By Dawn Gorman
Find your Festival Spirit
My parents met on a dude ranch. Seriously. The Jack and Jill Ranch in Rothbury, Mich. My dad was a wrangler, and my mother was a waitress. They fell in love, got married and had me, and I spent the first three years of my life living on that ranch. Part of the dude ranch culture included various activities put on by the staff — talent shows, Vaudeville-esque shows, come-as-you-are breakfasts, rodeos, haunted houses and lots of singing around campfires. My parents embraced this lifestyle with passion and exuberance, and after we left the ranch (and my two sisters were born), the singing, campfires and group activities continued on throughout my adolescence, and are still a big part of my life today—most precisely, in the form of festivals, which really sing to my soul.
I absolutely adore people, music, food, art and dancing all thrown together with love in order to create something magical. And that’s what festivals are to me — pure magic that happens when people from all walks of life gather together to enjoy some common element, like bluegrass or Morel mushrooms (yes, there are Morel mushroom festivals). It seems that when folks love something, they often equally love celebrating it with others who share the same adoration, and in my opinion, festivals are the perfect sort of merrymaking activity.
Dancing in the moonlight
While there are plenty of festivals held in the colder months, the warmer months are my favorite. It is in those green summer days and long moonlit nights that the music, the people, the food and the smells are all at their best. Fireflies dance on the lawns and the streets and sidewalks are packed with folks of all ages, from places far and wide. There are kids being pulled in wagons, old folks showing off their dance moves, young loves holding hands and everyone is happy to be footloose and fancy-free for a while.
There is something so fascinating about the festival vibe — a fusion of the peculiar and the common place that creates a sense of community, and sometimes even family. There are the theatrics, as a festival typically turns one thing into another — warehouses become theaters, fields become concert halls and parking lots are transformed into beer gardens or midways where ferris wheels and corndog stands stake their claim.
There’s also some boundary breaking. Our free-spirited nature awakens, and we become rebels as we paint our faces, take our shoes off and dance and drink in the streets. And finally, most importantly, there is the camaraderie — the joy of being out and about with fellow festival lovers.
Lansing, Mich. is especially good at festival making. There is such a rich festival culture here — one of the largest in the state with nearly 60 festivals held in the region each year. There are so many, that I often find myself struggling to choose which ones I will attend. Some of them overlap and complement each other such as the Renegade Theatre Festival and Art Feast in Old Town. Some last for several days like the Capital City Film Festival and the East Lansing Art Festival; some take over the city, like Common Ground. From beer to maple syrup, jazz to ukuleles, art to theatre and everything in between, Lansing’s most likely got a festival that celebrates it.
If you haven’t experienced Lansing’s festival scene, you are missing out. As you make your summer plans, I recommend you start checking out the festival extravaganza that is greater Lansing. You are bound to find at least one event that you want to attend.
Lansing Events to
Check Out in May/June
Arts Night Out—Old Town
Mighty Uke Day
East Lansing Art Festival
Arts Night Out—East Lansing
Be a Tourist in Your Own Town
Riverbank Traditional Pow Wow
Grand American Fish Rodeo Festival
To find out more about all the festivals happening in the Lansing area check out lansing.org and lansingfestivals.org.