Michigan bluegrass at Milan

This overview and photo gallery from the 2012 Milan Bluegrass Festival is a contribution from Bill Warren. Bill is a photographer and bluegrass fan in Michigan, and he will be covering ocassional events in the upper midwest for Bluegrass Today.

This year’s Milan Bluegrass Festival at the KC campground in Milan, Michigan was the 15th year that Jim and Fay Wilder presented the festival. Much earlier iterations of this event were presented by Robert White and Fred Ellis.

Thursday and Friday were rainy, but the show went on as planned. Saturday was dry and the crowd was enthusiastic!

Here’s a quick rundown of the entertainment, which coordinates with the order of the images in the gallery below:

  • New County Grass is a local favorite. The Estep family has a long history in Michigan Bluegrass.
  • Joe Mullins and the Radio Ramblers are becoming a festival favorite at many venues. They give a rock solid performance every time!
  • Nothin’ Fancy provided the kind of show that only they can. Justin Tomlin has taken the tenor singing and guitar duties for the band.
  • David Parmley and Continental Divide are always a highlight at Milan. This band has graced the Milan stage many, many times.
  • Russell Moore and IIIrd Tyme Out always play a Friday show at Milan. They have been a mainstay of this festival from the beginning.
  • Marty Raybon and Full Circle have become a group that is in demand at many festivals. Marty is much loved by true country fans and bluegrass fans alike.
  • Junior Sisk and Ramblers Choice have taken a place among the best of bluegrass bands. The Milan crowd raises the excitement level when Junior hits the stage.
  • All of the members of IIIrd Tyme Out and Full Circle combined to wow the crowd with a trio of Russell Moore, Marty Raybon, and Steve Dilling.
  • Heather and Tony Mabe have migrated to an all Gospel show. They are two of the best young entertainers in bluegrass.
  • Audie Blaylock and Redline are Milan favorites. Audie spent many of his early years in Michigan  and has a lot of friends and fans here.
  • Newfound Road has their own unique style that attracts many fans. They have been a mainstay at Milan for a number of years.
  • Don Rigsby and Midnight Call are always on the preferred list of entertainers at Milan. Don’s young son Andrew joined his father on stage with his fiddle. He will be one to watch for in the future.
  • Mark Gaynier has been the owner of KC Campground for seventeen years. He has been a gracious host. Jim Wilder is the promoter for both the Milan festival and one held in Charlotte, Michigan each June. This year was the 40th anniversary of the Charlotte festival.
  • The Grascals closed out the festival in a rousing way. The MC turned the stage over to them and they played at least 90 minutes for the final set. They took any and all requests. Jamie Johnson referred to it as “Terry – oke.”
  • Rhonda Vincent took the stage by storm as always. She has become the measuring stick for the bluegrass world.
  • Mark Gaynier, KC Campground owner, brought his whole staff on stage to acknowledge their hard work. Mark’s staff does a great job and we all thank them.
  • Jaelee Roberts sang two songs with the Grascals and completely won the crowd! Her Daddy, Danny Roberts, mandolinist with the band, is giving her a rightfully proud Daddy’s hug.
  • Flatland Grass opened the festival on Thursday. This is a northern Ohio/southern Michigan band that has re-formed. The Hensley brothers have been a part of Ohio bluegrass for many years. Tim Ellis played banjo for the legendary Jim and Jesse a number of years ago.
  • Bo Isaac brought his band, The Rounders, to both the Charlotte and Milan festivals this year. Don Rigsby filled in with Bo. The combination of these two voices is something to hear.
  • The Stevens Bluegrass Family from West Virginia made their first appearance on the Milan stage. Remember the name. We will all hear more from them. Chris Sexton of Nothin’ Fancy played his fiddle with them.
  • Jerry Butler and the Blu-J’s also made their first appearance at the Milan festival. Jerry is not a stranger to the Milan stage, as he has appeared at the Pickin’ on Cystic Fibrosis festival that is held in September at KC. Ask Jerry about cookies the next time you see him!

The Milan Bluegrass Festival has become the largest bluegrass festival in Michigan. Bluegrass pickers from far and wide gather for the great time that Jim and Fay Wilder and Mark and Peggy Ann Gaynier offer each year in August. It is a must-attend festival if you get to Michigan in late summer.