Sunday, 29 July 2018 22:09

Farm Fresh Music: Cowpie Music Festival brings bands to working cattle farm

Written by  Eric Mitts
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Cowpie Music Festival set to bring bands and crowds to working cattle farm

For the past 15 years, local music supporter and Shagbark Farm owner “Farmer” John Crissman has transformed his working cattle farm into a blissful weekend getaway for avid music lovers like himself.

The annual Cowpie Music Festival has drawn in thousands over the years, with past performances from artists like the legendary Junior Brown, Sunny Landrith, Carolyn Wonderland, Joe Hertler and the Rainbow Seekers, Ekoostik Hookah and Ultraviolet Hippopotamus.

Just one word of advice for anyone going for the first time: leave your fancy dancing shoes at home.

The festival has its name for a reason, and although organizers do their absolute best to clean up every cowpie in the field, this is an actual farm. So expect to get a little messy — in the best way possible.

“When you step onto the farm, you can’t help but be taken in by its natural allure,” Executive Producer Travis Compton told Revue. “Cowpie is a unique festival because we do an amazing job at cohesively connecting a family-friendly atmosphere with gripping, electric performances. We have such an eclectic mix that is not easily rivaled, featuring artists ranging from bluegrass to hip-hop. One artist may serenade you into serenity, while another will take you on a musical thrill ride.”

Headlined this year by one-man jam-band sensation Keller Williams, the three-day festival will feature more than two dozen acts, including West Michigan favorites May Erlewine, Desmond Jones, Jake Kershaw, Fauxgrass, Bigfoot Buffalo, Olivia Mainville & the Aquatic Troupe and others. Local act The Zannies will perform at the fest for the first time, following the group’s win at this year’s first-ever Pathway to the Pasture contest, where area bands competed for a slot on the farm’s famed stage.

“This year, we plan on introducing several new aspects to Cowpie,” Compton said. “For the last two years, we have involved a theme, and this year’s theme is Motown. We are asking each band to play some Motown music and we are also going to have Motown-inspired art scattered around the festival site.”

The festival also will welcome ballet to the farm for the first time ever this year. Grand Rapids’ CARE Ballet is presenting its Little Bit of Country show on Friday, while Balletmore Dance Studio will collaborate with GR alt-country duo Winnow, in addition to performing on its own on Saturday.

“We are excited because we have the honor of sharing more than just music,” Compton said. “We feel that there are many different artistic mediums that deserve praise and we feel that we can benefit artists and guests by bringing them together at Cowpie.”

A weekend-long experience complete with onsite camping and interactive workshops, Cowpie aims to enrich people’s lives through both knowledge and entertainment. From beer-making tips with the folks at One Well Brewery to a shadow puppet performance with puppeteer Patrick Elkins, or recycling awareness with the Boy and Girl Scouts of America, there’s a new experience awaiting everyone at this year’s event.

Last year, Cowpie hosted approximately 1,500 people over the course of the weekend, and this year, organizers anticipate breaking the 2,000-person mark. More than 30 food and artisan vendors also will set up shop in the pasture market this year, selling a variety of festival crafts and fast eats for the crowd.

“The large open cattle pastures are great for parking, partying and camping,” Compton said of the uniqueness of the site. “We have also continued to develop the property by building roads, adding a well, and installing permanent electricity at the main stage.”

In addition to sharing his farm with his fellow music fans, Farmer John also will auction off his famous color-changing beard during this year’s event.

“The lucky winner will get to shave it off onstage and all proceeds will benefit the Barn of Equine Learning,” Compton said.

For more on the Cowpie Music Festival, including ticket and camping information, check out

Cowpie Music Festival
Shagbark Farm
7525 Alaska Ave. SE, Caledonia
Aug. 9-11, $70-85, all ages

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