In the region of Michigan known as The Thumb (look on a map if you don’t know what I’m talking about), lies the small village of Sebewaing. It’s where half of my family is from, and where a few of my relatives still live.
For the past 53 years, the Michigan Sugar Festival has taken place to celebrate the sugar industry and its support of local farmers who grow the sugar beets which are processed in area factories. If you’ve ever seen a bag of sugar in the grocery store with the label “Pioneer Sugar,” it’s from Sebewaing! During the third weekend in June, family members and friends who haven’t seen each other in years reunite for this special event.
The Sugar Festival holds dozens of memories for me, since I’ve been going since I was a small child. Since my grandma lives literally one block from all the action, and since Sebewaing is such a safe community, I was allowed to walk around (mostly) on my own and take in the sights — carnival rides, vendors, entertainment, the parade, fireworks, and food stands in the park. It was something I looked forward to every year and loved spending the entire weekend with my grandparents who always stocked up on frozen Nutty Bars and Fla-Vor-Ice freezer pops.
One of the festival’s traditions is the crowning of the Sugar Queen, and fun fact: a few of my family members participated in the pageant years ago. In the recent years the number of contestants has diminished, and many of them aren’t from the Sebewaing area, but it’s still fun to watch the queen, first runner-up, and second runner-up get crowned.
Throughout the years the festival has featured live bands, a beer tent, a church service in the park, baseball tournaments, helicopter rides, free freshly-spun cotton candy, a chicken BBQ, Bingo, talent shows, and more. I highly commend the individuals who have spent and are spending their valuable time to keep it going through the years as more and more people stray from small-town celebrations.
Although the Michigan Sugar Festival holds an insane amount of nostalgia for me, I really do think it’s one of the most family-friendly events in the summer. Everyone has a smile on their face as they cheer for the veterans holding the American Flag high while marching down Main Street, take a huge bite into a bratwurst blackened straight from the grill, fly high on one of the many carnival rides, or see the bright colors of the fireworks illuminate the night.
It really doesn’t get much better.
— Middle photo by Justin McKee —