Northern Express — June 7, 2010
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Mio's Nor'easter Festival
Kristi Kates

The “first festival of summer” may be a surprise to many residents of Northern Michigan, being located in out-of-the-way Mio in Oscoda County, but make no mistake

- - the Nor-East’r Festival packs a punch, with 19 musical acts and much more.

The June 11-13 festival definitely has its plate full. Nineteen acts are scheduled for this year, with music beginning at 5 p.m. on Friday night, and ending around 5 p.m. on Sunday.

Headlining are blues artists Madcat, Kane and Maxwell Street from Ann Arbor; “modern honky-tonk” from New York’s Sweetback Sisters; gypsy music from Massachusetts band Caravan of Thieves; and Michigan’s own Orpheum Bell. Other Michigan artists appearing include Rootstand, AnDro, Blue Water Ramblers, the Song Weavers of Petoskey, and the Orion Community Drummers, who will be leading a drum kiva

And the music is all for a good cause.

“The first Nor-East’r Festival was held in 2003,” Buffy Galer explains, “it was born of a need for activities for young people in this area, and nostalgia for the varied activities that the Oscoda County Fairgrounds used to house, and was fully capable of housing more of.” Galer, the president and founder of the fest as well as a Licensed Veterinary Technician, remembers attending small music festivals with her family - as a child, she had the idea to organize a small scale festival event on the family farm to help raise money for her terminally-ill brother’s hospital bills - and that was part of her impetus for starting the Nor-East’r along with help from friend Richelle Sieland.


“Education and cultural appreciation was the core component of our plan for the Nor’East-r,” Galer explains, “Among our goals were to create a good performance stage - which we did in 2005; to provide college scholarships - which we were able to start in 2009; and to create more economic opportunity within the region.” By year three of the Nor-East’r, more help was needed, which is how current treasurer Nancy Miller got involved.

“We are the first festival of summer,”Miller says, “we try to provide a diverse collection of musicians and artists; our mission is to provide opportunities to celebrate folk culture in Michigan.” Now in its eighth year, the Nor-East’r keeps growing - quietly - which Miller claims is part of its appeal.

“One charm of the festival is that it is small and intimate, she says, “festivalgoers can mingle with the performers, especially in the workshops and at the parking-lot picking.

Another charm we have is shade - something you don’t find at other festivals,” she laughs.

“There are trees to sit and camp under, and the grounds are flat and mowed for walking about.

We also have the use of all the fairground buildings (for the event); the second stage

- called The Parlor - is inside, where you can have breakfast or lunch and listen to the music.

There is also an inside rain site for workshops if necessary, and we’re starting a third area, The Dance Hall, where there will be a dance on Saturday night, a couple of workshops, and an open mic on Sunday.”


Festival-goers will find much to offer beyond the stage acts. “There will be 19 musical workshops,” Miller says, “and completing the other half of the festival will be many art vendors, six of which will be doing art workshops. We’ll also be having a guitar giveaway for kids under 18, to encourage young people to learn and participate in music and art; we’ll be giving away 12 guitars this year.” The Nor-East’r is also giving away two scholarships at the festival to students going into college for music or art. And Miller’s wish is that the community will continue to support the festival itself, as well.

“We hope to grow a little, and have enough money to put on Nor-East’r number nine,” Miller says,