Mid West Music Fest returns fully in-person for 13th year


Midwest Music Fest is in its 13th year of running and is back this year to its full capacity. After the past two years of virtual and/or half capacity performances, MWMF directors are looking forward to a new start. Contributed photo by Dylan Hillier, executive director of Mid West Music Fest.

Heidi Hanson, Features Editor

For the first time in two years, the Mid West Music Fest (MWMF) is fully back in-person for its 2022 festival.

On April 29-30, 2022, the MWMF will be coming to a variety of locations stretched across La Crosse, Wis. and Winona with a huge selection of bands and performers such as Polica, Bad Bad Hats and Karate Chop, Silence, along with other activities.

The MWMF is a two-day music festival that is now in its 13th year. In 2020, MWMF was held completely virtually and last year it added back a few selections of live music; needless to say, COVID-19 has had its impact on the festival during the past two years.

Now, in the third year since COVID started and its 13th year overall, the Midwest Music Fest is ready to be back in full bloom. Over 60 bands will be playing at eight locations in downtown Winona, including popular spots like Blooming Grounds Coffeehouse, Acoustic Café and Levee Park. Dylan Hilliker, Midwest Music Fest’s executive director, commented on one of the festival’s aspirations with it being a unique culmination of performers featuring many local and up-and-coming artists and bands.

“So that’s kind of our rule as a festival,” Hilliker said. “It’s building up the community by bringing in acts that don’t traditionally get seen.”

As is further described on MWMF’s website, the directors seek to achieve more than just an entertaining lineup.

“The mission of the MWMF is to promote music and art in the region, creating opportunities for artists, stimulating downtown economic development, and providing diverse educational resources for artists, community members, and children.”

The Mid West Music Fest started when Sam Brown brought the festival to the city of Winona as an Americorp project. The idea was to bring unique music to a variety of spaces to be able to truly experience music in a lot of different ways, with its first run occurring in 2010. Now, the festival is broken up into two weekends: one in Winona and the other in La Crosse, Wis.

Grammy award-winner Lizzo performed at Midwest Music Fest in 2014; finding new artists is a huge factor to the festival. Each venue is known to highlight a different feel or genre of music. For example, Acoustic Café will feature more acoustic performances, much like its name suggests.

MWMF’s Creative Director and Winona State University alumni, Nate Nelson, discussed his love for the festival as a whole and the way it has brought people in the local area together.

“MWMF has always been one of my favorite times of the year,” Nelson said. “There aren’t many festivals that bring so many people together in quite the same way, and I’ve met some of my closest friends through the festival.”

The festival is also a non-profit organization, spreading awareness on wellness and mental health. Along with musical performances, there will be various activities on Saturday in Winona, such as a guided hike in the bluffs with Winona Outdoor Collaborative and guided yoga at Levee Park, as well as an Artisan Market to support local art. More information on the times and locations of these events are on the MWMF website and app.

The Midwest Music Fest app features information regarding performance times and locations and allows users to create their weekend schedule ahead of time to help attendees plan all of the artists they want to see. The app is also one place people can buy tickets and receive directions to the eight different performance venues.

“It’s hard to pin down what kind of person goes to the festival,” Hilliker said. “It’s all ages; it’s all demographics.”

Student passes for the festival go for $20 for the whole weekend. Regular attendee passes go from $75 for the whole weekend, or $40 for just one day, while kids aged 13 or younger can attend for free with at least one paid adult with them. Tickets can be bought online at www.tixr.com/groups/midwestmusicfest or at the festival’s office located at 164 E 3rd St. in Winona.

The only requirement of the festival this year is a completed COVID vaccination status (two doses) or a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours. There will also be performances in La Crosse in September of this year to look forward to.

“If you’ve already been before, I don’t need to tell you why you need to go back; you already know,” Nelson said. “For those who haven’t gone, especially WSU students, there’s nothing else like it in the year. If you like any kind of music, I guarantee you’ll find your new favorite local band.”