Early May is about more the Mother’s Day and shopping for plants—it’s also time for the Spring Festival in Gays Mills.
This year marks the 23nd Annual Gays Mills Folk Festival of Music and Dance, a major component of the weekend. You will want to be ready to get your May crown and dancing shoes on this weekend. But, there are other events to entertain too!
The folk festival begins each year with a Friday night square dance in the old Gays Mills Community Building at 212 Main Street.
Starting at 7 p.m. on Friday, May 8, callers Tim Jenkins and Sue Hulsether will lead dancers of all ages and experience levels though circles, squares, contras and reels to the music of the Folk Fest String Band.
The next morning, on Saturday, May 10, at 9 a.m., weigh-ins begin for the Fourth Annual Old Iron Revival Antique Tractor Pull. Pulling begins at 11 a.m.
A portion of Railroad Street, adjoining Main Street, is blocked off for this event, which marks the beginning of the pull season with 10 classes of antique tractors, four improved tractor classes, three open classes, and two farm classes. The Midwest Pulling Sled will be the Eliminator.
Wander over to the fairgrounds at 11 a.m. on Saturday and you can catch the Beginning of the Ridge and Valley Rodeo. The gate fee is $5.
Events include bull riding, barrel racing, pole bending, saddle bronc riding, bareback riding goat tying, and team roping for contestants ages 6 - 18. There’s also a chance for some mutton bustin’ for the under six crowd. A ranch rodeo will follow afterward on Saturday afternoon.
Down at the Lions Park, on the banks of the Kickapoo along Main Street, workshops for musicians, dancers, and the simply curious run from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. In addition to the workshops, there will be Maypole dancing and May crown making, Ceili dance, Morris dance, an open stage, and a fiddle bee.
At 4 p.m., you can also take in a free Laughter Yoga class. Hosts Lauren Hunt and Mike Larsen will show you how to have fun while reducing stress and pain and getting in some excellent exercise.
Daytime events at The Gays Mills Folk Fest are free.
From 5 to 7 p.m. the Kickapoo Exchange Natural Foods Co-op, located at 209 Main Street, hosts a Chili Dinner fundraiser.
The Saturday evening concert begins at 7:30 p.m. in the old Gays Mills Community Building, located at 212 Main Street. Featured this year are country singer-songwriter Whitney Mann, the Pigtown Fling string band, and the high-energy duo Switchback playing a mix of ‘American roots and Celtic soul.’
Also making a special guest appearance are the Oak Apple Morris dancers of Madison. The concert will be MC’d by the Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers.
Prices for the Folk Fest Saturday evening concert are $17/adult and $5/kids.
Wrapping up the festival, as always, are the Ocooch Mountain Rescue Pancake Breakfast and the Sunday morning Gospel Sing.
The Ocooch Mountain Rescue Pancake Breakfast is held in the EMS Building, located at 111 Royal Avenue from 7 to 11 a.m. This annual event is an important fundraiser for the local rescue squad.
The Sunday morning Gospel Sing will be held on the banks of the Kickapoo River at 11 a.m. The gospel sing is free and all are welcome.
Of course, the Ridge and Valley Rodeo resumes on Sunday at 11 a.m.
The free Museum of the Kickapoo will be open on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for those who would like to learn a little about the ecology of the river. Donations supporting the museum are always welcome.