End of an era: the Milan Bluegrass Festival comes to an end

The Milan Music Fest/Milan Bluegrass Festival in August was the last.

On Thursday, festival organizer Mark Gaynier announced the end of the popular event that drew fans from several states and performers from across the country.

While Gaynier will continue to own festival venue KC Campground, he is stepping back from producing the bluegrass event. Gaynier made the announcement on the festival’s Facebook page.

“Thank you all so much for the amazing 25e-anniversary of the Milan Music Fest. Five days of music was quite an undertaking, and we enjoyed it so much. In some ways the past 25 years have flown by and I am grateful to everyone who has been with me along the way. I have made so many friends through bluegrass music, relationships that I know will last a lifetime, and I am so honored by the support this community consistently gives me,” Gaynier wrote.

“With this personal milestone reached, I have given a lot of thought to what awaits me and Milan Music Fest. I am now into a new season of life, and after much deliberation, I have decided that this is the good time for me to retire as a festival producer. This decision was not made easily, but I feel great peace about it.

“I will definitely miss the event here at KC Campground, but hopefully my retirement will allow me to travel throughout the year and enjoy bluegrass music even more by attending festivals that I don’t. ‘ve never had the opportunity to support. I will continue to own the KC Campground and would like to invite everyone to come hang out with us whenever you are looking for a place to camp near Milan.

Bluegrass fans and artists reacted to the news with sadness and gratitude for the long duration of the festival.

The first Milan Bluegrass Festival started in 1978 and was organized for many years by Jim and Peggy Ann Wilder of Royal Oak.

Jim Wilder continued to book numbers for the festival even after Gaynier and his wife, Peggy Ann, purchased the campground in the 1990s. Jim Wilder died in 2012, but planned most of the 2013 festival before his death. Gaynier took over Wilder’s duties for the 2014 festival.

Last year was the 25th anniversary of the festival under the ownership of the Gayniers. In honor of the anniversary, the name of the festival was changed to Milan Music Fest, and the event ran for an unprecedented five days. Previous festivals lasted three and four days. The festival usually attracted up to 3,000 attendees each day.

Sharing the stage every year are bluegrass legends like Rhonda Vincent and Joe Mullins, but also many newcomers. In previous years, Gaynier spent winters traveling the country, looking for new acts. He often brought young performers to Milan, giving them exposure in the bluegrass genre.

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