Thursday, July 18, 2013

Everything You Need to Know about S'Mittenfest and 826michigan!

This Saturday Ypsi's popular Mittenfest is taking over the Magic Stick for their summer edition,  S'Mittenfest! The event will feature over 20 bands for the low price of $10. The bill includes Young Punk, The Campanellis, The Hand in the Ocean, Red Pill, Jah Connery, Truman, Twine Time, Revoir, Timothy Monger State Park, The Anonymous, Pewter Cub, Santa Monica Swim and Dive Club, James Linck, Caveman Woodman, Silent Lions, In Fact, Drunken Barn Dance, Deadbeat Beat, Clear Soul Forces, The Kickstand Band and Breeze One.

But, there is so much more to S'Mittenfest than just the music. This event is actually a fundraiser benefiting 826michigan, a non-profit that offers free literacy and literary arts programs for students from 6-18 years old. The group recently expanded their service area from Ypsilanti and now offers their programs in Detroit as well. To find out more about 826michigan and S'Mittenfest, we caught up with the Executive Director of 826michigan, Amand Uhle.

Hip In Detroit- Tell us about 826michigan. What is your goal? What services do you offer?
Amanda- "We offer a huge range of services for school-aged students: creative writing workshops, afterschool tutoring, in-classroom help for teachers and publishing opportunities. Every thing we do for our 2,500+ students is totally free and is based on the ideas that writing skills are the key to future success and that even a little one-on-one attention can make a profound difference for a young person."

Hip In Detroit- You recently branched out from Ypsilanti and are now working in Detroit too! How did this come about?
Amanda- "In 2011, our board developed a strategic plan centered on expanding our work to the city of Detroit. In 2012, we were delighted when DTE Energy Foundation gave us a major grant that allowed us to launch our programs here. In February we started sending tutors to three schools in Detroit to help teachers and to provide extra one-on-one attention for students who need it most. And this summer, we're at the Franklin-Wright Settlements, Clark Park and the Campbell branch of the Detroit Public Library offering creative writing workshops to students. We're on track to be in even more schools in the fall, as long as we continue recruiting new volunteers and raising funds."

Hip In Detroit- What is Liberty Street Robot Supply & Repair? Is it really just what it sounds like?
Amanda- "It's just exactly that: a robot store. We sell everything from robot lunch boxes to rain boots and a little bit of many other toys and novelties that fit the robot theme."
(***Note, proceeds from this great store go toward 826michigan.***)

Hip In Detroit- What if someone wants to get involved with 826michigan? Do you have volunteer positions and if so, what type of people are you looking for?
Amanda- "We are in great need of Detroit-based volunteers. High school graduates who are at least 18 years old and can commit to at least 2 months are the best candidates for us. Orientation is short and sweet, and we make volunteering really flexible and accessible and do our best to match volunteers' own skills and goals to our students' needs. It often winds up that the volunteer benefits as much from this fulfilling kind of experience as the student does."

Hip In Detroit- We've all heard of Mittenfest for a while now, but I'm not sure many people realized what the cause was. How did this festival come about?
Amanda- "One of our volunteers, Brandon Zwagerman, left Ann Arbor for New York several years ago. He was planning a holiday trip home and wanted to get some old friends together and put together a show. His trip home coincided with some others' and pretty soon a legitimate homecoming of Michigan musicians was underway. Brandon is generous and thought of us, "Why not make the show a benefit for 826michigan?" That first show raised about $1,000, which started the momentum for many years of shows in Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor and many thousands of dollars raised to support our work."

Hip In Detroit- Tell us about S'Mittenfest! What can people coming to the show expect? How is it similar to and different from Mittenfest?
Amanda- "Mittenfest and S'Mittenfest are both heartfelt expressions of love for Michigan music and musicians, for Michigan culture and for our community. Even after 7 years of Mittenfests, I'm still astounded that so very many artists and volunteers contribute their time and talent to make these events happen. The events feel a little like our student-centered programs: generous and creative adults pitch in--a little or a lot--to make something outstanding and important happen. And even though there's some tremendous hard work involved, in the end, it just feels like good fun."

So this Saturday come out to the Stick for a great show that will help out a great organization. Doors open at 2 p.m. with the first band going on at 3 p.m. and the last band set to hit the stage at 1 a.m. For more info on S'Mittenfest visit the Facebook event page here. For all of the details on 826michigan, how you can help out, how you can use their services, and how you can visit them for all of your robot needs, visit


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