Hiawatha fest marks 40 years with this weekend’s gathering

For 40 years, a special, joyful event has been an important part of summer in the Upper Peninsula.

Today, the 40th annual Hiawatha Traditional Music Festival wraps up another successful weekend of music, art, dance and fellowship. Members of the Hiawatha Music Co-op pour heart and soul into planning this busy weekend of creativity.

Hiawatha has had a few sites during its 40 years. It first took place in Munising in 1978, then moved to the Champion Horse-Pulling Grounds for a few years before making Tourist Park in Marquette its home starting in 1984.

As detailed in today’s Sunday Focus by Mining Journal Staff Writer, Jaymie Depew, much preparation has gone into Hiawatha’s 40th anniversary. A committee of several longtime members was created to come up with special ways to celebrate the big year. To show appreciation for its partnership with Northern Michigan University, the Hiawatha Music Co-op planted 40 trees in NMU’s Outdoor Learning Area in May to extend a thank you to NMU for being longtime friends of the festival. The event was a collaboration between the Co-op, NMU’s Sustainability Advisory Council, student leaders associated with GTU and EcoReps, and the Marquette County Conservation District.

To acknowledge the city’s role, a special picnic table was donated to Tourist Park Tuesday with a plaque from Hiawatha.

And to help spark memories, there is an archive tent set up, showcasing poster and T-shirt designs from over the years, vintage postcards, special beer steins, and more. For some, Hiawatha has been a lifelong event, as detailed in Depew’s story today.

Hiawatha makes for not just friendship, but a special kinship among its participants.

The Hiawatha Music Festival has had a positive impact on many lives. For instance, Joshua Davis, a third-place finalist in NBC’s “The Voice” competition in 2015, posted this on social media Thursday: “Missing @stringsummit this year because I’m heading North tomorrow with my family to Marquette — where I was born. I’ll be playing @hiawathamusic with my comrades of 20 years #steppininit. I grew up going to Hiawatha and it changed my life. I saw Dave Van Ronk and Spider John, Joel Mabus and John Hartford and Greg Brown all on a little stage in the woods. It taught me that music should be by and for the people and a gathering point for community and a beat for marching. Here’s to the folk festival. Here’s to music played with friends for years and years. Here’s to you! Hope you can be there.”

We hope that everyone has had a wonderful Hiawatha weekend. Here’s to 40 more years of music, dance and fun, put together by a wonderful group of community members.

Happy Hiawatha.