A record number of readers responded to our poll, with Wheatland coming out on top for 2020, followed closely by Buttermilk Jamboree and Nor-East’r. See what else made the Top 10, with comments.
SCROLL DOWN FOR THE TOP 10 LIST AND HONORABLE MENTIONS
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West Michigan's music scene
Amid a pandemic that’s swept the globe, there’s nothing like looking ahead to the sunny, uplifting vibe of Michigan’s summer music festival season.
The burgeoning festival scene has soared in popularity over the past decade, with Michigan boasting upwards of 100 or more music festivals that draw thousands of visitors for a wide range of styles and milieus.
All of these festivals are keeping their fingers crossed that the coronavirus COVID-19 crisis won’t wipe out their 2020 gatherings (though Grand Rapids’ Festival of the Arts already has canceled its early June event). Follow these festivals on Facebook and on their websites — as well as Local Spins — for updates on cancellations or postponements.
The popularity of Michigan’s festivals was demonstrated by this year’s Local Spins Readers’ Poll, which a drew a record number of entries from folks across the state who picked their favorite festivals. And the results showed some significant changes from the 2019 poll which you can see here.
The longstanding Wheatland Music Festival jumped from No. 7 to No. 1, Buttermilk Jamboree from No. 5 to No. 2, and Nor-East’r Music & Arts Festival — which didn’t even appear on the list in 2019 — debuted at No. 3. Last year’s top pick, Blissfest, retained a strong following, finishing at No. 4.
Please note once again that this is a purely subjective and completely unscientific survey, based completely on the enthusiasm of festivalgoers who chose to participate in the poll.
Browse the Top 10 list and honorable mentions, including info about the festivals with links to their websites and past Local Spins coverage, as well as comments from festivalgoers.
By the way, the state’s most comprehensive listing of festivals — with links to more information about each event — can be found in Local Spins’ Michigan Music Festivals 2020 guide. And if you have your own favorites, list them in the comments below.
THE TOP 10 MICHIGAN MUSIC FESTIVALS 2020
1. WHEATLAND MUSIC FESTIVAL (Sept. 11-13, 2020), Wheatland Festival Grounds, RemusTHE INITIAL 2020 LINEUP: Foghorn Stringband, Blue Highway, Racines and much more to be announced.
THE VIBE: Up from No. 7 in 2019, it’s no surprise that the granddaddy of Michigan music festivals would attract a loving following and the most votes in the Local Spins Readers’ Poll. The 47th festival is set to take place outside Remus in September, with folks and roots music traditions displayed via stage performances, educational workshops, children’s activities and more.
“The quality, the vibe, the tradition and the land upon which it is held is purely magical and unmatched in its spirit. I’ve only become more sure of this as the years go by and I visit more and more festivals.” – Kurt Fiegel
“It is a phenomenal, multi-age festival with great music, fun crafts, delicious food and the best people on earth. And, might I add, all at an affordable price. … You won’t find me any other place the weekend after Labor Day.” – Marti VanHook
“Any place with so much positivity and hospitality simply has to be the best. Not just the best festival, but one of the best places. For over 20 years, I’ve enjoyed Wheatland with my parents, my children and my friends.” – Anastasia Peterke
LOCAL SPINS STORY: https://localspins.com/wheatland-2019-revisited-good-vibes-wistful-music-fun-community-fall-like-weather-local-spins/
2. BUTTERMILK JAMBOREE (June 19-21, 2020), Circle Pines Center, Delton THE 2020 LINEUP: Funkadesi, Way Down Wanderers, Erin Zindle & The Ragbirds, Selwyn Birchwood, May Erlewine, Last Gasp Collective, Jordan Hamilton, The Mainstays, Megan Dooley, Nicholas James & The Bandwagon, Max Lockwood and more.
THE VIBE: There’s a “cooperative spirit that hangs in the air” at Buttermilk, says performer Nicholas James Thomasma. The intimate, family-oriented affair blends mostly regional stars with a few national acts playing stages that aren’t far from each other amid the woods and meadows of the progressively oriented Circle Pines Center. Its ranking is up from No. 5 last year.
