June 26--TRAVERSE CITY -- It's been a Leelanau County summer tradition for more than 20 years.
Now the Manitou Music Festival wants to expand its audience by selling tickets in Traverse City.
Officials added a ticket outlet at Oryana Natural Foods Market for this year's festival, July 3-Aug. 13. It's the first of several changes Jack Conners is contemplating in his new role as festival producer.
"I don't think we get a lot of people from Traverse City," said Conners, who took over the festival from retired producer Harry Fried. "I'm hoping if we have tickets available at Oryana that will tell us whether people are interested in advance tickets and are willing to drive up to Glen Arbor."
The festival includes nearly a dozen free and ticketed shows at places like the Leelanau School and the "Studio Stage" behind Lake Street Studios, both in Glen Arbor, about 27 miles from Traverse City. It also includes popular concerts at The Homestead and the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore's "Dune Climb," which are managed by a Manitou Music Festival committee.
"That's our really big one of the season; about 2,300 people come," said Peg McCarty, director of the Glen Arbor Art Association, which operates the festival. "It's our gift to the community."
Conners said he's sticking to the tried-and-true at first: blues, folk, Celtic and bluegrass acts like Mulebone and FullSet. Eventually he hopes to diversify the offerings, though the festival likely will never return to its 1990s classical music roots.
"It would be nice to bring back something different," said Conners, a recording and sound engineer who has worked with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Stan Kenton, The Mills Brothers, Grover Washington, Jr., Ricky Scaggs, Joshua Bell and The Berlin Philharmonic.
"There's a lot of sameness in this region when you look at what's around. But it's hard to have something different because we can't afford to pay these bands to come up and do one show. So we try to reach them when they're doing a tour to other parts in the area, yet not have the concerts geographically too close."
The festival reached its current formula after much trial-and-error and strategic planning with a hired consultant, McCarty said.
"In focus groups, surveys and out in the community the consensus seemed to be, 'We don't want to be inside in the summer. We want to be outside and to be able to bring our families,'" she said.
Conners, who is assistant director of Chamber Music North and in the early days recorded the festival's classical music concerts for broadcast on Interlochen Public Radio, said he still believes there's an audience for that kind of music. And he'd love to bring back a jazz show or two.
But ultimately what works is determined by area residents and summer visitors, he said.
"There are so many things going on here in the summer. You have five or six things to choose from every day," he said. "The last three or four years the shows have had consistently more audiences. I don't know if it's that the festival is just catching on or if it's the acts. I like to think that people know it now and that people are looking forward to coming out."
Manitou Music Festival lineup July 3 -- Northport Community Band, 7 p.m., Glen Arbor Old School House LawnJuly 13 -- Dune Climb Concert: The Moxie Strings, 7 p.m., Dune Climb at M-109 July 20 -- Mulebone, 8 p.m., Studio Stage at Lake Street StudiosJuly 24 -- Benefit Concert at The Homestead: Ronald Radford, 7 p.m., The Homestead Mountaintop July 27 -- The Wilenes, 8 p.m., Studio Stage at Lake Street StudiosJuly 30 -- FullSet, 8 p.m., Studio Stage at Lake Street StudiosAug. 3 -- Billy Strings & Don Julin, 8 p.m., Studio Stage at Lake Street StudiosAug. 6 -- Girsa, 8 p.m., Studio Stage at Lake Street StudiosAug. 10 -- Peter, Paul & Mary Remembered, 8 p.m., Studio Stage at Lake Street StudiosAug. 12 -- Summer Singers, 7 p.m., Glen Lake Community Reformed ChurchAug. 13 -- Trina Hamlin & Annie Gallup, 8 p.m., Leelanau School
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