CommunityYPSILANTI: Mittenfest a ‘good fit’ for 826 Michigan

YPSILANTI: Mittenfest a ‘good fit’ for 826 Michigan

Ypsilanti Courier

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

By Leslie McGraw
Twitter: @LesGo4It

Painters, musicians, singers, and writers were showcased on Sunday, Dec. 29 at Woodruff’s in Ypsilanti’s historic depot town for the eighth annual MittenFest to raise money for programs at 826 Michigan.

Brandon Zwagerman, co-organizer of Mittenfest, comes from New York each year to help.

 “I’m originally from Michigan so I come back each year for the holidays to visit family and friends and listen to 5 days of great bands, “

he said.

During the live band performances, two live painters, from Community Rebirth, created a piece to sell in the silent auction for Mittenfest. Lavinia Hanachuic, originally from Romania, majored in sculptures and ceramics in college. Her painting depicted a woman underneath a tree with a crow.

“There is an old Spanish saying,” she said, “if you raise crows, they will pick out your eyes.”

Mittenfest has become a local year-end tradition and continues to grow.

“We started Mittenfest eight years ago at the Cornery Brewery on one night from 5-7; it has grown to a multi-day event and Woodruff’s has been the host for the last four years,” said Amanda Uhle, Executive Director at 826 Michigan.

All 40 bands donated their time to benefit the programs at 826 Michigan. 

“The event is a nice fit; there are many different volunteers come together,” Uhle said,

Uhle, who was already a fan of several of the bands, thought it would be a natural fit for the activities it would benefit at 826 Michigan. Frontier Ruckus, who were the headliners for the New Year’s Eve night at Mittenfest is one she has listened to for years.

“Frontier Ruckus has performed every year at Mittenfest and is one of my favorite bands,” she said.

Uhle has become a fan of new  bands through Mittenfest. The Campanelli’s, a band who performed on Sunday, also played at Spinfest (which also benefits 826 Michigan) in Detroit during the summer.

“This is our first time in Ypsilanti,” said the band’s singer, Joel Gilbert. The name Campanelli’s comes from the name Tessa Campanelli, a character in Degrassi Junior High and, later, Degrassi High. The Canadian series was aired originally in the late 1980s and early 1990s and  was seen as realistic by many Canadian and American teens by design, as actors were not chosen by their ability to act, but their ability to appear as real teens. The blonde-hair Tessa, portrayed by Kirsten Bourne, had several relationships during the show and was one of the three characters on the show that had an abortion during its five seasons.

The Campanelli’s band members, who have all known each other for at least 15 years, are all still fans of the fictional character and even have a song named “Tessa”.

“Music is about creativity, self expression” said Amy Wilson, Communications Coordinator at 826 Michigan.

826 Michigan is a non-profit writing center that matches up volunteers with children in Washtenaw County through free workshops, tutoring, and writing help in and out of area schools. Although 826 Michigan is based in Ann Arbor, a lot of the work they do is based in Ypsilanti including four nights of free tutoring at Beezy’s, three nights a week of tutoring at the Ypsilanti District Library, and on-site support at Ypsilanti schools Monday through Friday.

826 Michigan works with students from different schools each year to create a student publication. This year’s project is at the newly formed Ypsilanti Community High School with a group of 16 English Language Learners specifically looking at their insight on bridging the two school districts.

The completed project will involve an estimated 30 volunteers. “We have four to five traveling editors working intensively with the students two days a week right now,” said Wilson, “volunteers do the design, copyediting, and help with the book release party.”

Wilson displayed and shared books and information about 826 Michigan programs and students. “We can always use volunteers; just go to” said Wilson.

Written by -

Leslie discovered the power of the pen in the third grade after her family moved to a new school district. Writing became a way to sort out her new surroundings and escape to fantasy landscapes. That child, and voice, has matured into a poet, writer, blogger, journalist, online content creator and editor. Leslie is a social entrepreneur with a demonstrated commitment to community. She is an active community member in Washtenaw County (Michigan) with expertise in social media marketing and content management systems, volunteer coordination and writing and 19 years of experience in the areas of online community management, training, leadership development, and social networking. She is interested in facilitating connection with both community residents and businesses. Through this work, the economy of the community is improved and the organizations are financially successful. Her main mode of advocacy and online community, however, is through writing.

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