It all started with a raffle prize. About seven years ago, Mike Christian won a raffle prize which gave him access to Regner Park in West Bend, Wis. for a day. As a musician and music lover, he thought it would be great to have a number of local bands come play at the park. The idea has now turned into an annual event—along with two other great concert series.
Mike joins me this week to talk about this summer's plan of events and how you can be a part of all the fun at HomeGrown Music Festival, Regner Rocks, and Sounds at Sandy Knoll Park.
- HomeTown Foundation on Spotify
- Instagram • The Hometown Foundation
- Facebook | The Hometown Foundation
- 2022 Sounds at Sandy Knoll Park • The HomeTown Foundation
- June 2022 Regner Rocks Concert Series • The HomeTown Foundation
- 7th Annual HomeGrown Music Festival • The HomeTown Foundation
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Fuzz Martin 0:09
Hello boys and girls. Thanks for listening to 15 Minutes with Fuzz. My name is Fuzz Martin and I am the proprietor of the show where each and every week I introduce you to something good happening in our local community. It's getting close to summertime and this week we're speaking with someone who makes summer's in Washington County a whole lot of fun. Mike Christian from the Hometown Foundation is joining me to talk about the HomeGrown Music Festival. Ragner Rocks and Sounds at Sandy Knoll Park. Mike has a really fun and interesting story about how a raffle drawing changed the face of music in West Bend. And it was a lot of fun to talk to him. So sit tight. Make sure your seat belts on as we give you 15 minutes on the HomeGrown Music Festival with Mike Christian on 15 Minutes with Fuzz.
Fuzz Martin 1:12
Mike, thanks for joining me, it's finally feel on like festival weather outside. It wasn't for so long.
Mike Christian 1:18
You know, fuzz winter is such a bear on us typically. And this one in particular was a little depressing. Winter just lingered on, there was no real spring, but it gave us an opportunity to kind of get some things in order and and really get a good game plan together for 2022.
Fuzz Martin 1:35
Usually, each winter, we'll get like one at least one weekend of like 65˚, where you can clean the garage out and kind of reset. And we didn't get that. So yeah. So before we talk about all the great music you have coming up in West Bend this summer. Tell us a bit about your background and what you do for a living.
Mike Christian 1:53
Sure. I started my career in my life kind of in the in the service industry. I was in the restaurant business, okay, catering, and I ran a golf course. And then I moved over to retail side of things I worked at Jeff Spirits on Main here in West Bend for about eight years.
Fuzz Martin 2:08
I'm sure a lot of people will recognize.
Mike Christian 2:11
I always joke when people say Hey, I recognize you from somewhere I say probably church. Right.
Fuzz Martin 2:17
Exactly, exactly. So I was reading up on the background of the HomeGrown Music Festival. And I found it really interesting how you got started, can you tell us a story about how the whole festival got started? Sure.
Mike Christian 2:30
I'll keep it as brief as possible. But essentially, I was attending an event at Moraine Park and I had been on a in an auction item that was essentially a day at the park at Regner Park. And the idea was you could have the stage and all the pavilions and everything. So I made a bid on it. I had no idea what I was going to do with it. But I thought well, I'll support the cause and and put a bid on this thing. Well, I ended up winning it. Which which is great. I bought it got my wheels, spinning them. Okay, what the heck am I going to do at this stage? It's Park. Sure. I was playing in a little band at the time. Okay, and I went to my bandmates. And I said, Hey, how about how about we go and play on this park, we'll invite our friends and families and we'll grill out some brats and have some beers. And that was really well received. They liked that idea. Yeah, you know, little garage bands struggle to find locations to play anyways. Right? It's like, Yeah, well, that'll be awesome. But shouldn't we invite a couple other bands so that we can sit and enjoy the music as well? Yeah, not just working. Right? Yeah, let's let's have a beer too. And we'll watch some music. And so we did, we reached out to a few other friends and bands. And they thought it was a great idea. Again, the wheels are spinning, and I am sitting on the board of directors at the Washington County Historical Society and the time I still am actually. But I thought what a great opportunity to create a little fundraiser for for the Historical Society. Now. That's essentially what we did that first year back in 2015. We gathered a couple of friends bands and put on a show at Regner Park and and called it a fundraiser for the Historical Society.
