Colin & The Cougars was another act at the show. The musicians were set up along the trail loop at the park.

Colin & The Cougars was another act at the show. The musicians were set up along the trail loop at the park.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Officials celebrate ‘by far our best’ Trail Tunes

Arts Board already planning for 2023, featuring a Battle of the Bands

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison-Park News | Published October 26, 2022

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MADISON HEIGHTS — Madison Heights held its third annual Trail Tunes earlier this month, and organizers have deemed it a success, drawing large crowds similar to last year.

The strolling outdoor music festival made its debut in the fall of 2020 as a safe way to have fun during the pandemic. Last year, it was held on a Saturday in August. This year’s event was Oct. 2 — a return to the fall season, and the first time it’s been held on a Sunday.

Madison Heights City Councilman Mark Bliss co-chairs the event with fellow Arts Board member Vita Palazzolo. He said in an email he wasn’t sure if the new date would affect the turnout, but attendance ended up being about 1,000, roughly on par with last year and about double that of 2020.

“We had a great time at this year’s Trail Tunes,” Bliss said. “The weather was great, albeit a little windy, and the featured musicians were incredible. Such a cool way to experience our park with attendees of all ages, from toddlers to seniors, all enjoying the music and food trucks along the trail.

“I think operationally, it’s getting a bit more streamlined for us too. Remember, our planning committee is just a handful of volunteers, so we’re learning more and more each year of how to best put on this event. This year was by far our best, and we’ll be building on that success for next year.”

Another thing that carried over from last year was the Family Fun Zone, featuring a group of circus performers that included jugglers and stilt walkers. Also back by popular demand were festival shirts supporting the Arts Board. At press time, the shirts continued to be sold at City Hall for $20.

As always, bands were set up along the trail loop at Civic Center Park, and attendees were free to follow the path, stopping to appreciate whichever act caught their eye or ear. This was the first year that each of the featured performers had played at Trail Tunes. One band backed out at the last minute due to an illness, while local band The Aspersions made their Trail Tunes debut.

The bands that were billed to play included ABI, After Blue, Colin & The Cougars, Micah Cooper, Paul Parente Jazz Connection, Zosette & The Groove, Capital Street Basement Musicians, Charlie Chakov, Gwenyth Hayes, Leisure Machine, Scott Wrona Quartet, and Steven Phelps.

The event was also once again funded 100% by donations.

“Without our incredible sponsors, we couldn’t have this event, so I’m beyond thankful for them. I’m also thankful for many of my peers on council who not only came to the event, but made it a point to sponsor it,” Bliss said. “Every little bit helps, but more importantly, I think it shows the community that this is more than just an Arts Board event — it’s an annual city tradition now.”

He said credit is also due to the event planning committee, which in addition to Palazzolo also includes other Arts Board members such as board chairman Steve Dombroski, board vice chair Michael Covert, and board member Jason Theodoroff.

“With hundreds of hours of hard work invested to make this event happen, together we’ve turned our collective passion for live music into one of the most unique annual festivities in Michigan,” Bliss said. “Trail Tunes is one of the few events that were actually created here during the pandemic. While everything else was shutting down, this event brought a bit of hope, energy and connectedness to our community.

“I’ll never forget the call where Vita and I first came up with the concept of a stripped-down outdoor festival that could allow for social distancing and a safe concert experience for our residents, who at that time had been without live music for more than half a year,” he said. “I think that’s what’s special about it. It was created out of a desire to bring music back to the people who desperately needed it. I think that purity of purpose still comes across on the trail.”

A tentative date has already been set for next year: Sept. 9, 2023. A “Battle of the Bands” will also be held for the first time at Trail Tunes.

“Our planning committee was discussing the old Jaycee fairs (that were at) Civic Center Park, and got inspired by the Battle of the Bands that were last held there more than 15 years ago. While we’re still fleshing out the details, I’m excited to add this ‘battle’ component to the festival, allowing for more audience participation in the event, and hopefully a bit of friendly competition from our amazing roster of musicians,” Bliss said.

The Arts Board is also working to find grant opportunities to fund the addition of a bandstand in Civic Center Park that could be used for all major festivals in Madison Heights, from Trail Tunes and the Juneteenth Festival to the Pre-Fourth of July Festival in the Park.

“It would also be able to be rented by residents to bring even more performing arts to our city,” Bliss said. “Perhaps even an outdoor play or musical? This is a giant goal that will likely take us years to accomplish, but we’re working hard to make that vision a reality, and I’m excited to think how Trail Tunes and our other festivals could benefit from this potential addition.”

Roslyn Grafstein, the mayor of Madison Heights, said she enjoyed walking around listening to each band while chatting with residents.

“All afternoon, there was a steady line of people coming by to enjoy the sounds,” she said in an email. “What started two years ago as an experiment near the start of the pandemic has turned into a free fun event many of our families look forward to.”

Madison Heights City Councilman Quinn Wright said his family greatly enjoyed the event.

“Hearing the different sights and sounds of each artist created an amazing atmosphere for all that attended,” Wright said via email. “As one of the many free and family-friendly events in Madison Heights, Trail Tunes brings a fantastic value to our community, using one of the most unifying forces — music. Hearing the different melodies fly through the air lets you know just how alive Madison Height is.”