After offering a virtual version in 2020, area nonprofit Grow Benzie will be hosting its 7th annual Benzie Bayou outdoors on July 30. To accommodate safety concerns and growing popularity, this year’s event will be held at the Elberta Outdoor Amphitheater in the Waterfront Park in Elberta. Internationally renowned musicians will perform blues, jazz and zydeco music in the bandshell for the fundraiser, while food and alcohol and a live and silent auction will also help generate proceeds to benefit Grow Benzie’s community center and partner programs.
“Everyone is excited to be outside and see live music with friends and family again,” says Josh Stoltz, Grow Benzie’s executive director, “From our Bayou fundraisers’ success in years past, we felt enough community support to bring it back this summer. It’s heart-warming to hear about how many folks look forward to this as an annual tradition and reunion party, and I’m excited to take advantage of the grassy hillside overlooking Betsie Bay. It’s a beautiful venue and a perfect setting to raise money for our community center.”
This year’s performers include Luke Winslow-King, Airey B, Jazz North and the Benzie Playboys. Rising star Airey B is a blues singer from Detroit and will be playing with a backing trio at 6:30 p.m., while Luke Winslow-King will open the event at 5 p.m. with his distinctive delta blues guitar.
Attendees are encouraged to bring blankets and beach chairs for a comfortable experience on the amphitheater hillside. Space will be reserved for anyone requesting additional accessibility.
“This Benzie Bayou fundraiser is a crucial part of our funding,” says Sally Blackburn, Grow Benzie’s board director. “We waited months to make the decision because of safety concerns, but we feel our timing is right and we can host a memorable and successful fundraiser. We all felt the isolation brought by the pandemic, so more than ever folks understand the importance of Grow Benzie’s role as a community connector, and we’re happy to have such broad support from locals and summer visitors alike.”
Benzie Bayou tickets are available at Grow Benzie’s Monday Market (2–6 p.m.) and at MyNorthTickets.com for $25, or $30 on the day of the event; teenagers are $10, and kids 12 and under are free. Volunteers are needed and can sign up at GrowBenzie.org to receive free entry. Event updates will be shared on the website, Facebook and Instagram. Founded in 2008, Grow Benzie’s community center includes 20,000 square feet of facilities on its 4-acre campus and includes dozens of partner organizations providing year-round programs. Facilities and services are available for rent and more information can be found by calling 231-882-9510 or by visiting the website.
What are some highlights of the venue?
It’s one of the few outdoor and grassy amphitheater venues in Northern Michigan. Tucked between the Elberta Dunes Preserve and the shores of Lake Michigan, the Elberta Waterfront Park overlooks Betsie Bay and the picturesque skyline of the City of Frankfort.
How does your organization’s mission connect with this event?
The bottom line of our mission is to increase community connections, and in this case, it’s people to people. We created this event as an affordable way for both residents and visitors to support our community center and enjoy a night of good music and food, but after the first two years, it’s become an annual tradition for many as their time to reconnect with old friends.
Is there any other news you want to share with our audience?
Our Monday Market is back at Grow Benzie, and we’ve added a monthly Fiber Fair for fiber crafters to vend their goods alongside our other farmers/bakers/makers. Also, this is a big return of live music to the Elberta Waterfront Park as there used to be an annual Solstice Festival there for years, so folks are excited to have music back in the park.
Image Below: Luke Winslow-King, photo by Victor Alonso