Less than a two-hour drive from Sarnia, Michigan’s Upper Thumb offers close-to-home-up-north family fun. With over 100 miles of sandy beaches, hopping port towns, and a seemingly endless choice of festivals, fairs, and events. The tip of the thumb is that the natural choice for Southwest Ontario to seek out a summer day of fun. Here is a little breakdown for every shore town and village within the Upper Thumb.
Note: thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, some travel restrictions for Canadians may be in place, events, and businesses could also be affected. Please ask the business, event website, or tour provider first.
Caseville – Michigan Thumb’s Fun Festival City
Bring your bike over the Blue Water Bridge into the vast network of two-lane roads within the Thumb. The harbor town of Caseville has been the draw for motorcycle runs since the first 1960s. With its marinas, sandy beach, and alluring walkable town, it’s natural that Caseville is that the focus for one of the most important festivals in Michigan. The Cheeseburger in Caseville offers ten days of music, art booths, cheeseburger eating and signals the top of the summer season. Dedicated to the thought of Jimmy Buffett’s favorite fixings on a hamburger, it’s commonplace to ascertain true Parrot head’s sporting hats of full regalia colors run down the block hitting every watering-place in town.
During the day the event is family-friendly. During the night it’s powered by tropical music and exotic cocktails.
Caseville Festivals Every Summer
Caseville Country Ribstock – Officially summer starts on June 21st. However, the town of Caseville welcomes them at the beginning of the summer with an enormous rib cook-off. the entire town takes on a haze and wonderful smell of hickory smoke and BBQ. In 2018 over 20,0000 ribs were sold. The event kicks off on Friday, June 25th at Caseville County Park. Live entertainment begins at 7 pm. Featured acts are Shiatown, Billy Gunther & the Midwest Riders, and David Shelby & Dani Vitany. The RibStock BBQ Cook-Off winner is going to be announced between acts.
Cheeseburger in Caseville – This 10 day August festival may be a celebration of the Parrot Head culture and of Jimmy Buffets iconic “Cheeseburger in Paradise” Starting on August 13th, the festival takes over the whole town and is highlighted by the mid-week Parade of Fools that pulls 10’s of thousands into town. We have the best hints for a day trip to the Cheeseburger in Caseville Festival.
Pumpkin Fest – What better thanks to preparing for a colorful fall and Halloween than a fall festival. The two-day event is extremely family-oriented, with a scarecrow-making contest, face painting, pumpkin carving, hayrides, and collection. The highlight is that the evening lighted parade.
Christmas in Caseville – December’s chill is warmed up with a weekend of Santa, Free Movies, Tree Lighting, and Caroling. Bring donations of canned foods, paper products, hats, mittens & scarves. Support Community Christmas Fund & Helping Hands Food Pantry.
Caseville Shanty Days – This frozen February festival is held at the Caseville county park and Caseville harbor. It features all types of events both indoors and out. Team events are the highlight like broomball and hilarity are often found within the harbor with the ice bear dip and potty trot contest.
Festival buttons will allow entrance to all or any entertainment and team events also as other activities throughout the duration of the festivals.
Port Austin – Music and Art Are the Draw on this Shore Town
At the tip of Michigan’s thumb is a growing art colony. With million-dollar views of Lake Huron and a bustling refurbished marina, the town is a port of call and an up-and-coming art community. The season kicks off in June with the Thumb Artists Studio Tour of the 25 miles of M25 Along the Lake Huron Shoreline between Port Austin to Caseville. Artists have open studios for the weekend. It’s a great way to see the beautiful lakeshore while stopping at studios along the way to view the artistic process and purchase gorgeous works of art. Information can be found at thumbstudiotour.com.
Not to be outdone, nearby Grindstone city has one of the largest public art galleries in the upper thumb. White Church Gallery is a few minutes away from Port Austin and offers the chance to view and purchase original art from local artisans.
2021 Port Austin Summer Events of Note
Port Austin Porch Fest – June 26th, 2021 – Porchfests are annual music events held across the United States and Canada on front porches. It started in Ithaca, New York, in 2007. Port Austin will open its front porches to musicians and music-lovers alike for an afternoon full of free live music and dancing. Since 2016, visitors meandered from porch to the porch to listen to various free musical performances, ranging from soloists to big bands. This summer, 35 musical acts will fill the afternoon with music.
With the entertainers performing at sites a comfortable distance from each other, social distancing need not be a problem if people use good common sense. If the mask requirement is still in effect at this time, we urge everyone to wear one or at least have one on hand.
Art in the Park – September – Original artwork for sale. Mediums include watercolor, oil, acrylic, photography, ceramics, wood creations, jewelry, decorative ironwork, rustic birdhouses, stained and fused glass, gourd art, burn sketching, mixed media, fiber art, soaps, hand-carved ice fishing decoys, wood feathers, and wearable art. This Michigan Thumb attraction for Art in the Park takes place on Labor Day weekend.
