People turn out for good cause, music at MusicFest in Gay

GAY – Anyone turning toward the stage at the former Gay School on Saturday could see where their money was going.

Saturday was the sixth annual Gay MusicFest, held by the Keweenaw County Historical Society. Bands played from 4-8 p.m. Saturday to benefit the restoration work at the former Gay School, which was open from 1927 to 1961.

About 300 to 400 people had come to the festival as of 7 p.m., KCHS member Dick Mintken said.

“It’s a good turnout,” he said.

The KCHS has put about $8,000 to $10,000 a year into restoring the school, Mintken said. Rooms on the ground floor have been restored to close to their original appearance. Next year, the society hopes to open one of the upstairs rooms for looms, which could be used for rug-weaving workshops. Some of the looms were originally used in factories once in the current Sherman Township buildings.

“After the mines shut down, the women used to weave rugs to make money,” Mintken said.

Musicians set up on a stage at the foot of the school. As The World’s Most Dangerous Polka Band played, the crowd watched from benches arrayed in front, lawn chairs, or a pavilion unveiled last year in the school courtyard.

Mary Beyers of Eagle Harbor, who was sitting in the pavilion, has a personal connection to the school. She would come there with her grandfather, James Daley, who was superintendent until 1941.

“He would bring me in to count out the lunch tickets for the teachers,” she said. “I learned how to read here in the school, so this is very special to me.”

People could also take in the performances while touring the school, where the ground floor is open to visitors. Bobbie Westlake of Eagle Harbor and Elaine Wildman of Gratiot Lake were inspecting a vintage loom. It was the first time at the festival for both.

“We’re very said that the Dodge Street Band is breaking up, because they’re fantastic,” Westlake said.

“Love that harmonica,” Wildman added.