by ALEXANDRA RETTER
After going virtual last year due to the pandemic, Mid West Music Fest (MWMF) will be back in person this spring.
As a hopeful sign of things to come, MWMF will be the first major in-person festival in Winona in 2021.
MWMF will take place on May 15 at Prairie Island Park’s Kiwanis Shelter, the normal home of the fall Boats and Bluegrass festival. This year marks the 12th anniversary of MWMF. There will be 14 musical acts, fewer than usual, and the concert will take place on one day rather than multiple days or weekends. Among the headliners are Nur-D, The Von Tramps and The People Brothers Band. Doug Boodle with Jonathan Blakk, Queen Drea, The Ultrasounds and The Immaculate Beings are slated to play at a second stage. The event will begin at 4 p.m., end at 10 p.m., and attendees will be required to have a ticket.
The festival will also feature a free event from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on May 15. Attendees will be required to have a ticket to ensure COVID-19 capacity rules are met. During the free event, student performers, including Winona’s Little Warrior Drumline, Milana Shira and For the Flowers will play the Community Stage at the start of the day. Katy Vernon Band, Gabriel Rodreick of Freaque and Land at Last are some of the featured artists scheduled to perform in the afternoon.
The MWMF Artisan Market and Dr. Bob’s Puppets will be part of this year’s festival, as well.
Artists are enthusiastic about MWMF happening this year, MWMF Creative Director Parker Forsell said. “For most of them, I think they’re just really excited to be playing a show that’s not looking at a screen,” he said. “Many of them have had to shift and do virtual shows.”
Artists are not alone in looking forward to the festival. MWMF organizers are excited to enjoy live music with others in person again, MWMF Managing Director Abby Lee said. “We felt the support of our community and our partners and sponsors and our donors over the last year, but it’s all been from behind a screen,” she said. She continued, “I can’t tell you the level of excitement I have about being able to be outside and listen to music again.”
MWMF organizers worked with Winona’s parks and recreation, fire and police departments over the last several months to develop a festival plan, and Winona City Council members approved plans for the festival earlier this week. The festival location shifted a few times and ultimately landed on the edge of town to address concerns about people without tickets walking up to the event when they hear the live music, Forsell said.
Forsell said it is wonderful to know the event is moving forward now that they have official city approval. “We were there this morning thinking about how things are going to be laid out,” he said of the event site. “Just to have that energy and feel like you’re doing your job again is exciting.”
Coronavirus protocols will be implemented during the festival. Attendees will have to answer COVID-19 screening questions,wear masks in common spaces, enjoy the live music in pods and only eat and drink in their pods. Organizers will require that attendees have a ticket as well.
Those interested in attending may get tickets starting Wednesday, March 24, at midwestmusicfest.org or MWMF’s Facebook page.