Why Lansing Is Michigan’s Festival Capital

Why Lansing Is Michigan’s Festival Capital

If you live in or around the mid-Michigan area, you’ve heard of – and likely attended – Common Ground Music Festival that happens each year at Adado River Front Park in downtown Lansing. In fact, it just wrapped up earlier this month.

Or, maybe you’ve waited in the cold November weather, anticipating the lighting of the Michigan state tree during Silver Bells in the City.

But have you heard about the American Heritage Festival, Renegade Theatre Festival or Capital City Film Festival? Those happen here in Lansing, too!

I knew that I had heard somewhere that Lansing was known for its festivals. And lo and behold, there it was, in black and white on the Greater Lansing Convention and Visitors Bureau site, that Lansing is “Michigan’s festival capital.”

Now, I’m not sure if that’s self-proclaimed, but anecdotally, it seems to hold some weight.

According to GLCVB, the Lansing area hosts more than 50 festivals per year.

Silver Bells in the City. Photo courtesy Greater Lansing Convention and Vistors Bureau
Silver Bells in the City. Photo courtesy of Greater Lansing Convention and Vistors Bureau

Growing up in Grand Ledge and, now living in East Lansing, I’ve attended several of these festivals but never realized how many the city and its surrounding areas actually host.

Some of my personal favorites? Color Cruise and Island Festival in Grand Ledge, Taste of Downtown and Festival of the Moon and Sun.

Sure, Lansing is Michigan’s capital city, but that does not a good festival city make. There’s something more.

“I think the diversity of Greater Lansing lends itself to all the different kinds of festivals,” said Lori Lanspeary, leisure marketing manager with GLCVB. “Celebrating mint in St. Johns, the auto heritage at the Car Capital Auto Show, beer festivals featuring Michigan and Lansing-made beers and spirits.” These range from Beerfest at the Ballpark in April to Lansing Beer Fest in June, and now the indoor Art & Craft Beer Fest in January.

Harper and Midwest Kind perform at Michigan BluesFest. Photo courtesy of WKAR
Harper and Midwest Kind perform at Michigan BluesFest. Photo courtesy of WKAR

Lanspeary adds, “And who doesn’t love music? From the roots and rhythms of the Great Lakes Folk Festival, with everything from Cajun music to Klezmer to Tuvan throat singing and swing dance and music, to the Jazz Fest and BluesFest, it brings people of all cultures together to enjoy it.”

In addition to fun, the festivals can serve a greater purpose, too. Lanspeary noted that some of these events are used as fundraisers, such as the Festival of the Sun and Moon’s relationship with the Old Town Commercial Association.

There are so many varieties of festivals held locally that, in 2009, the Greater Lansing Festival Alliance was formed. It began as a way to produce a comprehensive brochure that listed each festival in the area as well as provide resources to festival organizers, said Dawn Gorman, communications and events manager of the Arts Council of Greater Lansing. Just this year, the Festival Alliance was incorporated into the Arts Council to give festival organizers who are members even more opportunities, Gorman said.

Even though summertime is winding down, that doesn’t mean festival-time is. August is chock-full of fun events hosted right here in mid Michigan. And fall and winter promise more of the same.

“All in all, Greater Lansing attracts 4.7 million visitors to the region each year generating $472 million in economic impact,” said Lanspeary, adding that GLCVB doesn’t track numbers tied directly to the festivals and events hosted in the area, rather it tracks yearly numbers.

If you’re still unsure which Lansing-area festival is right for you, there’s a quiz for that. Seriously! GLCVB put together a nifty little quiz that helps you determine which festival fits your personality.

See you there!

What are your favorite Lansing-area festivals? Let us know in the comments!