A warm, pillowy bun. A thick, juicy burger. Mountains of fresh, delicious toppings — including cheese. Together, all of these make up the ingredients of the perfect cheeseburger. And if you love cheeseburgers, you’ll want to head to the Thumb of Michigan in August for the Cheeseburger in Caseville Festival.
An Overview of the Cheeseburger in Caseville Festival
Near the tip of the Michigan Thumb, in Caseville near Port Austin, you’ll find perhaps the most unique of all the festivals in the Mitten State. Every August, festival-goers gather for a 10-day celebration known as Cheeseburger in Caseville.
While this festival has plenty of activities — concerts, light shows, sandcastle-making contests — the heart of the festival is cheeseburgers and celebrating summer.
This year’s Caseville festival is slated to take place from Aug. 12-21, 2022.
Though Caseville is just a town of nearly 800 people, it has become a key destination and has welcomed nearly 500,000 people for its own mini Mardi Gras every year for more than 20 years.
Caseville is located on the shores of Saginaw Bay in Lake Huron, to the west of the Michigan Thumb’s tip. The festivities take place at County Park Amphitheatre in Caseville, at 6400 Main St. It’s just a 30-minute drive from Port Austin, so it makes the perfect day trip if you want to attend the festival.
If you live in the area but don’t feel like driving, the Thumb Area Transit offers rides on weekends and on the day of the parade. The bus stops at Port Crescent State Park, Oak Beach County Park, Sleeper State Park, and the amphitheater.
The shuttle usually runs from 3 p.m. to midnight and costs $3 per person per ride. Make sure you have exact change.
In the past, admission to the festival has ranged anywhere from $8 to $15 depending on the activities you want to do. Past festivals have also offered Cheeseburger Buttons, which give access to all events.
If you’re planning to attend this year’s festival, contact the Caseville Chamber of Commerce to inquire about prices.
In case you hadn’t guessed, the Caseville cheeseburger festival is a celebration of all things cheeseburger and summer, but it’s also a tribute to Jimmy Buffet’s 1970s song “Cheeseburger in Paradise.”
The idea for Caseville’s festival sprang from the mind of Caseville resident Lyn Bezemek, who came up with the idea of a festival to celebrate the end of summer in 1999. It’s estimated that 5,000 people from around Huron County attended the inaugural festival, and it has only grown since then.
The first festival started modestly as a three-day celebration. Since then, it has grown into a 10-day festival, attended by thousands of festivalgoers, and it remains the busiest 10 days of the year for the city of Caseville.
The Parade of Tropical Fools
If you’re looking for the ultimate summer beach party, the Cheeseburger in Caseville festival is an event you absolutely must attend before summer ends. The beach vibe of the festival is best represented by the Parade of Tropical Fools.
This parade is traditionally held on the first Wednesday night of the festival and is arguably the biggest attraction. It alone attracts more than 100,000 people annually, and paradegoers get started early by setting up their lawn chairs at 6 a.m. the morning of the parade.
Once the parade gets going, it’s not uncommon to see candies, beads, Frisbees, and other trinkets thrown from the parade floats. Don’t be surprised if you see grass skirts, flamingos, and other beach symbols incorporated into parade float designs. After all, it’s a beach party and one of the craziest festival parades in existence.
Any visitor to Caseville during the festival will be amazed by how the whole town transforms into a tropical paradise. Businesses in town go all out when it comes to decorating, and votes are taken to determine the best-dressed business at the festival.
Other Cheeseburger Festival Sites & Activities
The parade may be the centerpiece of the festival, but festivalgoers will find there’s something for people of all ages at this summer celebration. The festival is all about having fun!
Jimmy Buffett Music & Live Bands
In the air, you’re likely to hear plenty of Jimmy Buffett music playing, but you’ll also hear a variety of live bands. Anywhere you look, you’re likely to see some activity that looks like an absolute blast.
Cornhole, Golf, & More
A previous event schedule included a cornhole tournament at Caseville County Park, which also hosted a Yoga on the Beach event and an Aerobics on the Beach event.
At the Caseville Golf Course, golfers young and old could play glow ball, and Bird Creek Golf Club in Port Austin hosted a Cheeseburger Golf Scramble.
