Day 206: Mittenfest

Mittenfest - The Awesome Mitten

In what has surprised even its organizers, a tiny gathering of friends has now blossomed into a full-fledged music festival and a major fundraiser for the group Mittenfest sponsors, 826michigan.

A few years, founder Brandon Zwagerman asked a group of friends, musicians from the southeast Michigan area, if they were interested in playing together over the end-of-year holiday season at the Corner Brewery in Ypsilanti, MI. Given Brandon’s history of throwing events and putting on a good show, they all said yes — and to boot, agreed to do so for free so that perhaps a few dollars could be raised for a local charity.

That charity ended up being 826michigan, a non-profit which is part of a network of non-profits originally started by renowned author Dave Eggers (“A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius”, the screenplay to “Where The Wild Things Are”) in the San Francisco area. 826michigan’s mission, roughly, is to provide a space where it is fun for kids (and parents, volunteers, and community members too!), age 6-18 to learn how to write creatively and to get sometimes much needed help with their school work.

And so, a partnership and music festival featuring the best musical talent (in our opinion) that Michigan has to offer, was born. Six years later, Mittenfest has grown to a full-fledged multi-day music festival featuring nationally touring acts such as The Hounds Below, StepdadChris Bathgate, and The Juliets, Starling Electric, as well as a cadre of bands from across the far reaches of the state. Last year’s festival raised just over $15,000.00 for 826michigan, and to date, Mittenfest has helped pass along over $35,000.00, with the help of a hefty dose of fun, an enduringly wonderful and committed audience, an overwhelming number of bands willing to donate their time to such a great cause, and a hefty helping of sponsors that allow us to do what we do.

This year’s incarnation, Mittenfest VI, features 60 bands over 5 days, starting on December 28th, 2011 and ending on January 1st, 2012 at Woodruff’s in Ypsilanti, MI. Last year’s event, just as before, reached capacity every night. Tickets are $10/day at the door, or a very limited number of 5-Day passes that get you to the front of the line are available at

“The same love for the music scene, and gathering of the friends we know and love is still alive and well in the event, and we’re happy to be able to include 60 of the over 200 bands that applied to donate their time to this year’s festival”, said co-organizer Jeremy Peters. “Even though the event has grown a bit since the first year, it still gives off the same warm feeling of community, especially when you stop and consider the immense outpouring from the community it takes to make something like this happen — from bands willing to drive across the state to play for free, to fans willing to stay all day to catch a band they’ve always wanted to see, to raising a huge amount of much needed funds for 826 — this thing wouldn’t happen without everyone’s contributions, and it shows in how great of a time everyone who attends says they have – and we believe ‘em.”

So, if you’re looking for something to do this weekend and are a fan of the music of the Mitten state, we suggest you hop in the car and make the short drive to Ypsilanti to check out Mittenfest VI. You won’t regret it. You’ll have a great time, and help kids to become the creative individuals they know they can be in the process. Double bonus! ~Jeremy Peters (Originally published on

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