With over 120 acts descending on downtown Winona for a weekend of music and friendship, this year's Mid West Music Fest (MWMF) will be the biggest ever. This year also marks the five-year anniversary of the festival's grassroots beginnings, and MWMF is hosting a big birthday bash to celebrate on Wednesday, April 23.
The Thursday, April 24, through Saturday, April 26, festival spans ten venues and and more genres — from kids' music to hardcore punk, a capella to electronic music.
"There is definitely something for everybody," said MWMF Managing Director Parker Forsell. "Building community through music" is the festival's mission, said MWMF Artistic Director and founder Sam Brown, and in five years it's created some buzz. Thanks to MWMF, Boats and Bluegrass, various local venues' regular shows, and the sponsors that make the festival possible, Winona "has become known as one of the main music destinations in Minnesota" for artists and listeners alike, said Forsell. Part of the festival's goal is to boost cultural tourism in Winona, by drawing crowds of visitors and residents to walk from venue to venue among the historic buildings of downtown, Forsell said.
The headliners for the festival proper are considerable, but the Wednesday birthday party is the "most stacked night" of the festival, Brown said. Ed's No Name Bar has already sold out for a performance by soul artist Nicholas David, who took a podium spot on the TV singing show "The Voice" under the stage name "The Feelin'." But, just across the street, the poetic rapper Dessa of the Minneapolis hip-hop collective Doomtree will headline at Broken World Records.
After the Wednesday night "pre-party," simultaneously quirky and edgy, rapid-fire Minneapolis rapper Lizzo, who is fresh off a European tour, will headline a show Thursday night at Levee Park. "Lizzo is the hottest thing in Minneapolis right now," so booking her was a challenge, said Forsell. The hilariously dorky and infectiously fun Koo Koo Kanga Roo will warm up the Levee stage for Lizzo with lyrics about dinosaurs and the alphabet set to thumping pop beats for kids of all ages. Later that night, electronic multi-instrumentalist and rhythmic magician Dosh will perform at Broken World Records.
On Friday, a trio of female-led acts — the folk artist turned R&B vocalist Caroline Smith, the quirky, hip stylings of Bad Bad Hats, and local latin-jazz combo Bomba de Luz — will perform back-to-back at the Masonic Temple theater. "That whole night will be a really strong night," commented Forsell. Grant Hart of the acclaimed Minneapolis punk group Hüsker Dü will perform following a documentary on his career at the Winona Arts Center Friday afternoon.
On Saturday, funk, soul, and dance rock will rule at Levee Park with Night Phoenix and the People Brother Band; folks, roots, and jazz groups Weathered Heads, Manfort, and Corpse Reviver will play at the Eagles Club; and acoustic is the theme for performances by Cliff Eberhardt, Bob Bovee and Pop Wagner, and Jack Klatt at the Masonic Temple.
There are also clogging lessons and a barn dance on Thursday evening at the Winona Senior Friendship Center, two films at the Winona Arts Center Friday afternoon, and workshops for music-industry upstarts Saturday afternoon at the Acoustic Cafe and Ed's No Name Bar.
Tickets and festival information, including a full lineup and listeners' guide, are available now at Some Sum Studios, 168 East Third Street, during business hours (Monday, Wednesday, Friday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Tuesday, Thursday 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.) or online at www.midwestmusicfest.org.
Earth Day event April 26
Winona Park and Recreation's annual Earth Day Event is also Saturday, April 26. At 11:30 a.m. the costumed kids' band Zinghoppers will kick off a full day of music at Levee Park. The free event will feature familiar aspects like the "Chalk On" sidewalk art contest, bicycle valets and free bicycle tune-ups, and a variety of vendors and exhibitions.
Two bus routes that will shuttle participants from Levee Park to programs all over Winona are the highlight of this year's event, said Park and Recreation Program Director Julie Fassbender. The "Connecting to Nature" route will feature stops at Lake Lodge for fishing and boating activities, a climb up the Garvin Heights trail with yoga at the summit and a guided nature hike on the way up, and introductions to the Holzinger trail system, Leave No Trace ethics, and a "Living with Rattlesnakes" program by Whitewater State Park rangers.
The "Connecting to Action" bus route will shuttle participants to stops at the Winona Library where City Council members Pam Eyden and Michelle Alexander will lead a workshop on how to write persuasive letters to elected officials, at the Minnesota Marine Art Musuem for a community art project, at Chris Meyer and Paul Schollmeier's super energy efficient home with renewable energy units.
Buses will leave from Levee Park and each stop on the routes every 15 to 25 minutes from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Participants can complete the routes at their own pace.
There will also be a walking route of local businesses that sell used or repurposes goods.