“This small farm/camp throwdown is super family-friendly and harbors the most welcoming music-loving community in Michigan. From bluegrass, rock, international and funk to R&B and indie-folk, there is something for everyone to love and easy to see why so many have made this a yearly family tradition.” – Erin Kash
“I love Buttermilk most. I’ve been to all nine and volunteered for the last five. The smallness and ability to get close to the artists and the feeling you get from the grounds is almost magic — wholesome good vibe. Looking forward to the 10th year.” – Bob DeLine
LOCAL SPINS STORY: https://localspins.com/buttermilk-jamboree-rocks-rolls-folks-and-funks-on-a-robust-day-1-local-spins/
3. NOR-EAST’R MUSIC & ART FESTIVAL (June 12-14, 2020), Oscoda County Fairgrounds, North of Mio
THE VIBE: This June festival at the Oscoda County Fairground boasts “three straight days of eclectic music and art, food, dancing, camping, jamming, drumming and some of the greatest parkin’ lot pickin’ in the state.” Devoted attendees cite the laid-back family atmosphere, good food, friendly attendees and compact layout. It clearly has a devoted following, coming in at No. 3 in its first year in the readers’ poll.
“This festival has new fresh music that is incredible and a huge variety, from jam band to bluegrass and folk and singer-songwriters. Sound is awesome and vendors put out some great food.” – Craig Carrick
“This is a great festival because they have talent that comes from all over, not just Michigan. Also, the coolest thing about this festival is it is reasonably priced and all proceeds go back to help get kids into music. They give away guitars to selected children every year.”
4. BLISSFEST (July 10-12, 2020), Festival Farm, Harbor Springs/Cross Village
THE 2020 LINEUP: To be announced. (Last year’s performers included Amy Helm, Canned Heat, Sam Bush, Steve Poltz, Martin Sexton and more.)
THE VIBE: This year marks the 40th anniversary of this much-beloved showcase of traditional and innovative American roots music, folk, world music and the arts. (It’s a milestone year: Much-respected longtime executive director Jim Gillespie will be stepping down after overseeing the festival for four decades.) The “Festival Farm” near Cross Village resonates every July with an upbeat vibe and a diverse lineup of artists.
“I have been going to this festival since I was an infant. There is something magical about that festival: the variety of music, the atmospher, the people and the beautiful location to boot.” – Grayson Barton
“We enjoy going to Blissfest for its music, ambiance and sense of community. You leave with such a feeling of peace and comfort.” – Joseph Pietrowski
LOCAL SPINS STORY: https://localspins.com/best-of-blissfest-2019-michigan-musicians-picks-from-a-weekend-of-bliss-local-spins/
5. EARTHWORK HARVEST GATHERING (Sept. 18-20, 2020), Earthwork Farm, Lake City THE 2020 LINEUP: To be announced. (Last year’s festival included May Erlewine, Public Access, Schrock Brothers Big Band, Mark Lavengood, a Detroit Hip Hop Showcase, Seth Bernard and more.)
THE VIBE: It’s been described as a true musicians’ festival — a season-ending celebration with uber-collaborative performances on several stages scattered across Bob Bernard’s farm. There’s everything from environmental workshops to Bob’s Burgers, and lots of smiles.
“Our family favorite is Earthwork Harvest Gathering. The intimacy allows close-up interaction with the music artists; we feel like part of a festival family, rather than just attendees. The focus on water issues is the perfect synchronicity with the caring, community feel, and the water ceremonies are very special. This festival showcases the best of Michigan’s musical talent, and we love it.” – Mystie Beckwith
“Favorite festival of all times. The people-mover that drives you around, the classes (beekeeping is a fave) and the music are just out of this world. There is even a farm market and kids’ tent.” – Jazmine Yearack
LOCAL SPINS STORY: https://localspins.com/earthwork-harvest-gathering-launches-with-jam-packed-friday-of-powerful-music/
6. HIAWATHA TRADITIONAL MUSIC FESTIVAL (July 17-19, 2020), Marquette Tourist Park, 2145 Sugar Loaf Ave., Marquette
THE 2020 LINEUP: To be announced. (Last year’s festival featured The Fitzgeralds, Po’ Ramblin’ Boys, Sumkali, Red Tail Ring, Jeffrey Foucault & Kris Delmhorst, Old Salt Union, Devil in a Woodpile and more.)
THE VIBE: The first Upper Peninsula festival to make the Top 10 in the Local Spins Readers’ Poll, the 42-year-old Hiawatha fest draws between 3,200 and 4,000 people every year for “an amazing weekend of music, blended voices and fiddle tunes” with a mission of promoting “traditional music and dance” and to “educate and inform society on traditional American music.”