If you go to the festival, you’re likely to see plenty of parrot-themed attire in honor of Jimmy Buffet’s loyal fans, affectionately known as Parrotheads. If you don’t have any garb, don’t worry. There’s a hat-making and flip-flop decorating contest included in the Caseville festival schedule of events, so you’ll fit in when it’s over.
Classic Cars, Boat Races, & Sandcastles
Fans of classic cars can take in a classic car show on one of the last days of the festival. There are also stand-up paddleboard and cardboard boat races.
Fans of the beach can participate in sandcastle contests. Plus, there are lots of parties at local businesses that visitors can either get into for free or for a small fee.
Bringing the kids with you? You’re in luck because there’s plenty to keep your kiddos busy and entertained. A past event included a petting zoo, pony rides, a duck race, sidewalk chalk events, kayaking lessons, a seashell hunt, and a hula hoop and limbo contest, among many other activities.
If your kids love taking selfies and posting to social media, have them participate in the annual Cheeseburger Best Photo Contest.
Caseville Cheeseburger Festival Food
With so many activities going on, you might be asking, “What about the food?” Don’t worry because there’s plenty of that too. And, it’s all delicious!
Previously, the event has included a Best Cheeseburger Contest by the Caseville Dairy Queen and the sale of Krispy Kreme Doughnuts. One of the festival’s other signature events is the Cheeseburger Eating Contest, for which hungry visitors can devour the festival’s signature dish.
If you’re looking for more, there’s also a Cone Eating Contest and chicken dinners served by Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church. As if that wasn’t enough, many local eateries offer their own takes on cheeseburgers during the event. So if you love burgers, you don’t have to look very hard to find one.
If you’re still hungry or just want something different, there are plenty of great Port Austin restaurants to check out.
Tips for Attending the Cheeseburger in Caseville Festival
Of course, the aim of attending any festival is to have fun. But with so many people attending the Cheeseburger in Caseville festival, it helps to be prepared, especially if you’re going with kids.
- Prepare for everything. Check the weather before you go, but prepare for anything. If it’s going to be hot, make sure that you have plenty of water and sunscreen. If it’s going to rain, bring a rain jacket. A good pair of walking shoes doesn’t hurt either.
- Get gas early. Whether you’re planning on attending for one day, three days, or the whole thing, make sure that you have gas in the car. Main Street in Caseville can get very busy during festival time and you don’t want to coast into town on fumes.
- Have a base. With thousands of people attending, it can be very easy to lose track of family and friends. Park your vehicle, and plan on doing some walking. Parking a few blocks from Main Street is always a good move so that you’re close to the action and can leave easily when you want to.
- Set up early for the parade. Thousands of people are in Caseville every year for the parade. So on the morning of, stake your claim to a spot with a lawn chair and some ribbon. There will be thousands of others doing the same thing, so be courteous too.
Where to Stay During the Caseville Cheeseburger Festival
If you’re going to attend the festival for multiple days, your best bet is to get away from downtown Caseville and reserve a campsite. One of the best places to stay is Port Crescent State Park, which offers tranquillity along 3 miles of sandy shoreline.
While you’re there, you can hike, see wetlands, and visit some of the best beaches and dunes on Michigan’s Sunrise Coast. As an added bonus, it’s close to the Port Austin Farmers Market, so you can stock up on fresh, homegrown food for your stay.
If you’re looking for something a little less rustic, try booking a room at the Bella Vista Inn and Sunset Bay Resort, the only full-service resort hotel in Caseville. You can also try the Lakeview Motel just outside of Caseville, which offers close access to the beach and golf courses.
For something a little more upscale, try the Lodge at Oak Pointe Bed & Breakfast. It sits on 30 acres of water and woods and offers amenities like canopy beds, gas log fireplaces, and whirlpool tubs.
No matter your preference, you’re sure to find the right lodging in the Port Austin area.
Enjoy Your Cheeseburger in Caseville Experience
If you’re looking to squeeze a little more enjoyment out of summer, the Cheeseburger in Caseville festival is where you need to be. Not only can you have your fill of delicious food, but the only limit on the amount of fun you’ll have is your imagination.
So grab your lawn chairs, towels, sunglasses, flip-flops, and floppy hats. Then, soak up the beach vibes and atmosphere because this festival may just be the most fun you have all summer!