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History of the Festival

The Michigan State University Museum has a long history of producing outdoor festivals of traditional culture. In 1983, the MSU Museum produced its first series of outdoor showcases of Michigan's folk traditions at the annual 4-H Exploration Days in East Lansing. The “Michigan Whosestory?” Festival was presented over a weekend in 1987 and brought together over 75 musicians, storytellers, and crafts demonstrators.

 

As part of Michigan's 1987 sesquicentennial celebration of statehood, the MSU Museum staff worked closely with The Smithsonian Institution for the presentation of Michigan's cultural traditions in the national Festival of American Folklife. Through presentations by cooks, storytellers, musicians, craftspeople and others who represented the state's diverse regional, ethnic, and occupational heritage, over 1,000,000 visitors in Washington, D.C. were introduced to Michigan's folklife. The MSU Museum then brought the festival program to East Lansing as the centerpiece of the first Michigan Festival - a showcase of the state's performing and creative arts. Renamed the Festival of Michigan Folklife (FMF), the event became the largest annual museum exhibition of the state's traditional cultural contributions. Over its twelve-year history, the Festival of Michigan Folklife provided a platform for presentation of over 1,400 artists--the vast majority had never been presented by any other arts organization in the state.

In 1999, the MSU Museum began a new three-year partnership - this time with the City of East Lansing and the National Council for Traditional Arts (NCTA) to produce the National Folk Festival. NCTA took primary responsibility for coordinating music programming, East Lansing provided infrastructure and marketing support and the MSU Museum was responsible for all other programming, including foodways, children, crafts, games, storytelling, and occupational arts.

After hosting three successful National Folk Festivals, both the City of East Lansing and the MSU Museum were committed to continue the festival tradition. The Great Lakes Folk Festival, a fusion of both the model provided by the National Folk Festival and the Smithsonian Festival model that had been the hallmark of the Festival of Michigan Folklife, was launched in 2002. The images of posters below are links to the music performer list from each year.  From these list pages, you can also visit archived sites from all the Great Lakes Folk Festivals and read descriptions of the artists presented.

 

  Poster from 2014 Great Lakes Folk Festival
  2015 2014
  Arts and Health  
Great Lakes Folk Festival Poster, 2014, cartoon of ladies in full skirts, twirling poster Image, Great Lake Folk Festival 2011- sunset on a lake
2013 2012 2011
Midwest Folklife Campus and Community Grassroots Green
2010  2009 2008
Grassroots Green Fiesta! CRAFTworks!
Great Lakes Folk Festival, 2005 poster design, upright, gold guitar on a black ground
2007 2006 2005
Carriers of Culture Games Unplugged! Maritime Traditions
Great Lakes Folk Festival Poster for 2004, Guitar with waves for strings Abstract image of dancing people
2004 2003 2002
Traditional Arts Apprenticeships Passing on Traditions Building Arts- State Capitol

Link to list page of all performers 1999-2015

Link to 2001 National Folk Festival Performer information
Link to 2000 National Folk Festival Performer information
Link to 1999 National Folk Festival information

Link to an Introduction to the Festival of Michigan Folklife 1987-1998

The National Folk Festival Continues to move to new communities

In 2001, the National Folk Festival wrapped up its stay in East Lansing and moved on to Bangor, Maine, where it was presented through 2004. Bangor now hosts the American Folk Festival the 4th weekend in August.

In 2005 the National moved to Richmond, Virginia. After Richmond was home to the National for 3 years, they introduced the Richmond Folk Festival in 2008. 

In 2008- 2010, the National was presented in Butte, Montana. Butte is now home to the Montana Folk Festival, July 10-12, 2015.

The National Folk Festival is back!  After a three season hiatus, The 75th National was presented in Greensboro, NC on September 11, 12 and 13.  Dates for 2016 are September 9-11.

 

Logo of the National Folk Festival, in Greensboro, NC in 2015
Sept 9 - 11, 2016 July 8 - 10, 2016 Oct 9 - 11, 2015 Aug 26 - 28, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Festival of Michigan Folklife

In the early 1980s, the Michigan State University Museum began to produce festivals as part of its strategy to document, interpret, and present aspects of contemporary traditional culture; to teach others about the tools and methodologies used to engage in cultural studies; and to engage visitors in learning about cultural heritage, especially that of Michigan and the Great Lakes region.

Learn about some of the traditions and artists that were showcased at the festivals that preceded the Great Lakes Folk Festival.

As part of Michigan's 1987 sesquicentennial celebration of statehood, the MSU Museum staff worked closely with the Smithsonian Institution in the presentation of Michigan's cultural traditions at the Festival of American Folklife- presented on the National Mall in Washington, DC. The MSU Museum then brought the festival program to East Lansing as the centerpiece of the first Michigan Festival - a showcase of the state's performing and creative arts. Renamed the Festival of Michigan Folklife (FMF), the event became the largest annual museum exhibition of the state's traditional cultural contributions. Over its twelve-year history, the Festival of Michigan Folklife provided a platform for presentation of over 1,400 artists--the vast majority had never been presented by any other arts organization in the state.

Each year, the festival featured one or more themes as follows:

1998 - Firefighting Traditions and Traditions of the Thumb of Michigan

1997 - Car Culture/ Worker's Culture

     (in conjunction with Oldsmobile's 100th Anniversary)
1996 - Michigan Celebrates!
1995 - Creativity at Work
1994 - Family Farming Traditions
1993 - Migration to Michigan
1992 - Quincentenary: Other Voices, Other Visions
1991 - Lumbering Traditions
1990 - Maritime Traditions (including building the Mackinaw Bridge)
1989 - Family Traditions
1988 - Ethnic Detroit
1987 - Migration to Michigan

Annual program books from the Festivals of Michigan Folklife as well as the 1999 National Folk Festival are available through the Michigan Traditional Arts Program on line store.  Each program book contains articles related to the artists and traditions featured in that year.