A few days ago, I learned that the Milan Music Fest, held yearly in August at the KC Campgrounds in Milan, will be no more after this past year (https://bluegrasstoday.com/milan-music-fest-shutting-down/). Producer Mark Gaynier has decided that after 25 years of running this highly successful bluegrass festival in southeast Michigan, he would like to retire from the event and change course in his life.
No shame or hard feelings here. Mark has worked hard to make the festival a success for his attendees, and when top national acts like Rhonda Vincent show up every year, you know that something was being done right. However, one can understand the sadness of bluegrass fans in the region. This was a great location, and the acts performing were always top notch. There are a few other bluegrass festivals in Michigan, but most are on the west side of the state, making it difficult for those like me that cannot spend time overnight due to employment and caregiving issues.
There is a one-day festival in Blissfield (near the border of Ohio) that the Southeast Michigan Bluegrass Music Association sponsors. Although I am a member of SEMBMA, I am never able to volunteer due to my commitment to the Michigan Old-Time Fiddlers Convention held on the same day. At the next SEMBMA meeting (on October 22nd), I plan to suggest that the association recommend moving the Blissfield festival to the same weekend that Milan was. This would help get some of the Milan crowd, as well as not conflict with other events.
Speaking of SEMBMA, the organization has not been in good shape as of late. It is attempting to secure new officers for the board, but there has been next to no response. With that said, there is talk of dissolving the association and distributing what is left in the treasury to various educational funds. Working as a board member on even a small organizations such as SEMBMA take a lot of time and energy. I fully understand Bill and Pam Warren wanting to step down, as they have taken the reins for a number of years.
I have stated to the association that I will help in any way, even taking on one of the board member positions, if it means keeping the group going. I have a full-time job, and almost every hour of my time outside of work is spent caregiving my 90-year-old mother. I literally have to plan ahead days in advance just to do things like get a haircut or even write this blog. However, it would be a shame to see SEMBMA dissolve at this time.
My big disappointment is that there are so many members of SEMBMA that never show up for business meetings, but are waiting in line when a free jam sessions is scheduled. Promoting bluegrass in the community takes more than learning an instrument and showing up at jam sessions. This association is creating scholarships, sponsoring festivals, and working with artists to give bluegrass a voice in the area. It needs people who are willing to donate time and energy in order make a name for itself as a viable organization that is respected in the music community.
Again, I will do what I can given my situation. Heck, I never have time to participate in the SEMBMA jam sessions! However, it saddens me that so much of the membership think that the jam sessions are all that matters.
Chew on it and comment.