The 2021 Oscoda Rock Festival

Rising Like a Phoenix to Bring Original Michigan Made Music Back to the Sunrise Side of the State

Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, Local Music, Artist Feature,   From Issue 916   By: Robert E Martin

15th July, 2021     0

While Michigan has numerous Blues, Bluegrass, and Country Music Festivals populating  the state during the summer months, the annual Oscoda RockFest is one of the few truly Rock oriented musical showcases remaining that is designed to shine the spotlight on the very best Michigan-made Rock Bands that the Mitten State has to offer.

Poised to happen on Saturday, August 14th at Oscoda’s Furtaw Field, organizers hope to pick up the momentum established two years ago with their inaugural event designed to create an annual Modern Rock showcase by creating a destination event designed to attract visitors of all ages, while also introducing them to the splendor of Michigan’s Sunrise Side and Paddletown USA, with the festival located one block away from one of the most beautiful beaches in the state.

In addition to promoting and supporting Oscoda Township, organizers will also once again be supporting the Veterans Memorial Park Park Foundation  through this fund raising event, as they continue to expand the park to honor all of our Veterans who have served our country by providing a meaningful experience to visitors, veterans, and their families.

According to event chairperson Bob Tasior, “Because we have a closed air force base up here you can imagine how many veterans we have living here, so we also decided to stage this festival as a fundraiser for the Veterans Memorial Park Foundation.  Even though the base is closed, this town still has many people who served in the military, so the Park Foundation is a big deal up here.”

Last year after six-months of preparation for their second festival, which due to the success of their inaugural event they had planned to expand into a two-date event with a national headliner, the Pandemic struck with lockdowns and quarantines quickly dousing their hopes.

So when it came to plan for reprising the 2021 festival, how did the organizing committee decide to approach this year’s festival after they were forced to shut everything down after six months of ambitious planning  for an even bigger two-day event?

“When we plan a festival like this it takes quite a bit of time,” states Oscoda Rock Fest Co-Chairman Tom Widowik. “As we started planning  for this year’s festival back in the Fall of 2020,  we didn’t know for sure if all the restrictions were going to be lifted. Consequently, we decided to go back to our roots and feature all Michigan-made bands, which proved to be successful with the first festival back in 2019.”

“We started reviewing everything and made the decision to produce a one-day festival once again and feature nine bands.  We are, however, upping our ante with more stage presence, featuring three sets of three bands with 45-minute breaks between these three sets where we’ll feature comedy acts and different stuff in-between while we’re setting up the stage for the next three bands.”

After raising over $7,000 at their inaugural festival, the organizing team also decided to donate 100% of the monies raised at this year’s event to the Oscoda Veterans Memorial Park Foundation of Northeast Michigan. 

“The only reason we’re tasked to assemble and promote this festival is to serve as a major fundraiser vehicle for their endeavors,” explains Tom “We were able to finish the Vietnam Memorial Mural at the park here in Oscoda with the first festival; and one of those murals runs in the neighborhood of $20,000 to complete.”

“It’s quite a beautiful park and one of our top fundraising ideas this year is to complete a columbarium for homeless veterans or Vets in general who wish to be interned in the park,” explains Tom. “Once that columbarium is completed and filled we’re looking at doing a second one that will be located in the middle of the Pentagon circle inside of the murals, which feature big walls with plaques where we can intern the ashes.”

Insofar as the first festival attracted nearly 2000 people, Tom is hopeful that for the 2021 festival the turnout will be even stronger. “I think people are hungry to get out there again and get into live entertainment,” he reflects.

“We’re expecting to have at least 2,500 people attend this year’s festival, even though ticket prices went up a little bit from $10 to $15.00 per person, which isn’t bad for an all day long rock show.  We’re hoping to double what we did the first time so that we can donate a complete mural to the park or the columbarium or other projects that need to be completed.”

Michigan Made & Cream of the Crop

The band line-up for this year’s festival brings together some of the best contemporary Michigan rock bands circulating throughout the state, witnessing the return of some alumni from the inaugural festival along with a fresh crop of newcomers.

