TRAVERSE CITY — Usually, April is the time when Michigan music lovers start looking ahead with eagerness to the upcoming music festival season.
But amid an unprecedented health crisis, late spring and early summer outdoor festivals are falling victim to COVID-19.
With continuing concerns about social-distancing and large gatherings that might spread the disease, almost the entire slate of music events taking place in May has been canceled or rescheduled to the fall or to 2021. With Michigan recording more than 23,000 coronavirus cases by late last week, even bigger June festivals started to fall like dominoes:
- The third annual Camp Greensky Music Festival slated for June 4-6 in the Manistee National Forest near Wellston won’t take place this year, but will return in early June 2021, organizers have announced.
- Christian music’s Big Ticket Festival slated for June 25-27 in Gaylord will now be postponed to Labor Day weekend, Sept. 4-6.
- The Cedar Polka Fest scheduled for June 18-21 in Cedar will now take place Sept. 17-20.
- The Spirit of the Woods Music Association has canceled its 43rd Spirit of the Woods Folk Festival, which had been scheduled to take place in Brethren on June 20.
- Grand Rapids’ Festival of the Arts – the country’s largest, volunteer-run festival with hundreds of performances by regional acts in early June – has been canceled for 2020.
- Detroit’s Movement Music Festival, an electronic music event, has been moved from May 23-25 to Sept. 11-13.
The state’s largest music festival, Electric Forest in Rothbury, also is in doubt.
The popular festival, which draws more than 40,000 people and was celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, already had sold out all its passes for the June 25-28 event on the Double JJ Resort.
Due to a variety of concerns — including the start of the school year — the Rothbury Village Council rejected a request by festival organizers to postpone the festival to the second weekend in September. As a result, organizers said they’re “exploring all our options,” including alternative dates.
Headliners for the 10th anniversary event include The String Cheese Incident, Bassnectar, Flume, Major Lazer, Big Gigantic, Louis the Child, Diplo and The Disco Biscuits.
The postponements and cancellations have disappointed many festivalgoers, though there’s been acknowledgment online that the unprecedented actions are necessary to protect public safety. Others expressed worry about refunds for tickets they’ve already purchased.
Organizers of Camp Greensky said the “trying times” forced them to reschedule the early June event to 2021, noting all tickets would be honored for next year’s festival.
This year’s festival was to feature Billy Strings, Lettuce, The Infamous Stringdusters and John Medeski’s Mad Skillet, along with sets by festival host Greensky Bluegrass and many regional artists.
“We appreciate your patience and understanding as we navigate these uncharted waters together,” noted the festival’s official statement.
“You, the fans and ticket holders, create Camp Greensky. Your commitment sustains this event. We ask that you keep your support with Camp Greensky as we work to create an even more magical experience in 2021.”
As one disappointed fan put it on Facebook: “So very sad, but totally understand. My God, I can’t wait for this year to be over.”
Nationally, the cancellation of major music festivals and tours is costing the industry billions of dollars. The industry publication Pollstar estimated the live music industry would lose nearly $9 billion in revenue if the rest of 2020 remained “dark” or about $5 billion in lost ticket sales if touring returned by late August.