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.
Note: Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, some tours, events, and businesses may be affected. Please check with the business, event website, or tour provider first.
Caseville – Michigan Thumb’s Festival Town
Drive your motorcycle over the Blue Water Bridge, then head north into the vast network of two-lane roads within the Thumb. The harbor town of Caseville has been the draw for motorcycle runs since the 1960s. With its marinas, sandy beach, and charming, walkable town, it’s natural that Caseville focuses on offering a festival for every season
During the day the event is family friendly. During the night it’s powered with music and exotic cocktails.
Caseville Events This Summer
Caseville Country Ribstock – The summer season starts with Ribstock. It is true that officially summer starts on June 21st. However, the town of Caseville welcomes the start of the beginning of the summer with an enormous rib cook-off. The entire town takes on a haze with a wonderful smell of hickory smoke and BBQ. In 2018 over 20,000 ribs were sold. The event kicks off on Friday, June 25th, at Caseville County Park. Live entertainment begins at 7 pm. Featured acts are Shiatown, Billy Gunther and the Midwest Riders, and David Shelby and Dani Vitany. The RibStock BBQ Cook-Off winner is going to be announced between the music sets.
Cheeseburger in Caseville – This ten-day August festival is a celebration of the Parrot Head culture and a Key North attitude. The fest starts this year on August 13th. The festival takes over the whole town. It is highlighted by the mid-week, Parade of Tropical Fools that pulls 10’s of thousands into town.
The Cheeseburger in Caseville Festival offers ten days of music, art booths, cheeseburger eating and signals the end of the summer season. Dedicated to the thought of Jimmy Buffett’s favorite fixings on a hamburger, it’s commonplace to spot Parrot head’s sporting hats of colorful full feathered regalia running down the block, hitting every watering-place in town.
During the day, the event is family-friendly. However, during the night, a younger crowd tends to give it energy powered by tropical music and exotic cocktails.
Pumpkin Fest – What a better way to prepare for a colorful autumn and Halloween than a fall festival. The two-day event is exceptionally family-oriented, with a scarecrow-making contest, face painting, pumpkin carving, and hayrides. The highlight is the evening lighted parade.
Christmas in Caseville – December’s chill is warmed up with a weekend of Santa, Free Movies, Tree Lighting, and Caroling. Bring donations of canned food, paper products, hats, mittens & scarfs. Support Community Christmas Fund & Helping Hands Food Pantry.
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 broomball 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. In June, the season kicks off with the Thumb Artists Studio Tour of the 25 miles of M25 Along the Lake Huron Shoreline between Port Austin to Caseville. Artists have open studios for the weekend. It’s a great way to see the beautiful lakeshore while stopping at artists’ workshops 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.
2021 Port Austin Events
Port Austin Porch Fest – June 26th, 2021 – Porchfests are annual music events held across the United States and Canada on front porches. It started in Ithaca, New York, in 2007. Port Austin will open its front porches to musicians and music-lovers alike for an afternoon full of free live music and dancing. Since 2016, visitors meandered from porch to porch to listen to various free musical performances, ranging from soloists to big bands. This summer, 35 musical acts will fill the afternoon with music.
Art in the Park – September – Held in Port Austin’s community park You will find 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, and wearable art. This Michigan Thumb attraction for Art in the Park takes place on Labor Day weekend.
Winter Carnival – held in February – The Port Austin Winter Carnival returned in 2021 after an 11-year hiatus. The events include a colossal broomball tournament, an Ice Shuffleboard contest at Gallop Park, and a Polar Bear Dip in the ice-cold waters of Lake Huron. The village’s new ice arena is the central spot for hosting several events
Bad Axe – Hometown Charm
Bad Axe is a two-hour drive north of Detroit and located at the center of Huron County. A brief drive from the shoreline of either Lake Huron or Saginaw Bay. You can tour a Pioneer cabin Village settlement of historic buildings with a cabin home, a blacksmith shop, chapel, country store, barn, and a one-room schoolhouse. This is often open Sundays during the summer.
The number one event for the county is the Huron Community Fair from August 1st through the 7th of this year. With 4H and Future Farmers of America exhibits. Daily highlights include a Rodeo, Horse Show, Demolition Derby, Lumberjack show, Miracle of Life, Concerts, and Horse Pull. A colorful carnival midway is a draw with kid rides and games.
Pigeon – Summerfest and Chicken Wing Fling Festival
In 2013 community leaders wanted to spruce up the annual Farmers Festival, an occasion that had been ongoing for over 40 years. Thus the Pigeon Summerfest and Wing Fling were born. The event may be an excellent experience for anyone trying to find a small-town feel with big city fun. It all starts with the Wing Fling Taste Testing in April, then to the festival itself on July 15-18. Inflatables for the youngsters, live music for families, crafter’s for the crafty, food for the hungry, and an auto show for everyone! It’s an excellent time loaded with events just like the Wing Fling Eating Championship, downtown parade, a hot-rod burnout competition, and far more.
Sebewaing – Michigan Sugar Festival
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 June 19-20 2021. 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 – The Famous Fish Sandwich Festival
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 came 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 makes thoughts of having a “short one” before hitting the craft booths not uncommon.
Bay Port Fish Sandwich Festival events start the first weekend in August 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 at 10:30 a.m
Harbor Beach Maritime Festival
Harbor Beach Truck Show – June 12th, 2021 – The Harbor Beach Truck Show is an annual event held on downtown streets. All types of trucks are welcome. Line up begins at 10 am and the show begins at 11 am. Bands, food, beverages, face painting, inflatables for the kids. Lighted Truck Parade at dusk.
Harbor Beach Maritime Festival – July – This midsummer Michigan Thumb attraction is a weekend music festival that 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 attracts some of the best performers such as Grammy winner Billy Strings who performed at the fest as his career started to take off.
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.
Kinde Polka Festival
Each year, the area’s heritage rises with the Kinde Polka Fest that is held each September. Polka groups from all over Michigan and the Midwest converge on the village for the entire weekend of music and fun. A 5k run is held on Saturday, with a Breakfast held on Sunday. Proceeds from the event go toward scholarships for local students, school projects, and the Future Farmers of America.