The 33rd Annual Blissfest celebration will take place on July 12-14. The event draws thousands of attendees locally, within the state and across the country. Pictured above, Blissfest was well-represented in the Harbor Springs Fourth of July parade this year, gearing up festival enthusiasts for the upcoming event. (Harbor Light Newspaper photo/Mark Flemming)
Blissfest, now in its 33rd year, is a much loved and well attended festival near Cross Village that attracts not only locals, but many people all over the state and even those from across the country. It has gained a dedicated following of enthusiasts who come to enjoy great folk, jazz, blues, root music and dance, good food and a friendly community environment year after year. The weekend-long event happens this year July 12-14.
Blissfest often becomes a tradition for family and friends to gather on the festival farm property. One local resident, Tom Trautman, has been going to the festival for the past 18 years.
"I started going sporadically in the mid to late 1980s, but since 1995, I've gone every year," he said.
Trautman noted he has seen the festival change and transition over the years that it has been taking place.
"It was definitely smaller back then, and the talent was much more locally-based," he said. "Over the years it's drawn a larger crowd and it now attracts acts from across the country. I think back then, there was a tighter knit of attendees, and now there is a lot of diversity."
According to Trautman, whose family has often helped set-up for the event, Blissfest is a festival that draws a number of different people and is something everyone can enjoy, including families.
"You get plenty of naysayers who think Blissfest is just a bunch of hippies, but really, you see people from all walks of life. I see co-workers, neighbors, doctors and lawyers up there," he said. "There are lots of families, as well, and you see lots of kids."
Blissfest has long been a family affair for Trautman. His brother David, Jr., and father David Sr., have spent lots time volunteering their time at the festival and weeks prior to the event. Trautman said he is passing his love of the festival down to his own son, Tommy, who is two and a half and will be be attending Blissfest for his third year this summer.
"He's got his little tie-dyed shirt, and it's a great way for us to get together as a family," Trautman said. "We always have a great time."
"There are tons of things for kids to do at Blissfest, and many people don't realize this," Trautman continued. "There is a kid's area that has games, activities, and they even have their own performers. I'm sure my son will have a lot of fun this year."
Trautman said there are several reasons why he has kept coming back to Blissfest year after year.
"The music is always great, and the people watching is also fun, too," he said with a chuckle. "What I really like, though, is the good attitude that everyone has up there. During this weekend, people seem to leave their troubles at home. They're able to let their hair down and relax for a little while. Everyone walks around with a smile on their face and is just...blissful!"
Trautman noted there is no lack of things to do at the festival, including a wide variety of music and good food.
"There are three stages going the whole time, and if you're not crazy about one band, you can wander over to the next. There's also arts and crafts, beer and wine tasting and healing arts. The food is great, too. There's a guy up there that serves fantastic gyros," he said. "Most people come for the whole weekend and camp, and there's really no reason for anyone to leave the grounds."
Over the years, Trautman said there have been several music acts he has enjoyed with Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Arrested Development and the Ragbirds being some of his favorites. This year, he stated he is looking forward to seeing the Galactic Sherpas and Taj Mahal Trio. Wife Chelsea and son Tommy are excited to see local favorites Seth & May, he said.
For those who have never experienced Blissfest, Trautman recommends they give it a try.
"It continues to get bigger and better every year," he said. "This is a great festival and I certainly look forward to it every year. I feel very fortunate to have something like this right in my own backyard."
Blissfest takes place July 12-14 at 3695 Division Road north of Harbor Springs. Tickets are still on sale at various locations throughout the area. For a full list of ticket outlets, events and performance lineups, camping or other Blissfest information, go to www.blissfest.org or call 231-348-7047.