Michigan’s Upper Thumb offers close-to-home-up-north family fun. With over 100 miles of sandy beaches, hopping port towns and a seemingly endless choice of festivals, fairs, and events. The tip of the thumb is the natural choice for Southeast Michigan to find a summer day of fun. Here is a breakdown for each shore town and village in the Upper Thumb.
Caseville – Michigan Thumb’s Party Town
The harbor town of Caseville has been the draw for motorcycle runs since the early 1960s. With its marinas, sandy beach and inviting walkable town it’s natural that Caseville is the focal point for one of the largest festivals in Michigan. Cheeseburger in Caseville, offers ten days of music, art booths, cheeseburger eating and signals the end of the summer season. Dedicated to the idea of Jimmy Buffett’s favorite meal it’s not unusual to see true Parrot head colors run down the block.
During the day the event is family friendly. During the night it’s powered with music and exotic cocktails.
Caseville Country Ribstock – Officially summer starts with the summer solstice on June 21st. However, the folks in Caseville welcome them at the start of the summer with a huge rib cook-off. The event kicks off at Saturday at Caseville County Park. Live entertainment begins at 7 pm Friday. The RibStock Cook-Off winner will be announced between acts.
Cheeseburger in Caseville – This 10 day August festival is a celebration of the Parrot Head culture and of Jimmy Buffets iconic “Cheeseburger in Paradise” The festival takes over the entire town and is highlighted by the mid-week Parade of Fools that draws 10’s of thousands into town.
Caseville Shanty Days – This frozen February festival is held at the Caseville county park and Caseville harbor. It features all kinds of events both indoors and out. Team events are the highlight such as broom ball and hilarity can be found in the harbor with the polar bear dip and potty trot contest.
Festival buttons will allow entrance to all entertainment and team events as well as other activities
Port Austin – The New Artist Colony
At the tip of Michigan’s thumb is a growing art colony. With million dollar views of Lake Huron and a bustling refurbished marina the town is a port of call and an up and coming art community. The season kicks of June 18-19 with the Thumb Artists Studio Tour of the 25 miles of M25 Along the Lake Huron Shoreline between Port Austin to Caseville. Artist have open studios for the weekend. It’s a great way to see the beautiful lakeshore while stopping at studios along the way to view the artistic process and purchase gorgeous works of art. Information can be found at thumbstudiotour.com.
Not to be outdone, nearby Grindstone city has one of the largest public art galleries in the upper thumb. White Church Gallery is a few minutes away from Port Austin and offers the chance to view and purchase original art from local artisans.
Port Austin Events
- Porch Fest – June – Porchfests are annual music events held across the United States and in Canada on front porches. Started in Ithaca, New York in 2007, Port Austin’s first porch fest events bring local musicians and neighborhoods together to celebrate and create a sense of community
- Art in the Park – September – Original artwork for sale. Mediums include watercolor, oil, acrylic, photography, ceramics, wood creations, jewelry, decorative
ironwork, rustic birdhouses, stained and fused glass, gourd art, burn sketching, mixed media, fiber art, soaps, hand carved ice fishing decoys, wood feathers, andwearable art. This Michigan Thumb attraction takes place on Labor Day weekend.
Bad Axe – Hometown Charm
Bad Axe is just 108 miles north of Detroit and located in the center of Huron County. A short drive is the shoreline of either Lake Huron or Saginaw Bay. Historical Pioneer Log Cabin Village is a unique settlement of historic buildings that includes a log cabin home, a blacksmith shop, chapel, general store, barn, and a one room schoolhouse. This is open Sundays during the summer.
The #1 event for the county is the Huron Community Fair July 31- August 6th. With 4H and FFA exhibits. Daily highlights include Rodeo, Horse Show, Demolition Derby, Lumberjack show, Miracle of Life, Concerts, and Horse Pull. A carnival midway with kid rides, and games.
In 2013 community leaders wanted to freshen up the annual Farmers Festival, an even that had been ongoing for over 40 years. Thus the Summerfest and Wing Fling was born. The event is a great experience for anyone looking for a small town feel with big city fun. It all starts with the Wing Fling Taste Testing in April and then to the festival itself in July 21-24. Inflatables for the kids, live music for families, crafter’s for the crafty, food for the hungry and an auto show for everyone! It’s a great time loaded with events like the Wing Fling Eating Championship, downtown parade, burnout competition and much more.
Sebewaing – Sweet Tooth Delight
With the Michigan Sugar plant dominating the town’s skyline and mounds of sugar beets in the Fall reaching up to three stories high is it any wonder that Sebewaing is one sweet spot to hold a festival and a major Michigan Thumb attraction.
Since 1965 the Michigan Sugar Festival has taken place to show the area’s appreciation to the sugar industry which has purchased sugar beet crops from farmers and processed sugar here with local employees since 1902. This year the event starts in mid-June. Featuring the Sugar Rush Color run, fishing tournament, Kids paint the town (window painting), golf tournament, petting zoo, kiddie tractor pull, bed races, bingo, and laser tag.
Bay Port – Famous Fish Sandwich
As late summer rolls around the days get a bit shorter. The evenings around the campfire can have a bit of chill in the air. It’s also festival season! If you’re looking for a Michigan Thumb attraction the first weekend in August, head to Bay Port. The Bay Port Fish Sandwich Festival is the granddaddy of them all. Since 1978 folks come in and lined up for a fish sandwich that “takes two hands to hold one.” At $4.00 it’s a deal. It’s a family friendly event but its proximity to the historic Bay Port Inn make thoughts of having a “short one” prior to hitting the craft booths not uncommon.
Bay Port Fish Sandwich Festival events start on Friday at noon with sandwiches and a large continuous craft show. The crowning of the festival’s king, queen, prince and princess and fireworks on Friday evening at dusk. The festival’s parade kicks off Saturday morning at 10:30 a.m
Harbor Beach Maritime Festival
Harbor Beach Maritime Festival – July – This midsummer Michigan Thumb attraction is weekend music festival is considered one of the finest in the region. There are over 24 hours of free, live music being played on the beach by some of the finest up-and-coming bands in the Midwest. The festival is free. This means no hassles, no fences, and no bouncers. You have the ability to roam the entire festival grounds. Take in the views of the World’s Greatest Man-Made Harbor from the Pier. There is no beer tent but you can even enjoy a favorite beverage on festival grounds and BYOB. The fireworks display is one of the largest in Michigan.
Those wanting a true rustic festival experience can camp on the beach for a fee. The festival and beach are handicap accessible.