With pandemic restrictions still causing uncertainty, the iconic music festival near Harbor Springs has made “the difficult decision” to skip the July event again, looking ahead now to 2022.
What was unthinkable before COVID-19 has become an unfortunate regular occurrence for Michigan music festivals, even in 2021.
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Blissfest, an iconic northern Michigan music festival attracting thousands of fans every year, has canceled its in-person, July music festival for the second year in a row, “due to the pandemic’s ongoing circumstances,” according to Blissfest Music Organization.
Cindy McSurely, the organization’s executive director, called it a “big bummer.”
“The decision was based on many factors (and) capacity is a critical piece,” she said of current pandemic restrictions on crowd size in Michigan. “Unfortunately, our dates seem too early for an event of this size. We are hopeful for our festival friends with fall dates.”
The announcement follows cancellation of another July music festival: The Hiawatha Traditional Music Festival slated to take place July 16-18 in Marquette. “It has been a long and challenging process for the board to reach this conclusion,” Hiawatha executive director Susan Divine said in a prepared statement, adding there are plans for a virtual festival with hopes that “a music gathering of some kind might be possible in the fall.”
Meanwhile, Blissfest has set July 8-10, 2022, for the return of the festival, which had initially planned to roll over artists booked for 2021 to appear at this year’s celebration.
“Throughout this process, the artists have been gracious and accommodating,” McSurely told Local Spins. “That flexibility has made this challenging time easier.”
McSurely said plans are afoot to “mark the festival dates this year” in some way, but the format and specifics haven’t been finalized.
“We need to make decisions to keep everyone safe,” said Sarah Reinfelder, operations manager. “An event this size is always about safety.”
Blissfest Board President Angie Myers called it a “heart-wrenching decision” to cancel. Talent buyer Caroline Barlow added that her “greatest wish is to do this again when the conditions are right.”
The festival — which delivers performances of American roots and world music by a wide variety of artists from across the globe — began in 1981 and has grown ever since.
Blissfest will participate this week in a virtual festival: the online Spread the Music Festival hosted by the Michigan Music Alliance. Blissfest will host several live-streamed performances by northern Michigan artists from Crooked Tree Arts Center starting at 7 p.m. Thursday on the Michigan Music Alliance Facebook page.
Performing will be Charlie Millard, Elizabeth Landry, Bruce Smith, Robin Lee Berry, Sean Miller, Caroline Barlow, Holley Keller-Thompson and more. Learn more about that festival online here.
Revisit past Local Spins coverage of Blissfest here.
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