September 7, 2016
Each year in mid-September our neighbor the North House Folk School hosts its “Unplugged” event. This is a four-day celebration (September 15–18 this year), with music, crafts, a marketplace, and demonstrations and workshops. It may sound like this is the grand finale, the epilogue, or the big goodbye. It may be for many Grand Marais visitors, but not for the staff or for East Bay Suites visitors who want to be students. For them, this event is the un-farewell.
“We are busy year-round,” said staff member Andrew Beavers. “We essentially have classes year round with the exception of December. That is when we do a lot of planning for next year.”
Like East Bay Suites, North House is not a fair-weather-only proposition. All year it continues its mission, as Andrew explains.
“Part of our mission is to create community through craft, specifically traditional crafts,” said Andrew. “People get a sense of community. They also get a sense of creation in using their hands in a way that is not connected to an electric device.”
The staff and students prove they are a vibrant community by staying together year-round. During the fall and into the winter this community is less drowned out by the crowd. The group becomes like an isolated tribe huddling together at the ends of the earth, slowly and carefully creating simple items, by hand. Sometimes they venture out to the lightly populated streets and shore, enjoying the cold beauty.
“I’ve always found the north shore is particularly the most beautiful in the winter quiet and pristine snow,” said Andrew. “It is a much calmer time in Grand Marais. So, it feels really intimate and special and you get the wood oven burning warm and bright.”
But let’s talk about Unplugged XV. This is a time to celebrate community, music, and craft. Here there are world-class artists in the realms of music and craft.
“Artisans are selling and demonstrating their wares,” said Andrew. “We have a full weekend of single day, little drop-in courses, and it is a really sweet time.”
These drop-in courses make it easy to snatch a quick sample from the North Folk curriculum. In the fall and winter, most courses are of the sign-up-in-advance variety. What kind of classes can you look forward to this year?
“In the fall season, essentially we have all sorts of courses from basketry to woodworking, sausage making, smoked meats, painting rose mauling, blacksmithing, and our daily sailing trips continue throughout September,” said Andrew.
The Unplugged Festival may be the highlight of the year but it is by no means one last party before closing for the year. It is more of a beginning than an end.