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Michigan bursts into song for summer

Published in the Battle Creek Enquirer

Visitors usually associate the town of Marshall with a wonderful meal at Schuler’s and some browsing of the antique and collectible stores that line Michigan Avenue. Perhaps they’ve taken in a movie at the two-screen theater, the Bogar, or they’ve admired the flags attached to the parking meters and the flowered baskets hanging from the old-fashioned light posts. You can take a horse-drawn carriage ride around the neighborhoods or visit the Honolulu House Museum. It’s a quaint, quiet, small town — most of the time.

But for the last 11 years, imagine the main street filled with a tuneful, blues beat. For the annual Blues Fest, the city shuts down three blocks, erects a huge stage, puts up a beverage tent and lets the good times roll.

On July 19, the Blues Fest will again light up Marshall from 2:30 until 11 p.m. Attendees bring their own lawn chairs, and there isn’t a bad seat in the house for the free afternoon and evening of music.

The headliner this year is Chicago Blues Hall of Famer Liz Mandeville, who will bring her sassy style to the stage at 9:30 p.m.

Come hungry and thirsty, because a variety of foods are available up and down the street from vendors and local restaurants.

I like to sit in Schuler’s outside patio area, where I can hear the music and enjoy one of my favorite appetizers, such as the giant plate of nachos or Schuler’s world-famous meatballs. I also highly recommend Zarzuela’s and Pastrami Joe’s.

And, of course, there’s the music! Blues doesn’t get any better.

Marshall isn’t the only community celebrating summertime with music on this particular weekend. All over Michigan, towns, villages and cities close down their streets and offer up music to suit every taste.

The Faster Horses Country Music and Camping Festival at the Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn features a truly star-studded line-up that tempts even a noncountry music aficionado like me. Keith Urban and Tim McGraw are two reasons to make the trip for the three-day gathering July 17-19. Only one camping area was still available as of Wednesday. Tickets for the festival are a bit steep at $180 for the whole three days, but the program looks amazing.

If your tastes run to rock and roll, why not a celebration of Beatlemania? Join the Grand Rapid Symphony’s Picnic Pops at Cannonsburg Ski area every weekend in July. On July 17 and 18, families can sit on the grassy slopes and enjoy one the best Beatles tribute bands. Evidently, the musicians of Classical Mystery Tour look and sound exactly like John, Paul, George and Ringo. Bring your own picnic, or order one on the Symphony’s website at a reasonable price.

One weekend, three examples of the wide range of music playing all over the state this summer.

It’s also not too early to start planning your visit to the Detroit Jazz Festival over Labor Day weekend. In its 34th year, the festival stretches across several city blocks with five stages and 100 acts. Best of all, the music is free.

This year’s theme, “Jazz Speaks for Life,” comes from a comment by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the 1964 Berlin Jazz Festival.

Musicians come from all over the world to participate and weave their musical magic. Book your hotel room, or reserve that spare room at your cousin’s house, and plan for a tremendous musical experience.

Pick your genre, find a place that matches your tastes and indulge in the sounds of summer.

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