Great Lakes Folk Festival Celebrates Culture, Tradition And Community

The roots, rhythms and the richness of music, dance, arts and culture come to downtown East Lansing for the Michigan State University Museum's annual Great Lakes Folk Festival, Aug. 12-14.

GLFF offers a one-of-a-kind mix of music and dance stages, demonstrations of traditional arts and storytelling, authentic ethnic food, an arts marketplace, and many special activities. The MSU Museum works year-round to develop a festival program that reflects the immense variety and vitality of art, skill, knowledge and wisdom of their cultural heritage for the public.

One of the program highlights this year is the Tuvan Throat Singers. This technique of singing multiple pitches at the same time is found in the remote Russian republic of Tuva in southern Siberia, as well as in Mongolia.

Also in the spotlight is Calan, a Welsh Celtic group that plays fiddles, whistles, guitars and bagpipes. They are known for playing the traditional reed instrument from Wales called a pibgorn, made from a wooden pipe and the horns of a bull.

The new Jam Tent this year features scheduled music jams hosted by talented local musicians that will play traditional music like Bluegrass, Appalachian Old-Time, Irish, and Cajun. This is a great way to learn about traditional music and each session is open invitation, so anyone can play, listen and dance. No prior experience is necessary. Attendees are encouraged to bring their instruments and their dancing shoes.

Quilts from the museum's collection and quilt blocks from the community will be on display in the form of a pop-up exhibit, "60/50 Quilted Conversations: Materializing Civil and Human Rights," to spark discussion on different social issues.

Many cultures and communities have a long history of traditional arts, medicines and practices that have helped to sustain healthy living and address health challenges. Around the world, new attention is being given to the ways in which the arts and traditional knowledge about healing and wellness can address contemporary health issues. GLFF attendees can learn about arts and health through panel discussions and exhibits featuring quilt and fiber art displays.

The Campus and Community program features exhibits and presentations of exemplary collaborative projects where MSU faculty and staff have co-created partnerships that respond to community issues, needs, challenges or opportunities.

There is plenty of opportunity to see your musical group of choice as they are scheduled to play two to four times each throughout the weekend, including sets on a 2,400-square-foot dance floor. A full music and dance program is available online at performers/.

Musicians, such as fiddlers, percussionists, and accordion players, from different groups will take the stage in popular Tradition Showcases to share and compare traditions and techniques of their instruments.

The state's leading tradition bearers in music, material culture and community leadership will be recognized during the annual 2016 Michigan Heritage Awards. This year's honorees are The Costabella Cloggers of Hessel for team clogging; David Dutcher of Hessel for Native American arts; Carole Howard of Mt. Pleasant for square dance calling; Matt Kazmierski of Plymouth for Marimba building; Thomas Kelly of Detroit for a cappella gospel singing; Gary Tassier of Cedarville for boat building and restoration; and Paul Wilson of Hessel for traditional boat building.

The Marketplace returns this year with more recycled and upcycled green foods, from jewelry to garden and fiber art, and sculpture. The MSU Museum also showcases master artists in textiles, basketry and other traditional arts.

The festival site is across from the MSU campus and spans the downtown core of the city for three days of festival fun. Festival hours are Aug. 12 from 6-10:30 p.m., Aug. 13 from 12-10:30 p.m., and Aug. 14 from 12-6 p.m.

Admission is by donation and $10 per day is suggested. Contributions leading up to the event and on-site sustain GLFF. Parking will be available in downtown ramps and across Grand River Avenue on the MSU campus in designated areas. GLFF also provides bike parking on-site.

Find out more by calling 517-432-4533 or visit