Hands down, Bliss is one of the best weekends of the year and we are already looking forward to Blissfest 2013! It feels great to kick off your shoes, pop a tent, put on some sunscreen and lounge around listening to music. Blissfest is an annual music and art festival celebrating three decades in Northern Michigan. Some of Michigan's best local talent plus internationally recognized musicians play the many stages over a three day summer weekend five minutes from Lake Michigan and Cross Village. It is a challenge getting used to everyone greeting me with "Happy Bliss" instead of "Hello". "Happy Bliss" is an awkward phrase that will catch you off guard but be ready to respond with "You too" and everyone will think you've been coming the festival for years!
Check out our trip to Fishtown, in Leland MI.
Camping is now included in your ticket price so there is not a separate fee for your campsite. As always, you really want to reserve a camp site when your purchase your ticket in advance. You need to be a member to purchase tickets and camping early. You can become an annual Bliss organization member for $20, which supports music and arts in Michigan. Hardcores start lining their cars up a 4AM on the streets outside of the festival on Friday to get into camp!
You do not want to wait until Friday afternoon (or heaven forbid Saturday!) to get you campsite ironed out. Here is the official Blissfest campsite map (PDF). Each campsite is numbered on the map. The party is in the bottom right side of the map. Things calm down the further you get from the woods and the stages. The Woods camping has no official spots, its just 49ers racing to stake their claim.
2013 Ticket Prices (tickets are on sale directly from the Bliss Organization)
Weekend Adult Ticket Purchased online or at a ticket office before the festival: $116.50 (2013 price)
Weekend Adult paid at the festival gate in cash or credit card: $125 (2012 price - 2013 gate prices have not been released yet)
Daily tickets are between $15 - $55 each.
Senior citizens, teens and paying Bliss organization members get discounted rates.
Blissfest is three days long and happens only once a year. Over 5000 people attend Blissfest every year. For many Michigan, Chicago and Ohio folk music fans visiting Blissfest is a pilgrimage. Bliss starts Friday morning after the Fourth of July and ends Sunday night. Buy single day passes or one ticket for the entire weekend.
There are half a dozen camping options which all cost $30 per vehicle. Once you're in the front gate get your wrist band and parking/camping pass and drive around to find a campsite almost anywhere on the giant farm. Bliss veterans claim a handful of campsites next to friends and circle the wagons to create mini-towns for their families. There is no limit on the number of tents, sun shades or campers. Your site is about 25 feet wide and between 25 and 100 feet deep depending on where you camp. Spots next to trees and away from the bathrooms are the preferred sites.
Party goers will want to be in the Woods or Back 40 campgrounds, where there are no quiet hours and people will be playing music and staying up all night. Woods campers do not park at their campsites, they park in grass and then hike or get shuttled into the woods to find a campsite.
Volunteers make Bliss happen. I volunteered my time to design a logo for the festival and they gave me a weekend pass in return. Most people volunteer to meet new folks or to get a free festival weekend pass. You can sign up to volunteer online.
Cold tap water is readily available all over the farm. Portable bathrooms are everywhere and pumped out daily. Water faucets and soap are provided next to the bathrooms. Garbage and recycling cans are plentiful. No picnic tables or regular campsite amenities are provided and campfires are not allowed.
Camp sites are marked with little flags set about 25 feet apart along the "roads". Anything mowed is a road so you are responsible for clearing the tall grass at your site. If a campsite is empty but has a white Reserved tag on it, move on to the next site. Early birds get the worm and the smartest birds reserve their campsite months ahead of time, which is how you get the Reserved tag. If you want to camp at north Blissville, reserve a spot in May if you can't get to the farm before 6:00AM on Friday. Walk to the main stage and vendors area from South Camp in 10 mins, which is the furthest and calmest camping.
Bring a weed whacker or ten dollars to hire someone to mow your camp site, which will be in a field two feet high. You will want a table, larger cooler, small cooler, flashlight and head lamp. No camp fires are allowed. If you want to enjoy a fire, there is one in the woods at the kiva drum circle and another near the main stages and kids area. The family campground is between North and South Blissville. Showers are available, both as a paid $5 indoor showers or free outdoor solar showers. Solar showers are communal and bathing suits are recommended.
Pond Hill Farms from Harbor Springs serves up fresh, healthy burritos from morning to night. I have a weekly CSA farm share with Pond Hill where they provide me with veggies, herbs and fruit all summer long. The same food they grow and buy locally goes into their festival burritos. Grass fed pork and beef, eggs and veggies come from the family farm! Tell Scott and Marcie that Dylan sent you to get a burrito and lemonade!
Don't worry, there are plenty of not-so-healthy options including Tom Moms cookies from Harbor Springs and chocolate dipped cheesecake on a stick!
Beer and wine are only sold in the tasting tent on Friday and Saturday afternoons and you cannot take drinks out of the tent. However, bringing your own beverages is encouraged and you can drink openly anywhere at Bliss but remember to drop your cans or bottles in the recycling bins instead of the trash. The camper's motto is "Leave No Trace". Bags of ice are available for sale near the main stage and water is available for free and many filling stations throughout the farm.
Cross Village is 5 minutes away, home of the famous Legs Inn with its Polish food, Jelly Roll Blues Band and Lake Michigan views.
Musicians play on stage and take time out of their weekend teaching beginners, amateurs and experts how to play their instruments better or learn new styles. Take lessons in song writing, singing, guitar, fiddle, drums, harmonica and banjo. Workshops are informal and fun to sit in on even if you don't play any instrument. Listening to stories and tips from people who have traveled for decades and played with famous musicians we all know is really cool.
Bring your towel and shampoo down to Lake Michigan and take a bath in the famous Sturgeon Bay! It's nice to step out of the festival for an hour to lay on the rocky beach, swim in the waves and freshen up in the cool water. Take Hill Rd north to Levering or State St into Cross Village which is only a few miles away. Easy public access is right behind the large cabin that is Legs Inn restaurant.