ROTHBURY — One of Michigan’s biggest, most celebrated music festivals has fallen prey to COVID-19 for the second year in a row.

Electric Forest in Rothbury, which had hoped to stage a postponed 2021 festival in August, instead announced that canceling this year’s music festival was the “only course of action.”

That cancellation follows on the heels of similar moves by other regional festivals, including northern Michigan’s Frederic Music Festival planned for June 25 in Frederic, the Buses by the Beach Bus Benefit south of Grand Haven over Memorial Day weekend and late August’s Willowsong Music Festival in Sidney.

Electric Forest’s decision came “after a tumultuous year full of challenges” that included pushing the late June festival to alternative dates in August with hopes that 40,000-plus attendees might be able to gather on the Double JJ Resort site.

“As the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have continued, it has become clear that we are not going to be able to gather in 2021 and that postponing to 2022 is our only course of action,” festival producer Madison House Presents announced on the festival’s website.

But “the safety of the Forest Family and the community that hosts us remains of utmost importance,” the statement continued.

“This must be kept front of mind, along with the meticulous planning and coordination required to coordinate and produce our time together each summer in Rothbury.”

Although a performer lineup for 2021 hadn’t officially been announced, the sold-out and postponed 2020 event initially had revealed appearances by String Cheese Incident (playing three nights), Bassnectar, Big Gigantic, Diplo, Keller Williams, Lotus, Disco Biscuits, 12th Planet, EOTO, Flume, Major Lazer, Lotus the Child, The Glitch Mob, Lindsey Stirling, Rainbow Kitten Surprise, Big Boi, Big Wild, The Black Madonna and dozens more.

Those festivalgoers holding wristbands for the event can retain their passes to attend Electric Forest in 2022, or they can submit a refund request before midnight May 10. Specific dates for the 2022 festival haven’t yet been set.

“Knowing that we will all gather in 2022 is a bright spark and a guiding light, and we will build our moment together,” the statement concluded.

Organizers of the early season Bus Benefit along Lake Michigan cited the recent rise in Michigan’s COVID cases as the reason for taking a hiatus for a second year. But they also hinted they might have gone ahead “if it had been scheduled for later in the summer,” said Brien Dews, of the Buses by the Beach organization that hosts the event.

The Frederic Music Festival cited current COVID capacity restrictions and “the health and welfare of our community” as factors in skipping the June event, but also noted there was a possibility of staging the festival later in the summer.

That’s not the case for Willowsong, which already was slated to take place in late summer over the Aug. 27-29 weekend.

“With the recent surges in cases and the current restrictions on events, we just don’t feel that we could safely hold a festival in compliance with (state and federal) guidelines,” Willowsong founder Eric Raby said. “Here’s hoping that by next year we’ll be past all of this.

“It just doesn’t seem viable to try to police masking and distancing, eating and drinking in designated areas, and all of the things that would have to be done and enforced in order to keep people safe and in compliance with the rules and guidelines.”

Email John Sinkevics at

Trending Video

Recommended for you