My Destination Ann Arbor post about the Milan Bluegrass Festival

Screen Shot 2019-06-15 at 8.47.12 PM.pngTo understand why and how a big, multi-day annual bluegrass festival took root in the small town of MilanOpens a New Window. in the 1980s, just think of the factory-job-fueled migration trail previously forged between Appalachia and the Detroit Metro area.

“In the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, people moved to this area from Kentucky, from Virginia, from Tennessee, from West Virginia, … and [bluegrass] was the music they loved,” said Mark Gaynier, who hosts and organizes the Milan Bluegrass Festival. “The Kigers [who launched the first iteration of the festival] came from Alabama originally. … Lots of people around here had been born and raised on this type of music, so the Bluegrass Festival just felt like a big old family reunion.”

Ruth Kiger planned the inaugural Milan Bluegrass FestivalOpens a New Window. as a charitable fundraiser (to help a friend who was suffering from an illness) in 1980, but the response was so overwhelming that she and husband Cayce Kiger, who’d built the KC Campground, decided to put on the festival annually.

The festival quickly grew in prominence – to such a degree that bluegrass god Bill Monroe appeared at the last one planned by the Kigers in 1986.

“Then Ruth Kiger passed away from cancer,” said Gaynier. “And the festival bounced around a little bit. It was in Leslie, Michigan for a while.”

Back then, Gaynier was a salesman for Frito-Lay, and the Kigers’ campground was one of his accounts. “I got to be friends with them,” said Gaynier. “I used to joke and say things like, ‘I should have a job like yours, where you sit out there in a lawn chair, and people just throw money at you and go put up a tent.’ And then in 1996, they came to me and said, ‘Why don’t you buy the campground?’”

Gaynier did just that. READ THE REST HERE


My Metromode story about Swing Farmington

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(Photo by Doug Coombe)

Swing dancing’s trendy mainstream revival in the 1990s – which spawned everything from a classic “Jump, Jive an’ Wail” Gap commercial to Jon Favreau’s cult-hit indie romantic comedy, “Swingers” – came to a pretty abrupt close with that decade.

But you’d never guess that if you came to downtown Farmington on a summer Thursday night.

In Riley Park’s Sundquist Pavilion, about 200 people of all ages (though the average skews young) gather weekly to Lindy Hop, Jitterbug, and Charleston their cares away by way of Swing Farmington.

“I fell in love with it from the first night,” says Melvindale’s Amber Konjarevich, 25, who first attended with friends in 2013. “Over the years I’ve made some of my best friends at Swing Farmington, who have been there for me and will be lifelong friends. I love being able to bring new people and have them experience the joy that [Swing Farmington] brings to me. The energy is always so positive, and it’s a great way to bring people together.” READ THE REST HERE