Walk a mile in our town

Walk a mile in our town on a perfect August afternoon.

You’ll hear music for sure. You’ll feel it too, rising from the river, from courtyards, patios and parks; easing in through your ears and touching your heart in ways you never expected.

Mile of Music, a free four-day music festival, changed the landscape here, grew venues like oak trees, and built a home for musicians and the fans who love them.

Stroll the streets during festival time and you’ll share them with singers and songwriters, mariachi members, Ghanaian drummers, people carrying banjos and singing the blues.

You might see the regal Calvin Arsenia, pushing his magic harp and trailing glitter in his wake. Or, high five the Brothers Footman when they compliment your shirt, which you purchased from their merch table the night before.

You have good odds of seeing homegrown, LA-based, inexhaustible artist Hillary Reynolds in at least one of her three iterations — solo artist, the duo Peridot and bluegrass band Slocoast.

Pop into one venue and hear gifted classical pianist BLKBOK, or whoop it up at another with the Lowdown Brass Band. Want hard rock? Check out Walden. Soulful ballads? Try Claire Kelly, JD Eicher, Paul Childers, Sarah Peacock or several other singer/songwriters.

Of the 700 live acts the festival schedules (and several other impromptu), you can find almost any variety of music coming from guitars, steel drums, keyboards, tubas, accordions and didgeridoos.

If you’re lucky enough to have made your way to Jones Park in time to see festival front man Cory Chisel perform a goosebump-raising set with some familiar faces — Jon Wheelock, Alex Drossart and Adriel Denae — you might have witnessed the whole history of the festival in one tender song.

You might wonder how festival founder and miracle worker Dave Willems produces a four-day festival that gets better each year and still manages to stay free for patrons.

By comparison, four-day tickets for Lollapalooza, which ran the same weekend as Mile of Music this year, started at $385 for general admission and $4,350 for platinum.

At the Mile, I saw more than 35 acts over four days. I could have seen them all for free but I bought a Music Maker pass for the very reasonable price of $165 because I wanted to support this festival and I didn’t have time to volunteer.

Appleton Community Music, Inc. is a 501(c)3 charity created to support the festival by covering performance fees, housing, food and wellness programs for the artists and to support the festival’s music education programs.

I could not be more grateful to Mile of Music for its festival, which I consume in great, glorious gulps every year, and for the way it has elevated the whole live music scene in the Valley.

For us and many other families, the Festival has become a summer reunion. We all loved the app, which allowed us to cram in as many of our favorite acts as we could during the four days.
One of us became a The Brothers Footman groupie. I saw them perform all three times they played this weekend.
Honestly, though, I loved almost every act I saw (and I saw a lot of them). I’d have seen the Lowdown Brass Band three times too if I could have squeezed it into my schedule.
I saw Claire Kelly twice and I can’t wait to see her again.
I was already a Hillary Reynolds groupie, but I saw her three times anyway.
Don Dilego was the first act I saw this year and he set a great tone!
That glorious old chapel is the perfect venue for the glorious Calvin Arsenia. (It’s a glorious venue for any artist and so many of them are genuinely grateful to play there. The chapel has been nurturing artists for more than 100 years, both acoustically and spiritually.)
The 513 is another beautiful venue and also perfect for Calvin. (I’m a Calvin Arsenia groupie too).
I hightailed it to Riverview Gardens Friday afternoon for this beautiful concert that featured BLKBOX, a piano virtuoso who grew up in inner city Detroit, and musicians from the Decoda Chamber Music Festival.
Here’s a really bad picture of a really great group. The End of America came to me highly recommended by my mother. She was right, they were excellent.
One of the three times I saw the Brothers Footman. This show was at the historic Fox River House.
We enjoyed Australian cowboy Nigel Wearne at the chapel. Another indication of the wide variety of talent Mile of Music features.
I saw this little peanut enjoying the Oshima Brothers and thought, once again, about how many little ones will grow up to be musicians thanks to their exposure to this festival.
Walk a mile in my town and you could bump into a tuba player carrying a shopping bag full of inspirational stickers. Maybe he’ll give you one of his stickers and you’ll hand him a You Are Beautiful sticker you happen to have on hand. These things happen regularly at the Mile.
Thank you for the Mile of Music, Appleton. We sure do love it!

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