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Middle of the Mitt Festival inspires generations


First band of the night, Raggedy Ann, perform first songs of the night for crowd at Soaring Eagle

Growing up on the Isabella Indian Reservation, music was a large part of Brent Jackson's life. More recently, the music has been less prominent on the reservation, so Jackson founded Middle of the Mitt to put the glimmer back in his friends and families lives.

The festival started around the time of Jackson's 40th birthday. He and his friends decided to throw a party to commemorate coming of age and their multiple bands, it quickly grew into a concert series. 

"I had a friend with festival experience who helped come up with the designs for each year," Jackson said. "After the first two parties, or concerts, people started saying they liked what we had going, so I came up with a name for our festival and started choosing the local bands that would play."

This year was the 6th annual Middle of the Mitt Festival, which is hosted by Soaring Eagle's Casino and Resort. The headliner this year was Quiet Riot, a "rock-n-roll phenomenon" and second in show was Davey Pattison's Gamma. Other bands include local artists Raggedy Ann, Dies to Rise, and Sahara Steel, all from Saginaw, Mount Pleasant and surrounding areas.

Tickets purchased at the show put guests in a raffle, which they could win prizes. If someone wanted an extra raffle ticket, they were able to purchase another concert ticket for twenty dollars. There was even a raffle for a beginner guitar to a child 17 years old or under.

"I've played guitar for thirty years and I love playing," Jackson said. "I will always encourage others to start playing an instrument at an early age. That's why we give away the guitar to a child, this is the second year we've done that and it's just awesome to see the excitement. Even if they don't like the guitar, at least they can learn to read the music."

 All of the proceeds from the tickets were donated to Fallen and Wounded Soldiers of Michigan this year. The charity provides assistance to wounded soldiers and families of fallen soldiers from Afghanistan and Iraq. In previous years they've donated to the Isabella County Soup Kitchen and a charity for breast cancer.

Au Gres native and disabled veteran, Troy Nixon, came to Soaring Eagle with his sister, Vicki Smith, to be able to enjoy a band that they grew up with. Being a veteran, Nixon is happy to support the cause of the festival.

"I've seen a lot of concerts in my day," Nixon said. "I was over in Berlin for a few years and I've seen Joan Jett, Foreigner and the Scorpions before they spoke english. I'm excited to be able to be up close and personal while the band is performing."

The Soaring Eagle's Entertainment Hall was filled with an audience of many generations. Younger kids and teenagers sported their rock t-shirts and were head banging along with the older crowd.

"My dad loves this kind of music and he bought us tickets," said Ohio native, Melanie LaWarre, "I was really curious to see how the show will turn out. Me and my sister like alternative music and will listen to anything, but we haven't been to a show like this yet."

The show started at approximately 5 p.m. with the first band, Raggedy Ann, second was Dies To Rise, then Sahara Steel. Each of the three opening bands played about five to six songs. The crowd became increasingly larger as the show went on. 

Warren senior Mitchell Berkley has been working shows for Soaring Eagle for quiet some time and said they stay pretty relaxed and contained. Rock shows are usually the ones that people are a little more outgoing at.

At around 8 p.m. Davey Pattison's Gamma went on and played a longer set. Quiet Riot had a meet and greet with a handful of lucky fans and took photos with them before going on at 9:45 p.m.

"The whole event is really just about meeting new people and coming together to have a good time," Jackson said. "There's already enough negativity out in the world, so it's good to bring some positive energy to the stage."