Preserving the future

Hiawatha Music Co-op celebrates 40 years by planting 40 trees at NMU

Northern Michigan University Biology Graduate Student Mindy Kantola, back left, helps the Kitchel family plant a tree during Hiawatha Traditional Music Co-op’s celebratory tree planting Sunday. The Kitchel family, from left: Edith, age 4, Doug, Grace, age 6, and Jamie. (Journal photo by Cecilia Brown)

MARQUETTE — The sounds of children laughing, birds singing and traditional folk music filled the air of Northern Michigan University’s campus Sunday as the Hiawatha Traditional Music Co-op celebrated 40 years by planting 40 trees in NMU’s Outdoor Learning Areas, with volunteers of all ages lending a helping hand.

The tree planting was a collaborative effort among the Hiawatha Music Co-op, NMU’s Sustainability Advisory Council, student leaders associated with GTU and EcoReps, and the Marquette County Conservation District, which provided the trees.

Doug Kitchel, who served on the Hiawatha Board of Directors for the past six years, came up with the idea to plant trees in celebration of the organization’s 40 years.

“We were looking for something, some way of celebrating our organization’s success of 40 years and it just seemed like a fun thing we could do that would be a little different than some other avenues that we’ve pursued before,” Kitchel said.

It was also a way for the organization to thank NMU for its support of Hiawatha Music Co-op and the Hiawatha Traditional Music Festival, held annually in July.

Shovels stand at attention as volunteers prepare to begin planting trees on NMU’s campus Sunday to celebrate 40 years of the Hiawatha Traditional Music Co-op.(Journal photo by Cecilia Brown)

“Northern Michigan University has been kind to the Hiawatha over the years, loaning us their parking lots at Jacobetti Center and the public safety and central receiving buildings for parking during the festival,” Kitchel said in a press release. “Donating 40 trees to the campus seemed like a great way to say thank-you to NMU for their collaboration and support.”

NMU has been happy to partner with the organization over the years, said Professor Sarah Mittlefehldt, co-chair of NMU’s Sustainability Advisory Council.

“They’ve done so much, not only the festival that they run, but there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work that they do to support music and other forms of art and culture in our community. We’re really excited to partner with them,” she said.

The trees were planted in NMU’s Outdoor Learning Areas, which are used to educate students on local ecology and geology.

Many of trees planted were native trees, such as American sweet crab apple, elderberry, plum and black cherry.

The Hiawatha Traditional Music Co-op celebrates 40 years by planting 40 trees in Northern Michigan University’s outdoor learning area Sunday. Volunteers of all ages came to help plant a wide variety of native trees Sunday, including plum trees and sugar maples. (Journal photo by Cecilia Brown)

“We especially wanted to plant native trees to highlight the native ecology, and that will draw a lot of local birds and fauna and flora, as well,” Mittlefehldt said.

Sugar maples were also planted, with the aim of creating a sugarbush on campus for future generations to enjoy.

“We kind of like that metaphor of planting these trees for future generations to harvest,” Mittlefehldt said.

Katrina Keough, president of the Hiawatha Music Co-op’s Board of Directors, said the organization is happy to leave its mark for future generations to enjoy.

“I think that we’re all really big advocates of leaving our name and our stamp here and being a sustainable and green festival, a family festival,” she said.

The organization does much more than organize the annual festival, Keough said.

“Some people think we’re only a music festival because we have done that for 40 years, but we celebrate with events all throughout the year,” Keough said. “We have a spring series that kind of is an homage to our festival, we also do a lot of school programs, teaching about traditional music, dance and storytelling and keeping that going throughout the generations.”

Organizers said the planting of trees is symbolic of Hiawatha Music Co-op’s mission — preservation of traditional music and culture.

“This organization was founded with preservation in mind originally. The whole concept … is to provide traditional Americana music to people who may not have heard it before. We’re trying very hard to keep this music alive and well,” said Kitchel, adding that Hiawatha Music Co-op hopes to “continue to be successful and vibrant 40 years from now, just as much as I would hope these trees would do.”

The 40th annual Hiawatha Traditional Music Festival will be held July 20-22 at Tourist Park in Marquette, featuring a wide variety of traditional music acts, as well as dances, arts and crafts vendors, concessions, camping and activities for kids and teens alike.

There will also be musician-led workshops, open jams, a children’s parade and a teen-only dance at the event. Tickets go on sale May 29. For more information on the festival and other events held by the Hiawatha Music Co-op throughout the year, visit https://hiawathamusic.org or call 906-228-8575.

Cecilia Brown can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248. Her email address is