Thunder Bay Folk Festival this weekend at tractor grounds

Courtesy Photo The 7th Annual Thunder Bay Folk Festival will be held this weekend at the Alpena Antique Tractor & Steam Engine Club Showgrounds on French Road. Above is a photo from a prior festival.

ALPENA ­­– You don’t have to play an instrument or sing to enjoy the music this weekend.

The Seventh Annual Thunder Bay Folk Festival starts today (for camping check-in)and runs through Sunday at the Alpena Antique Tractor Showgrounds at 6850 French Road, Alpena.

The festival will include live music from at least 18 musicians, as well as workshops, children’s activities, live demonstrations, craft and food vendors, rustic camping, and more.

“Everybody’s really looking forward to it,” said Bonnie Bartz, president of the Thunder Bay Folk Society, who heads up the festival.

She said the musicians are excited to play, and the craft vendors are elated to participate in the festival, as well.

Performers include Peacemeal String Band, Mercier, Seth Bernard, Chris Crown & The Get Down Band, The Hackwells, Ferdinand The Bull, Citrus Orange, The Mark Lavengood Band, Sean Miller, Kimberly Megoran, Ian McConnell, Love St. Live, Kevin Ballmer, Tina Honeker, Joel Choate Sr., Lee Kitzman, Russ Franzen, and Wild Rose, for which Bartz is the lead singer.

Most of the performers are from Michigan, but Ferdinand The Bull is from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

“A lot of the people that come are musicians, themselves,” Bartz noted. “There’s a lot of sitting around the campsite playing, just jamming going on, too, which is just part of the fun.”

Open mic times will be offered, as well as jam sessions and a drum kiva (drum circle) in the woods after dark, which is hypnotic, Bartz said.

“Back in the woods, we’ll have a bonfire going, and starting usually at dark, Paul Conger will be back there leading it,” Bartz said. “Everybody, you can bring a drum, or Paul’s going to bring a bunch of drums, you just kind of drum along. It’s kind of hypnotic. It’s a lot of fun.”

Bartz expects about 400 people to attend the event, which is about 300 fewer than in 2019, but she is happy the festival is able to happen this year after being canceled during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.

“I think some people might be a little hesitant,” Bartz said, because the COVID-19 pandemic is still dragging on. “It’s kind of a mix of people that are super anxious to get out, and other people that are still a little nervous.”

She noted that the event is primarily outdoors, and the main stage is located in a barn with wide doors to the outside and open air flow.

The event is fun for all ages, she added.

“The Optimist Club is going to be there, doing children’s activities,” Bartz said. “And the Alpena Boys & Girls Club is going to be there.”

Twister Joe will be on hand, making balloon animals and hats for the kids, she said, courtesy The Alpena Optimist Club.

She added that the local health department will be there, offering vaccinations and COVID-19 testing for those who are interested.

Gates open at 8 a.m. Friday, and performances begin at 1 p.m. and go to midnight. Then they reopen at 8 a.m. Saturday, which is the day with most performances, all the way to midnight.

An all-weekend pass is $50 at the gate, or $15 for Friday and $35 for Saturday. Young people 15 and under get in free. Discounted tickets are available today only at Joel’s Guitar Shop. You can get in for $15 after 7 p.m. Saturday.

Volunteers are still needed, and get in free if they work four hours.

Rustic camping is $20 per night, on a first-come, first-serve basis.

For more information, including a full schedule and bios on performers, visit thunderbayfolkfest.org.

Bartz is crossing her fingers for good weather.

“People say, ‘Why do you have it so late in the year?’ But the weather is unpredictable all year,” she noted. “And we have a big community bonfire, so, if it does get cold, people have somewhere to go to warm up.”


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