Great Lakes Folk Festival

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The Great Lakes Folk Festival (GLFF) is a statewide multicultural education event that serves as a major economic development asset for the City of East Lansing and the mid-Michigan region. Celebrating and educating the people of Michigan, the event produces the state's largest living museum exhibit each August. Annual attendance is estimated at about 90,000 visitors, with a highly diverse multi-generational audience; more than 45 percent of the attendees are from beyond the mid-Michigan area.

The GLFF showcases the traditional cultural treasures of the nation's Upper Midwest. It is a unique fusion of arts fair, music festival, county fair, multi-ethnic festival, hands-on activity workshop, and celebration of cultural heritage. Cross-cultural understanding of our diverse society is encouraged through presentations by musicians, dancers, cooks, storytellers, and craftspeople whose traditions are rooted in their communities. The artists come from across America and around the world. August 2011 marked the 10th annual event in East Lansing.

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Under the direction of the MSU Museum's Michigan Traditional Arts Program, a statewide partnership program with the Michigan Council r Arts and Cultural Affairs, the festival represents partnerships of civic, business, education, and arts agencies. Collaborators include: the City of East Lansing; WKAR/Radio; MATRIX—The Center for Humane Arts, Letters and Social Sciences Online; the Ten Pound Fiddle; the Smithsonian Institution's Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage; the Michigan Humanities Council; the Center for Great Lakes Culture at Michigan State University; and provincial and state folk arts programs of the Great Lakes Region.

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Primary financial support for the festival comes from the City of East Lansing, Michigan State University's Office of the Provost and University Outreach and Engagement, and the National Endowment for the Arts. In addition, nearly 100 corporations, foundations, and organizations support the festival annually, as well as "Great Friends" individual donors.

In 2004 the GLFF was selected by the Michigan Humanities Council as one of its 30 most outstanding projects over its 30-year history (1974-2004), and also received the Imagining Michigan Award for outstanding university-community partnership programming. It is now considered a cornerstone event for the university and community each year that has significant economic and educational impact for the university and the region.


  • Marsha MacDowell
  • Professor, Department of Art, Art History, and Design
  • Curator, Folk Arts
  • MSU Museum
  • (517) 355-6511


  1. Michigan Humanities Council honors MSU Museum, Kresge Art Museum projects. (2004, October 5). East Lansing: MSU University Relations. Retrieved from
  2. GLFF brochure and website

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