“It’s the best mix of all genres of traditional American music: bluegrass, old-timey, Cajun, Celtic, blues, folk singer-songwriters, country. It’s totally family-friendly (with) activities for youth of all ages, workshops for tweens and teens, dance, artisans, great food and on beautiful camping grounds with shade and swimming, too.” – Susan Divine
“Location, love and warmth make this festival worth the drive every year. Volunteers and staff make you feel right at home, even if you drove up (all the way) from Indiana.” – Clara Bauman
7. COWPIE MUSIC FESTIVAL (Aug. 6-8, 2020), Shagbark Farm, Caledonia/Alaska THE 2020 LINEUP: Spafford, Tunde Olaniran, Dixon’s Violin, Desmond Jones, Mungion, Lady Ace Boogie, Motor City Josh, Sophistafunk, ClusterPluck and more.
THE VIBE: For nearly two decades, this music festival — and three days of “peace, love and music” — on a working cattle ranch south of Grand Rapids provides a unique milieu for live music and camping. The 2020 festival will sport a Beatles theme, with bands including songs by the Fab Four in their sets. Farmer John Crissman and fellow organizers, by the way, plan to “rebrand” Cowpie for 2021, so stay tuned for details.
“Cowpie Music Festival has the best atmosphere and music selection of the Michigan music festivals. The family atmosphere, relaxed feel and have-fun mentality remind me every year that I have come to the right place with the right people.” – Patrick Hnizda
“Support the local bands at a great price and in a fun-filled atmosphere. Great energy.” – Amber Ouding
LOCAL SPINS STORY: https://localspins.com/cowpie-music-festival-2019-revisited-crackers-weird-country-fire-dancers-good-time-vibe-local-spins/
(TIE) 8. HOXEYVILLE (Aug. 14-16, 2020), Hoxeyville Festival Grounds, Wellston THE 2020 LINEUP: Galactic, The Wood Brothers, The Sam Bush Band, North Mississippi Allstars, Michigan Rattlers, Luke Winslow-King, The Sweet Water Warblers, The Crane Wives and more.
THE VIBE: The picturesque site in the Manistee National Forest has hosted diehard Hoxeyville devotees for an impressive lineup of regional acts, as well as a few national stars. (The Hoxeyville site also serves as the home for the newer Camp Greensky, taking place in June.)
“The best four days of every year, lost in a forest with lovely people and killer music.” – Alyssa Merten
“Joyful strangers becoming friends, a sangria of national, regional and local bands quenches the lips and soul.” – Vincent Manchow
LOCAL SPINS STORY: https://localspins.com/hoxeyville-2019-revisited-top-9-experience-from-weekend-in-wellston-local-spins/
(TIE) 8. WILLOWSONG MUSIC FESTIVAL (Aug. 28-30, 2020), Willowsong Farmstead, Sidney
THE 2020 LINEUP: To be announced. (Last year’s festival featured Molly, Last Gasp Collective, The Bootstrap Boys, Valentiger, Nathan Kalish, Deerfield Run and more.)
THE VIBE: In only its fourth year, this festival north of Grand Rapids organized by Eric and Jo Raby is intimate, eco-friendly and focused on showcasing local and regional bands in a hospitable environment, quickly cultivating a loyal following. The festival moved from fall to late August last year to take advantage of warmer weather.
“It may be small, but it has great energy that just keeps growing every year. I think there is so much potential in their space, and the bands grow more and more diverse in sound, culture and genre each year.” – Erin Hodges
“The caliber of the music in that beautiful and intimate setting makes you feel like you’re getting an exclusive show for you and your closest friends, especially when the performances continue at the bonfire. Even though it’s new to the festival scene, the hospitality and service provided by the staff is second to none.” – Aaron Ferguson
LOCAL SPINS STORY: https://localspins.com/willowsong-music-festival-2019-revisited-the-weekend-highlights-local-spins/
9. ELECTRIC FOREST (June 25-28, 2020), Double JJ Resort, Rothbury THE 2020 LINEUP: The String Cheese Incident (playing three nights), Bassnectar, Big Gigantic, Diplo, Keller Williams, Lotus, Disco Biscuits, 12th Planet and EOTO will be joined by the likes of Flume, Major Lazer, Lotus the Child, The Glitch Mob, Lindsey Stirling, Rainbow Kitten Surprise, Big Boi, Big Wild, The Black Madonna and more.
