014 Best in Division teams were Cadillac, Audi, Honda, AEV, RV. You might want to find out what they’re up to for 2015!
  • Be sure to stick around ’til 3:30 on Sunday (when the People’s Choice winner will be announced!)

Michigan’s Big Country Fest – (Frankenmuth) 
October 17-18, 2015

Line-dance it up amidst flannels, boots, and cowboy hats as Brian Gallagher of Bullhonky Deluxe and Mandi Layne & The Lost Highway belt out tunes at Michigan’s Big Country Fest in Frankenmuth, October 17 – 18 (6 p.m. – midnight both nights, admission $5)!

  • Between the mechanical bull rides, free line-dancing lessons, Bloody Mary bar, That Guy’s BBQ and more, the Harvey Kern Community Pavilion will be country-rockin’ rain or shine (don’t worry – the pavilion is enclosed).
  • Look for the Cowboy & Cowgirl Contests, where the winners are judged on best attire, bull riding, corn-hole toss and pong toss. It’s free to enter, and memorable to witness!

Guest Blogger - Jen Wainwright - CopyJen Wainwright is a freelance writer in Bridgeport, Michigan. She specializes in marketing communications copy, feature articles and compelling content/blog posts. Jen enjoys experiencing multicultural opportunities in the Great Lakes Bay Region with her family, camping and laughing. You can find her at

Treasure Hunting for Michigan-themed Antiques

Summer is the perfect time of year to find hidden gems at Michigan’s many antique shops and markets. Today, Dianna Stampfler of Promote Michigan fills us in on the treasures she’s found at the Allegan Antiques Market.

Do you have a favorite flea market or antique shop in Michigan? Share with us in the comments section below!

For many, summer in Michigan is meant for beachcombing, boating, biking, golfing and enjoying the great outdoors of Pure Michigan. It’s also a prime season for exploring the area’s flea markets, antique shops and yard sales.

One of my favorite places for treasure hunting is the Allegan Antiques Market, held the last Sunday of each month (April through September) at the Allegan County Fairgrounds. Touted as one of the largest markets in the Midwest, more than 400 vendors (both inside and out) spread around the fairgrounds selling everything from large scale furniture to glassware to postcards.

Over the years, I’ve established quite a routine when it comes to this event. Sometimes my visits are short and sweet, but often I find myself getting lost in the variety of booths for three or four hours. Despite repeated requests from family and friends to join in the adventure, it’s something I (selfishly) prefer to do solo. I like going at my own pace, without worrying about a guest who is bored 10 minutes into the day, and getting lost in the nostalgia of it all.

While I rarely have something specific I’m looking for, I always seem to find “just the right thing” to add to my collection. Items featuring Michigan receive top attention of course – especially travel brochures and magazines, food and agriculture focused pieces, unique license plates and slightly-rusted signs. I’m also drawn to cottage- and beach-themed décor, garden art and things that are red (the primary accent color in my home).

This past April, a couple treasures found their way into my heart (and ultimately into my bag). A wooden dachshund with “Frankenmuth Beer” in faded paint was a steal at just $5 (even with its chipped tail – which to me, adds to its character). I also scored 5 juice-size glasses adorned with red roosters – perfect for sampling my favorite made-in-Michigan spirits – for $7.

Over the years, my visits to Allegan have yielded some of my most treasured finds. A 5-foot red bench now serves as a coffee table in my living room; a red and black hinged checkerboard hangs on the diagonal on the dining room wall (next to my family’s original Michigan-made Carrom board); an eight-sided jar holds a collection of marbles purchased at my grandmother’s estate auction; a red wooden stool stands proudly in my kitchen.

I’ve also amassed a large number of postcards – highlighting travel destinations around the state of Michigan, from the early 1900s. Despite their small size, these can be quite expensive. Typically, I limit myself to $5 per card, but I’ve been known to drop $25 for a rare find. 

Another highlight of the market is the opportunity to indulge on fair fare – and even here, habits are hard to break. Midway through my shopping, I stop for a steak sandwich with onions (and A1 sauce), fries and a Dr. Pepper. Then, before heading back to my car – it’s a stop at the elephant ear booth for dessert to go.

The Allegan Antiques Market runs on the last Sunday of each month (April through September) from 8am to 4pm at the Allegan County Fairgrounds. Admission is $4 per person; parking is free.

Tips for shopping at the Allegan Antiques Market

  • Wear comfortable shoes, there is lot of walking both on paved pathways and grass (where roots, acorns and other items gather).
  • Bring a tote or wheeled-bag to carry your treasures.
  • Bring cash. There is no ATM and most vendors are not able to process credit cards.
  • Don’t be afraid to barter on price – many vendors are willing to negotiate (especially later in the season).
  • Make sure you have room in your car – in case you find something “big” to haul home.

Dianna Stampfler of Promote Michigan inherited her love of history, collecting and antiques from her father (a local historian and genealogist) and grandparents. She lives in Plainwell, just blocks from the family home where she was raised.