For more than a decade, Hayward’s annual Musky Festival has been one of the strings that have kept me tied to Hayward even long after I first moved away.
My very first Musky Fest experience happened when I was 22 (that sounds weird, doesn’t it? Sounds like I’m telling a story about something waaaay more personal than a street dance), and it was sort of accidental. I had been in town for little under a year and was working my second and final season at Eagle Wing’s on Main Street, which back then was owned by a man named Habib and run by a man named Mauricio, two men I still consider mentors and beloved friends of mine. Working on Main Street had given me a chance to build friendships with some of the other shop owners, and on that sunny Friday evening of Musky Fest, a couple of them invited me to join them at the Beer Garden. I had no original intention of partaking in Musky Fest activities, and I wasn’t going to stay for more than a beer – for being only 22, I was surprisingly responsible/lame when it came to getting home and turning in early so I could get up in time for work – but before I knew it, the street was packed, the cover band was playing, I was doing the Salsa with my friend Eric (Latin-inspired music was big that summer), and it waaaay past my bedtime.
The next day, I called my friends from Minneapolis, told them to come up to Hayward for the night, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Since then, Musky Fest has been an annual Girls Summer Weekend (except, of course, for when my friend Dave came up for it – he is not a girl. He is, in fact, a man) for my friends and I. We’ve only missed two years of attendance since 2001, and that’s only been because of huge things like a best friend’s wedding and a boyfriend’s birthday happening on the same Saturday (both of whom really should have had the good manners not to be born or get married on that sacred third weekend of June). It’s been the highlight of our summers, as well as our lives: We’ve met loves of our lives there. We’ve had run-ins with famous people (okay, Sean and Rachel from Real World, who are really not that famous around here because everyone knows them, and then Don from Real Housewives of Orange County, but that one counts more because he kept deliberately bumping into me until I finally turned around to tell him off, and then he followed me across the street dance when I ran to my best friend Katy to tell her who I just met, and then he made me and my friends play pranks on people in Angler’s for the rest of the night. So really, it was more like being taunted, chased, and harassed by a semi-famous person). We’ve had to make a game of dodging exes – for a couple of years, walking through the crowd at the street dance was like playing a game of Dodgeball…which ex-boyfriend do I want to avoid the most, because there’s three of them straight up ahead and no clear path around any of them! We drank and danced and laughed and made Musky Fest our own.
As we’ve all grown older, our experience of Musky Fest has changed and morphed and become something new. It’s no longer a weekend of crazy drinking and guy-scoping (which really, we did every weekend…but doing it up north apparently made it all seem more novel and adventurous)…now it’s a precious chance to bond during what is now a rare thing: A whole weekend together with close friends, free from the demands of relationships, kids, or work.
This year, we have a relatively new crew coming up for the weekend: My best friend and trusty Musky Fest partner-in-crime Katy will still be in attendance, and this will be her last Musky Fest as a single woman (she’s getting married in September!). But we’ve also invited a couple of new girls – Sonia, who was here for Birkie, and Jess, who’s been to Hayward once before and made it her own by purchasing a mystical wolf t-shirt and schooling fools on the dance floor of Trails End Resort.
The most important thing about Musky Fest, though, is that no matter where I am or how busy I might be, Musky Fest is the one weekend in the summer when I know I’m going to be in Hayward, seeing friends new and old. And that’s kind of what I think the Festival is for most of us – it’s a chance to reconnect with our community, celebrate summer, and make new memories.
Some of which may be in the form of incriminating photos.
Musky Fest kicks off TOMORROW with a day packed full of events, which you can catch up on here! The one thing I’m not super psyched about is that both bands playing the street dance on Friday and Saturday nights are rumored to be heavy on the country music side (c’mon, planning committee…not everyone in the Northwoods loves country). But there’s also tons going on that’s not strictly relegated to Main Street, and we’ll be updating you on those happenings from our Facebook page as we learn about them! And both Meg and I will be out and about all weekend, so if you see us, come say hi!
Now it’s your turn: What’s the thing you’re most looking forward to this weekend? Any stellar recommendations for newbies or out-of-towners? Spill it in the comments!