THE VIBE: It’s the biggest and most internationally celebrated festival on Local Spins’ Top 10 list and for good reason: There’s truly no other setting like it amid the sprawling Michigan grounds, with psychedelic lighting and the ever-magical Sherwood Forest art installation. Some 45,000-plus fans and hippies from across the globe pack the site for electronic music, jam bands, and a mix of pop and soul artists. And it’s absolutely No. 1 in this category, thanks to the colorful inventiveness of attendees: people-watching.
“The festival is my favorite because of the amazing lineup every year of national and global EDM artists. I also love the fact that you get to camp there and love the art installations throughout the forest.” – Jennifer Beaudry
“Forest is an incredible event that attracts visitors to our great state from all over the world, showcasing one of Michigan’s most beautiful elements: its forests. Not only does Electric Forest offer a variety of music styles, but the endless ways to use your imagination and evoke your creativity while bonding with strangers is truly phenomenal.” – Ashley Schafer
LOCAL SPINS STORY: https://localspins.com/electric-forest-top-10-best-things-about-2019s-festival-local-spins/
10. FARMFEST (Aug. 6-10, 2020), 1865 Roby Rd., Johannesburg
THE 2020 LINEUP: To be announced. (Last year’s festival featured The Appleseed Collective, The Crane Wives, The Go Rounds, Luke Winslow-King, Dede & The Dreamers, Seth Bernard, The Smokin’ Dobroleles, The Bandura Gypsies, Beaver Xing, Biomassive and more.)
THE VIBE: Longtime performers at this northern Michigan festival east of Gaylord appreciate the unique setting, beautiful main stage and late-night jams that organizer Stacy Jo Schiller has long fostered. Attendees, meanwhile, appreciate the dizzying array of performances, with more than 70 sets played by regional acts over the course of the August weekend.
“A marvelous, small, intimate, friendly festival featuring a most enjoyable variety of Michigan artists. Feel the love.” – Steve Johgart
“The grounds are vast and fun to explore. The stage is gorgeous. I love jamming late at night at the bar there, too.” – Chris Michels
LOCAL SPINS STORY: https://localspins.com/farmfest-set-to-offer-70-plus-sets-gorgeous-northern-michigan-experience-and-setting-local-spins/
CAMP GREENSKY (June 4-6, 2020), Hoxeyville Festival Grounds, Wellston (with Billy Strings, Lettuce, Infamous Stringdusters, John Medeski’s Mad Skillet, Greensky Bluegrass)
Local Spins Story: https://localspins.com/camp-greensky-revisited-camaraderie-collaboration-incredible-energy-local-spins/
MICHIGAN IRISH MUSIC FESTIVAL (Sept. 17-20, 2020), Heritage Landing, Muskegon
Local Spins Story: https://localspins.com/michigan-irish-music-festivals-international-flair-paired-with-homey-family-flavor/
PORCUPINE MOUNTAINS MUSIC FESTIVAL (Aug. 28-30, 2020), Winter Sports Complex in Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, Ontonagon
Local Spins Story: https://localspins.com/upper-peninsulas-porcupine-mountains-music-festival-a-goosebumps-experience-unlike-anything-else-local-spins/
BUS BENEFIT (May 22-25, 2020), Camp Blodgett, West Olive
BEAVER ISLAND MUSIC FESTIVAL (July 16-18, 2020), Beaver Island in northern Lake Michigan
Local Spins Story: https://localspins.com/best-of-beaver-island-music-festival-the-musicians-picks-from-a-weekend-of-island-fun-local-spins/
OTHER FESTIVALS RECEIVING VOTES: Alpena Blues Festival (Alpena), Arts Beats & Eats (Royal Oak), BBQ, Blues and Bluegrass (St. Joseph); Big Ticket Festival (Gaylord), Charlotte Bluegrass Festival (Charlotte), Dunesville (Lake Ann), Farm Block Fest (Keweenaw Peninsula), Festival of the Arts (Grand Rapids), Founders Fest (Grand Rapids), Great Lakes Folk Festival (Lansing), Hippiefest (Kalamazoo, Ionia), Hollerfest (Brooklyn), Handmade Music Festival (Chesaning), Kalamazoo Blues Festival (Kalamazoo), Sol of the Lost Tamarack (Wolverine), Pond Jam (Rapid City), Traverse City Cherry Festival (Traverse City), Unity Christian Music Festival (Muskegon), Winter Wheat (Grand Rapids),
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