With the music beginning at 1:00 PM, this year’s musical line-up kicks off with Saginaw’s own We, the Infamous, followed by Loud Thoughts, Citrus Orange, Kougaran, Black Note Graffiti, Handsome Pete, Damned by Dawn, Here After Six, Assault the Silence, and closing combo Silverspork.

“It’s a difficult challenge configuring a line-up given that we are fortunate to have so many great Michigan-based bands out there,” reflects Tom. “We only have nine slots available and over 50 bands wanting to perform, which is one of the reasons we wanted to grow the festival into a two-day event, which is what we hope to do next year.”

In terms of newer bands appearing at this year’s festival, Tom offers his personal assessment on a few that fans should pay keen attention to, along with thoughts  about the overall line-up.

Loud Thoughts is the second band we have up and are based out of Frankenmuth,” he notes.  “They’re an excellent young group with a unique sound and we’re glad to have them on board.  The third group we’re featuring, Citrus Orange, are out of Alpena and only two years out of high school. We’ve been watching them and they’re turning out some great original music and have a remarkable amount of energy. They asked to be in our first festival and it’s a pleasure to see how much they’ve progressed.”

“Another band out of Detroit we’ve been in contact with for a couple years is Kougaran, who were up for Best Rock Band at this year’s Detroit Music Awards. They didn’t win but were finalists and have a unique sound that is reminiscent of heavier 1980s-90’s Rock.”

“Black Note Graffiti is out of the Ann Arbor area and are also quite unique. They have a new lead singer and a couple of great vocalists that harmonize so well. They did a cover version of Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit and I’ve never heard a better version of it.  It’s a pleasure listening to that band.”

“The rest of the line-up, which consists of openers We, the Infamous, Handsome Pete,

Damned by Dawn, Here After Six, Assault the Silence, and festival headliners Silverspork are all making return appearances at the festival because they are some of the best performers on the contemporary circuit.  We’re fortunate to have them and I feel we have a solid mix of newer and established acts that all bring something special to the stage.”

With over 4 acres to stretch out at Furtaw Field while kicking back to enjoy the music, there’s also plenty of other activities going on at the 2nd Annual Oscoda Rock Fest for patrons to enjoy.

“A lot of our sponsors are coming forward with merchandise and free giveaways, plus we have a healthy assortment of food vendors on-hand,” notes Tom. “We’re also going to be featuring additional acts circulating throughout the crowd to get them motivated.”

“When our board got back together we evaluated everything from the first festival and asked how we could improve it and what cold we do better; and as a result, I think we came out with a better layout,” he continues.

“We’ll have more interaction between the bands and the fans not only during the show, but on the field; plus we’ll be conducting a Cornhole Tournament that will be going on one end of the field with the proceeds going to the Vets that will last all day long, which is another activity people can participate in while the music is happening.  It all fits together.”

“This is going to be a great day in Downtown Oscoda. With our enhanced stage, beer and wine sales, and alcohol sales with Makers Mark on the field with us, along with Northern Roots Provisioning Center conducting giveaways, I expect it to be a fun day all around.”

Furtaw Field is located right in the middle of Downtown Oscoda on US-23 and will be extremely visible. Tickets can be purchased online, at various stores, or at the gate and admission is only The festival will run from 1:00 PM - Midnight. 

Veterans Memorial Park is located on the corner of Skeel Avenue and F-41, and was established on Veteran’s Day November 11, 2006.  It consists of 6 acres under continuing development. The Circle of Flags, which includes the 54 United States and territorial flags is impressive. The Visitor’s Center is open on all holiday weekends, specials events and other selected times.

The parks stated purpose is to provide a place of relaxation and reflection which recognizes and preserves the honor of those who served and sacrificed for our freedom. General information, past events, accomplishments, current activities, development plans and upcoming events may be sought by calling 989.739.8152 for further information, or by visiting the Oscoda Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Presale tickets can also be purchased online at http://oscodarockfest.org.

 

 

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