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Porcupine Mountains Fest 2019. The Aug. 28-30 festival near Ontonagon in the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park is canceled this year.

TRAVERSE CITY — For Cheryl Sundberg and organizers of the Upper Peninsula’s Porcupine Mountains Music Festival, it came down to the “hurdle of uncertainty” caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

That’s why they decided to cancel the Aug. 28-30 festival near Ontonagon — a Michigan gathering that would have been the 16th annual celebration of music within the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park.

“The average age of our attendees and volunteers is in what would be considered the mature group,” reasoned Sundberg, festival director.

“There was great concern as to what procedures could be taken to make people feel safe enough to volunteer or attend, would we have the manpower to implement those measures, and even if we did, would people decide to stay home?”

That cancellation of a late-August music festival could raise red flags for other big Michigan celebrations in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

Although several June festivals have been canceled or postponed, as well as July’s Blissfest near Harbor Springs, the Porcupine Mountains event is the first big August festival opting to bypass 2020.

The “uncertainty” of what the future might hold in regard to the pandemic and festival-goer safety has led to almost daily announcements of cancellations, including the Frederic Music Festival planned for June 26-27 in Frederic’s Eagle Park. Other cancellations include Founders Fest in Grand Rapids, the Charlotte Bluegrass Festival and Calumet’s The Dam Jam, which all had been scheduled for June.

On the flip side, events such as July’s Beaver Island Music Festival on Beaver Island and August’s Willowsong Music Festival in Sidney are still planning to move forward at this time.

So is Farmfest, slated to take place on a farm near Johannesburg, east of Gaylord, Aug. 6-10.

“We are waiting to see how the state restrictions will be in August,” said festival director Stacy Jo Schiller.

If the full festival isn’t possible due to COVID-19 regulations, the event will likely switch over to a “much smaller” gathering focused on local food production.

“Farmfest is a working organic vegetable farm. The festival is a celebration of that,” Schiller said, noting that farming is considered an essential service.

If it becomes a restricted event, it would have “farming as the main focus and the music a reward for our work. … Our local health department will be involved to make sure protocol is (followed) with the safe standards.”

She stressed this is all “still in the development stages.”

Sundberg said concerns about possible limitations on the size of the festival — which attracts about 1,750 people a year — as well as uncertainty about when the state park might reopen played into the decision about the nonprofit Porcupine Mountains Music Festival.

She said organizers are “making every effort” to retain all of the performers lined up for 2020 for the rescheduled festival. Those who purchased tickets for this year’s festival will receive replacement tickets for 2021.

Anyone with questions about the festival or their ticket purchases, should email the festival at tickets@porkiesfestival.org or call 906-231-1589 by June 30.

Email John Sinkevics at john@localspins.com.

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