Beach Bards begins 23rd year


The Beach Bards Bonfire — the storytelling and poetry festival on Friday nights at The Leelanau School beach north of Glen Arbor — begins its 23rd season tonight. Children’s hour starts at 8 p.m., and the adult portion begins at 9 p.m. Bards Norm Wheeler, Anne-Marie Oomen, Bronwyn Jones and Joe VanderMeulen typically lead the performance (stories and poems are recited by-heart, and not read, according to the oral tradition). And musicians usually make an appearance around the fire.

Check out this story from our archives to learn more about the Beach Bards.

Wheeler himself contributes many traditional ballads and myths. He begins each night introducing the fundamental elements of paganism — cocking his head back and blowing the conch shell into the night-coastal air. To listeners sitting on gigantic stumps and boulders — strangely reminiscent of Stonehenge — there is a brief moment of silence afterwards. During it one must strain to hear any more than the lapping of the lake water 50 yards away.

After Wheeler’s traditional opening monologue which incorporates different languages like Old English and Chaucerian Middle English, Oomen and Jones usually take center stage. Each carries the voice of a strong and determined woman. Oomen once wrote a play about single women who survived working the fields on Northern Michigan farms.