Every August, something seriously special comes to Northern Michigan. Wellston, MI hosts the Hoxeyville Music Festival, a fantastic forest extravaganza featuring the hottest names in Americana and roots music, along with the freshest of local Michigan faces. Well-known artists aren’t exactly the main draw; festival goers can generally one very big headline act, with the rest of the music from cult favorites and new talent. It’s definitely a chance to see something different. The fun takes place over three days and across two stages and features something to delight everyone from roots purists to fans of funk fusion.
The laid-back and low-key vibe at Hoxeyville is aided by the fact that the capacity is limited to 3,000, which makes for a great sense of community. If you’re not camping, you’re missing out on half the fun, so load up your RV and head out to the woods.
Not only that, but the location is absolutely stunning. The festival grounds are located on beautiful, bucolic farmland, surrounded by the gorgeous Manistee National Forest. Sites at the campground generally get plenty of privacy, so you’re covered if you’d like to keep it quiet, but there’s still a sense of camaraderie.
Hoxeyville is a very family-friendly event. The playground at the campground should help keep the kids entertained (for at least twenty minutes), and there’s a special tent that runs all sorts of children’s activities throughout the festival. In terms of other things to do, the organizers like to keep it simple and focus on the music, but the outdoorsy among us will be glad to know that Hoxeyville is close by to some of the best hiking trails in the entire state, as well as some fabulous fishing spots. Put this one on your summer festival list, and you won’t regret it.
Tickets for Hoxeyville usually go on sale in October of the previous year. You can purchase a special pass to guarantee early entry to the festival until around January, letting you get your site set up well before the fun begins. Whether you’re planning to arrive early or not, the sooner you book your tickets, the better; you can get up to a $50 discount for early bookings, and the opportunity ends in or around April.
Generally, the price for an adult three-day pass is around $170, with kid’s tickets going for around $60. If you’ve got the time to volunteer with the festival (i.e., work two four hour shifts on stewarding or another detail), you can grab a wristband for about $90. The cost of tent camping is included in the ticket price, and also snags you space for one vehicle at the campground. RV passes are separate and can cost around $100. For more information on tickets, go to the Hoxeyville website.
The festival grounds are in a fairly remote location in Northern Michigan, about 90 minutes from Grand Rapids, four hours from Chicago, two and a half hours from Lansing and around three hours from Detroit. For most of the way, the highway system is pretty good, but once you get to the Wellston area you’re going to need to contend with some narrow, poorly signed roads through the forest. To add to the confusion, the venue is called Hoxeyville Festival Grounds, but it’s actually located in Wellston, not the neighboring town of Hoxeyville. The organizers recommend that you follow the directions on the website, as GPS in the area can be a little hit and miss.
The parking lot at Hoxeyville is right inside the festival grounds, so a trip to your car during the day is doable. The festival staff or volunteers are on hand to direct you from the entrance. However, space is at a premium, so it’s best to get there early if you will need to use the car lot. There are a limited number of ADA spaces, so it’s recommended that you contact festival organizers before you go to ensure you get a spot that suits your needs.
This stunning scenery has a trade-off, and due to the remote nature of the event, public transportation is not available to Hoxeyville. With few large towns in the area, the festival hasn’t run any shuttle buses in recent years. Hoxeyville does encourage carpooling, and festival-goers sometimes band together to hire private buses.
There’s no denying that the campground at Hoxeyville is beautiful if a little no-frills. You and your festival buddies will be surrounded by woodland and open fields, and if you’d like to take advantage of the shade that space offers, you’d want to get there early. Around a third of the campground is wooded, but RV spots are relegated to the edges of the field and just by the venue. Shade is at a premium. You won’t find any showers or RV hookups, but there is running water and flushable toilets.
The area around Wellston is something of a haven for those who like to wander off to the wilderness, so you’ll find a plethora of camping options nearby. You’ll find some lovely National Forest Service campgrounds within two miles, most of them close by to trout streams and hiking trails. Additional nearby campgrounds may also be noted on the event website. If you’re looking for a little more luxury, you’ll find a couple of full-service RV parks with hookups, laundry, and shower facilities within a 20-minute drive.
Golf carts and ATVs are banned at Hoxeyville, and while the festival doesn’t have an official policy on bicycles, you probably won’t get away with bringing one. Fortunately, it’s a short walk from both the campground and the parking lot to the action, and stages and vendors are pretty close together. In terms of accessibility, the ground is pretty flat and there are ADA accessible restrooms available, but not everywhere is served by walkways and it can get a little muddy.
Worried About the Weather isn’t just an excellent bluegrass band, it’s the kind of attitude you should have to the meteorological roulette wheel that spins in August in Northern Michigan. Pack clothes for rain and shine, a good, light waterproof jacket, a broad-brimmed hat and sunglasses, and breathable, cotton clothes for the humidity. You’ll also want to bring sturdy, waterproof shoes, moisture-wicking socks, and something to wrap up in at night.
Full-sized lawn chairs aren’t allowed at Hoxeyville, but you are allowed to bring a low-backed one if you’d like to get comfy. Otherwise, a tarp or blanket is a good bet. You might also want to bring a shade structure of some sort for your campsite if you’re planning on hanging out during the day (they’re banned in concert areas).
Prepare for the sunshine in this outdoor location. Bring plenty of sunscreen, and apply it liberally and often. You’ll also be near woodlands and close by to several bodies of water, so pack some bug spray if you don’t fancy spending the weekend scratching. Although there are medical tents at Hoxeyville, it never hurts to have your own kit for minor cuts and scrapes.
Open flames are banned at Hoxeyville, but you can cook to your heart’s content if you bring a propane stove. Bear in mind that fire regulations can change with the weather, though. On the topic of bears, a small population of black bears has made their home in this part of the forest, so lock your food up tight in containers that will encourage the giant beasts to find their food elsewhere.
If you’re looking for authentic, home-cooked food, then Wellston provides in spades, but if you’re on the hunt for variety, you’re out of luck. There are a handful of diners and some pretty good places for bar food, but you may find it difficult to get your hands on something gluten-free or vegan.
The food at Hoxeyville is simple and delicious, and the festival prides itself on sourcing from the best local restaurants and farms. However, due to the small size of the festival, offerings can be a little limited. Expect some truly stellar quality but in a bit of a quaint farmers market style.
Hoxeyville is patrolled by private security, and there’s generally a police presence as well. Guests can also expect to have stuff searched upon entry. The festival has a relatively lax policy when it comes to things like outside food and drink, but you can bet that any glass containers or kegs will be confiscated. Smoking is banned at both stages and in the vending area.
When it comes to summer weather in this part of the country, it’s best to prepare for every eventuality from scorching sun to torrential downpours. Whatever else, you’re almost guaranteed some humidity, so wear breathable clothes and be sure to keep hydrated. At Hoxeyville, the bands play on come rain or shine. As always, leave if you feel unsafe or inquire with staff at that time.
Paramedics and EMTs staff the first aid tent at Hoxeyville, and you’ll find a general practitioner and pharmacy in Wellston, less than a 20-minute drive from the festival grounds. The nearest emergency rooms are located around 20 miles away in either Manistee or Cadillac.