Winter Carnival – February – The Port Austin Winter Carnival returned in 2021 after an 11-year hiatus. The events include a huge broomball tournament, an Ice Shuffleboard contest at Gallop Park, and a Polar Bear Dip in the ice-cold waters of Lake Huron. The village’s new ice arena is the central spot for hosting several events.
Bad Axe is Home to the Huron Community Fair
Bad Axe is simply 108 miles north of Detroit and located within the center of Huron County. a brief drive is that the shoreline of either Lake Huron or Saginaw Bay. Historical Pioneer cabin Village may be a unique settlement of historic buildings that has a cabin home, a blacksmith shop, chapel, country store, barn, and a one-room schoolhouse. this is often open Sundays during the summer.
The #1 event for the county is that the Huron Community Fair from August 1st- August 7th, 2021. With 4H and FFA exhibits. Daily highlights include Rodeo, Horse Show, Demolition Derby, Lumberjack show, Miracle of Life, Concerts, and Horse Pull. A carnival midway with kid rides, and games.
Pigeon Michigan’s Chicken Wing Fling
In 2013 community leaders wanted to spruce up the annual Farmers Festival, an occasion that had been ongoing for over 40 years. Thus the Pigeon Summerfest and Wing Fling were born. The event may be a great experience for anyone trying to find a small-town feel with big city fun. It all starts with the Wing Fling Taste Testing in April then to the festival itself on July 15-18, 2021. Inflatables for the youngsters, live music for families, crafter’s for the crafty, food for the hungry, and an auto show for everyone! It’s an excellent time loaded with events just like the Wing Fling Eating Championship, downtown parade, a burnout competition, and far more.
Sebewaing – Michigan Sugar Festival
With the Michigan Sugar plant dominating the town’s skyline and piles of sugar beets within the Fall reaching up to 3 stories high, is it any wonder that Sebewaing is one sweet spot to carry a festival and a serious Michigan Thumb attraction.
Since 1965 the Michigan Sugar Festival has shown the area’s appreciation to the sugar industry, which has purchased sugar beet crops from farmers and processed sugar here with local employees since 1902. This year the event starts June 19-20, 2021. Featuring the Sugar Rush Color run, fishing tournament, Kids paint the town (window painting), golf tournament, collection, kiddie tractor pull, bed races, bingo, and laser tag.
Bay Port – The Famous Fish Sandwich Festival
As late summer rolls around, the times get a touch shorter. The evenings around the campfire can have a touch of chill within the air. It’s also festival season! If you’re trying to find a Michigan Thumb attraction the primary weekend in August, head to Bay Port. The Bay Port Fish Sandwich Festival is that the granddaddy of all of them. Since 1978 folks came in and lined up for a fish sandwich that “takes two hands to carry one.” At $4.00, it’s a deal. It’s a family-friendly event, but its proximity to the historic Bay Port Inn makes thoughts of getting a “short one” before hitting the craft booths not uncommon.
Bay Port Fish Sandwich Festival events start the primary weekend in August on Friday at noon with sandwiches and an outsized continuous craft show. The crowning of the festival’s king, queen, prince, and princess and fireworks on Friday evening at dusk. The festival’s parade kicks off Saturday at 10:30 a.m
Harbor Beach’s Famous Free Maritime Festival
Harbor Beach Truck Show – June 12th, 2021 – The Harbor Beach Truck Show is an annual event on downtown streets. all kinds of trucks are welcome. Line up begins at 10 am, and therefore the show begins at 11 am. Bands, food, beverages, face painting, inflatables for the youngsters. Lighted Truck Parade at dusk.
Harbor Beach Maritime Festival – July – This midsummer Michigan Thumb attraction maybe a weekend music festival considered one among the best within the region. Over 24 hours of free, live music is being played on the beach by a number of the best up-and-coming bands within the Midwest. The festival attracts a number of the simplest performers, like Grammy winner Billy Strings who performed at the fest as his career began to begin.
The festival is free. this suggests no hassles, no fences, and no bouncers. you’ve got the power to roam the whole festival grounds. absorb the views of the World’s Greatest Man-Made Harbor from the Pier. there’s no beer tent, but you’ll even enjoy a favorite beverage on festival grounds and BYOB. The fireworks display is one of the largest in Michigan.
Those wanting a real rustic festival experience can camp on the beach for a fee. The festival and beach are handicap accessible.
Kinde Polka Festival
Each year, the area’s heritage rises with the Kinde Polka Fest that is held each September. Polka groups from all over Michigan and the Midwest converge on the village for the entire weekend of music and fun. A 5k run is held on Saturday, with a Breakfast held on Sunday. Proceeds from the event go toward scholarships for local students, school projects, and the Future Farmers of America.
The Thumb is Notoriously Canadian Friendly
With close proximity to Sarnia, London, Kitchener, and Chatham-Kent it’s no wonder that 100’s of Canadians have made their cottage county in Michigan’s Upper Thumb. From London Ontario, it’s only a three-hour drive to Caseville at the tip of the Thumb. Thus it’s a perfect get-away for a weekend or a week. It’s a destination to consider in your next summer adventure.