A month from the festival’s return to Remus, the Wheatland Music Organization today pulled the plug on Wheatland 2021 due to ‘practically unmanageable’ efforts to stage the event safely.
The unthinkable has happened. And for the second year in a row.
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Wheatland Music Festival — the granddaddy of Michigan music festivals — announced today that it’s canceling the 2021 festival slated for Sept. 10-12 outside Remus.
A statement from Wheatland Music Organization executive director Lola Tyler stressed that “our fiduciary duty to the organization required that it (festival) must be done safely or not at all. We considered every option, but in the end, concluded that the necessary measures would be practically unmanageable and ultimately incompatible with Wheatland’s organizational values.”
The festival — slated to feature Blue Highway, Foghorn Stringband, Racines, Joe Louis Walker, Big Sandy & His Fly Rite Boys, The Sweet Water Warblers, Dirk Powell and many more — is the latest casualty amid a host of festivals which have canceled or postponed due to concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as rising cases caused by the delta variant.
“We have been monitoring the numbers for several weeks and they have continued to grow,” Tyler told Local Spins. “In recent days, the risk of community spread has risen from low-moderate to significant-high in those regions of Michigan and neighboring states from which most of Wheatland’s attendees come.”
It’s the second year that the festival featuring folk and roots music artists has been forced to cancel, though this decision comes just a month before Wheatland was set to take place.
Still, Tyler told Local Spins that “it looks as though things are likely to get worse before they get better” and “maintaining a safe environment for all attendees is a top priority for WMO and one that we don’t take lightly.”
Traverse City singer-songwriter May Erlewine, who was set to perform at Wheatland with The Sweet Water Warblers, called it “a huge disappointment for sure,” but applauded Wheatland for making safety a priority.
“I’m always relieved that folks are looking to be cautious and responsible while we are navigating this pandemic as a community. I admire the courage it took to make a call that felt right to the organization,” she said.
“Of course, I am selfishly sad that the Warblers won’t get to sing on that stage this year. We were all very excited to return to our roots and let our voices echo in those woods. We’ll get there, and it will be through hard but smart choices.”
Fellow Warbler Rachael Davis echoed Erlewine’s reaction. “I’m very sad to miss this joyful event for the second consecutive year,” she conceded. “But I’m also grateful that the festival had the wherewithal to do the hard thing and keep everyone safe. I have no doubt we’ll be back in 2022.”
Lindsay Lou said the Warblers “all support Wheatland in their efforts to keep the community safe and not prolong the necessity to make these sorts of cancellations. Large event promoters are under the pressure of being stewards of our communities in this way. It’s not a very cheery roll in this regard with spikes happening, and people having serious concerns for themselves and their loved ones’ health.”
Grand Rapids singer-songwriter Nicholas James Thomasma, who was hoping to perform at Wheatland on its final day, called it “a bummer for sure, but I didn’t think we would have festivals at all this summer, so I’m not totally surprised.”
For those seeking refunds or rollover of tickets to 2022, Wheatland will post that information after it works out details, the statement continued.
“The WMO Board was hugely excited about putting on a great festival this year. After all these months, we needed it as much as many of you,” today’s prepared statement reiterated. “So, it is with sadness and great regret that the WMO Board has unanimously voted to cancel the Wheatland Music Festival for 2021.”
Instead, Wheatland is looking ahead to 2022.
“We will return next year, COVID willing, with a full, normal festival,” Tyler concluded. “Get your ‘Wheatland’ fix with videos on our YouTube channel and our Facebook page.”
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