The Woodtick Music Festival began in 1994 with a phone call and invitation to Bill Martin.... "come on over, we'll cook some hot dogs and watch the Packers...and bring your guitar". The word of a jam session spread rapidly and the backyard cookout grew before it even took place. The local tavern owner, Kevin Warbis, remarked “sounds like you’re havin’ a little Woodstock up there”. That same local bar owner concluded that a Yooper version of Woodstock would of course have to be “Woodtick” and the festival was born. T-shirts were ordered, the yard and garage were cleaned up and the stage was set. About 100 people showed up that first year and the Labor Day Weekend cookout/jam session in the backyard became an annual event. Labor Day because that was typically the first Packer game of the year! Each year the food and music were supplied….pig roasts, rabbit, turkeys, venison…lots of venison! The bands consisted of local musicians. The Whitens', Bill Martin, Dave Malone, Tom Wells and of course...Animal on the harmonica. The Whitens family has been there providing tunes since the beginning. Other bands, or combinations thereof, like Night Train, Baker Street, Rainbow Stew and Tea & Sympathy helped the festival live up to its name.Soon bleachers were added to the garage, more equipment, lighting, a funnel in the wall..the men’s bathroom of course! Before long the music moved out of the garage and into the backyard. A stage was added and the festival grew another notch. The restroom facilities went from the funnel in the wall to an old toilet with the bottom knocked out placed over the hole in the old ice shack. Eventually ending up with a borrowed outhouse from the local Vietnam Veterans Museum. By this time the list of bands was growing as was the crowd. It became no longer feasible to accommodate so many people, not to mention supply the food for them. In 2000, to the delight of some of the neighbors, the festival made the big move from the backyard to the park at the lake in downtown Hermansville. The festival became more organized with bands actually being scheduled and hired. Most of the bands were still local with the exception of a couple bluegrass bands from Canada that somebody met at another festival. The crowds grew tremendously at this point and the Woodtick was fast becoming an actual event. 2001 marked the first year admission was charged. Friday was free and Saturday called for a $5 optional donation.
The Woodtick eventually outgrew the local park. 2003, the 10th year of the event marked the expansion to a full blown festival. New bigger and better location, camping, 17 bands from all over the country. Three days, two stages, vendors and stuff for the kids. At that time, ticket prices were at $20 for the weekend. The festival kicked off on Friday with a variety of bands leaning toward rock & roll and blues. Saturday and Sunday featured a full lineup of Bluegrass and Country with groups from the U.P. as well as Pennsylvania, Chicago, Madison, New York, Minnesota and Ontario. Years to follow have brought acts such as the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Marshall Tucker and many more. In 2005, the festival expanded to 4 days and continues to grow each year.
Nowdays the festival features a variety of bands from the Midwest but also has become the place to showcase the tremendous amount of exceptional talent from the local area. The overall design of the festival makes it different than most other festivals but its the people who attend it that make it a great event.....and a true U.P. event.
By the way….we have lots of real outhouses now!