|Chasin' Steel from Marquette Michigan|
|The Ol Hippie Camp in the Rustic Area|
The first class stage is comfortable for the performers and allow the crowd to see and hear everything (thanks in large part to sound man Jimmy Kittle who works tirelessly to tweak the sound to perfection). Emcee, bluegrass legend Blake Williams, runs a tight ship, getting bands on and off stage promptly and keeping the crowd's energy at maximum with his wit and humor.
Owner and Festival Promoter Mark Gaynier prides himself on a smooth running festival. His employees are some of the hardest working (and happiest) you will find. A small army of young workers keeps things rolling, the food hot and fresh, and the garbage picked up. There were ample picnic tables and fire rings for all the campsites. Ice was available at reasonable rates all weekend, and the camp store stocked not only a small selection of staple items, but those hard-to-find-but-essential items for camping--be it RV accessories, mosquito coils or sunscreen, they had what you needed (or would go find it!). I have been recommending KC Campground to my friends for years. It's a great place to take the family for a weekend or a vacation (even when there's not a bluegrass music festival).
|The Becky Buller Band Rocking the Ear Trumpet Labs Mic|
|Jonah and Jake of Chasin Steel having a little fun|
|Rhonda and Gene sharing a laugh on stage|
|SEMBA Hall of Honor|
Milan holds a special place in my heart for the community we have built there. When you camp at the Milan Bluegrass Festival, you are not a friend, or a fan, you are FAMILY. There is a spirit of mutual respect, sharing and tolerance that is so absent from modern life and so powerful in this setting, that this single weekend restores my spirit, faith in humanity, and re-energizes me for yet another year. For the past three years, we have set up the "SeMiBluegrass Jam Tent" in the grassy, "rustic" camping area of the campground and invite all to drop by and pick a few. We're easy to find, with the Ol' Hippie Bluegrass Show's teepee as a landmark to find us. There are kids just learning to play standing side-by-side with veteran jammers. Fiddlin' Dixie dropped by with a couple students who sang a few songs. Chasin' Steel dropped in for a couple hours before heading back to Marquette. Each year, those who jam come back, and those new to the jam promise to return.
Long time campers in the area, the White sisters--granddaughters of Hall-of-Fame 2017 inductee Bob White are fixtures at the campgroud jams. This year, Jerry Eicher asked them to do a couple songs for his "Jam in the RV" session on the Ol Hippie Bluegrass show (video embedded below). They chose to do three songs that magically captured the essence of Milan and why it holds a special place in my heart. Not 100% sure of the song titles, but they performed the following: Summers up in Milan is a reworded cover of a (Gillian Welch?) song that speaks to the memories of KC Campground and the Milan Bluegrass Festival in their youth and why this was so special to them. They followed with a cover of Michigan and Again by the Accidentals--a song of what draws people to Michigan, and keeps a bit of their heart when they leave. They closed with Summer Flowers, a melancholy song written by their father. As his daughters sing it in perfect sister harmony, you can not help but feel the human connection that binds their family together though the music and memories that they shared. It is a connection that all of us at the Milan Bluegrass Festival feel; and what keeps us coming back year after year.
The 2018 Milan Bluegrass Festival is scheduled for August 2-4, 2018. Make a point of attending. And come pick a song or two with us at SeMiBluegrass. Many more photos from the event in this gallery and on www.facebook.com/SeMiBluegrass. Please follow us here, and on facebook. Please share freely and tag your friends.