‘Wheaties’ set to descend on Remus for music festival
REMUS — “By the time we got to Wheatland, we were half a million strong, and everywhere was a song and a celebration.”
OK, Wheatland’s not Woodstock and it brings in closer to 12,000 people, rather than 500,000. Also, Jimi Hendrix will not be putting in an appearance. But it’s still one heck of a music and arts festival and this weekend marks the event’s 40th anniversary.
Beginning Friday and running through Sunday, Wheatland’s musical lineup this year is worthy of a 40th anniversary celebration.
Headlining this year’s lineup is banjo mastermind Bela Fleck, who has been hailed by critics the world over as quite possibly the best banjo player alive today. Fleck has almost single-handedly re-invented the banjo to include hints of classical, jazz, pop and country music. To say Fleck is not your typical “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” picker is an understatement.
He will be joined onstage by another banjo wunderkind, Abigail Washburn, whose illustrious recording and touring career rivals Fleck’s.
Another festival highlight will be La Bottine Souriante, a French Canadian band that has been big in the Quebec music scene since 1976. The band performs French North American roots music and in 1991 added a horn section.
Now playing traditional music along with tastes of jazz, salsa and folk, the band is sure to win the hearts and minds of “wheaties” at this year’s festival.
Also on the bill this year are The Duhks, The Revelers, The Boxcars, Big Sandy and his Fly-Rite Boys, Run Boy Run, The Waymores, Henrie Brothers, Northern Kentucky Brotherhood Singers, The Rev. Peyton’s Big Damn Band, and many other nationally known acts.
According to Wheatland publicity manager Kim Croy, this year’s musical performances will rival anything the festival has seen in it’s long and storied history.
“We have such an excellent show this year,” Croy said. “It has been challenging with all the changes this year, but it’s my pleasure to be able to share my love of Wheatland with people who appreciate it.”
And appreciate it the “wheaties” do. On any given year, tattoos — some large and conspicuous — of the Wheatland logo may be found on various shoulders, backs and ankles of music lovers in attendance. This uncommon commitment to a music festival is just one sign of the effect the celebration has had on people over the years.
It’s not uncommon to hear conversations in which people discuss the marriage proposals, anniversaries and other life events in which the festival has played a part.
But music is only a part (though a large one) of the festival. Dancing also is featured extensively.
“This is a very special year for the Wheatland Music Organization,” Croy said. “A special performance has been commissioned by the organization. It is called Carry it On and involves 60 dancers from around the state. WMO has always been about carrying on traditional music, dance and arts. This is a don’t miss performance.”
For those who prefer to “do” rather than simply watch, auxiliary stages are available and many dances are scheduled throughout the weekend.
“I love dancing late night at the Cajun dance,” Croy said. “I never miss the Kids Hill talent show on Saturday at 5 p.m. or the Gospel show on Sunday morning.”
Wheatland office manager, Lola Tyler, also noted the many “audience participation” activities presented throughout the weekend.
“The Festival is unique in that not only does it bring renowned performers to Michigan, but audience members of all ages can take part in music, dance and arts workshops taught by traditional arts masters,” Tyler said. “Juried arts and crafts sales and a wide range of food are available on site. The event is also the organization’s primary fundraiser for supporting year round activities offered to thousands of Michigan children and adults and for maintaining the 160 acre Wheatland grounds.”
Tickets generally sell out prior to the event, but Sunday only tickets are usually available throughout the weekend. For more information, call the Wheatland box office at (989) 967-8879 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.