Fuzz Martin 4:08
So that's kind of the "home grown" part of it.
Mike Christian 4:11
Right? Absolutely. Yeah. Real organic and grassroots. Yeah, just local, everything, you know, and that was kind of the heart of it.
Fuzz Martin 4:19
From there, you started a nonprofit that boasts all the events that you cover, right,
Mike Christian 4:24
right. Yeah. After a few years of the HomeGrown Fetival being as successful as it was, we decided to create a parent organization essentially to oversee that. And yeah, so 2019, we officially filed and received nonprofit status. And so we, we call it the Hometown Foundation, and that's kind of our parent organization.
Fuzz Martin 4:46
So now with that 501(c)3 you then like you did with the Historical Society, you help other nonprofit organizations, right?
Mike Christian 4:55
Our entire mission essentially is to one create community events. and some that use local Wisconsin original musicians to to engage other nonprofit partners in the community and ask for their assistance in pulling these events off. And then three to share the proceeds with them.
Fuzz Martin 5:15
There's no actual cost to the HomeGrown Music Festival. Right,
Mike Christian 5:19
right. We we do hardly, you know, kind of not pressure, but we suggested donation at the door, you know, help the cause sort of thing. We do sell food and beverage and merchandise as well. Okay, there's opportunities for people to open their their wallets and give us some some cash for the day of the events.
Fuzz Martin 5:38
This is the seventh annual event coming up, right?
Mike Christian 5:41
The semi annual, not exactly annual 2020 Was that one year that? You know, we don't really nobody talks? Nobody talks about? It doesn't even count. But yeah, every year since 2015, we've had the event, when is this year's event July 10. This year? Okay, typically, it? Well, our goal is to do with the Sunday after the fourth of July, okay. And that's kind of our standard operating procedure that keeps it easy for us and the community. Everybody knows that. The following Sunday is always the HomeGrown event.
Fuzz Martin 6:13
Now what do you feel makes the HomeGrown Festival special, it's unique
Mike Christian 6:16
in the way that we focus strictly on Wisconsin based original position. So no cover bands, I think being in a in a local original band myself, and, and understanding that dynamic. And that kind of seen, I just always understood that there was no operative, but not I don't want to say no, but very little opportunity for those sorts of musicians to get out and do their thing. You know, buyers don't like to hire bands like that. They want cover bands, you go to a church picnic over the summer or Firemen's picnic. It's all the big name cover bands. And this really fills a niche in our mind that that is really welcoming. And
Fuzz Martin 6:56
what is your favorite part of the HomeGrown Festival?
Mike Christian 6:59
There's a lot of really awesome things that happen, you know, mostly, I think it's it's the gratification of getting the people from the community that come up to me and say thank you for doing this. It's something that they are appreciative of. And they're happy that someone's doing it. And we're making good use of that park at Ragner Park, and the other parks that we work in. Additionally, it's it's just really great to hear the bands as well, at the end of their set. It's always smiles and thank yous and you know, this is so wonderful. And yeah, you know, so it's, it's just the gratification of the entire thing that encompasses is, is really the best part of it, real feel good
Fuzz Martin 7:42
event and complete scan of that, that love of music that you have, right?
Mike Christian 7:47
Totally, yeah, there's, there's really not one single thing that I could point to that's really the best, just in general, if it all comes together in a perfect world.
Fuzz Martin 7:58
Did you ever picture yourself being essentially a music promoter? And is that ever something you wanted to be?
Mike Christian 8:04
That's really hard to say, you know, growing up, I thought, you know, maybe I would do something with music and didn't know if it would be from my, my background being an Events Coordinator. I was mostly dealing with people who were having weddings or anniversary parties and things like that. So there's always some sense of entertainment that was involved with those things. But I always understood that that was one of the keys to the event was the entertainment side of things. So yeah, not necessarily as a career choice. But it by default, it kind of fits right into my wheelhouse.
Fuzz Martin 8:41
Yeah, that's great. So, you recently announced all the acts that are coming to HomeGrown Music Festival in 2022. Can you tell us a bit about them?
Mike Christian 8:49
So the thing that I always say about the musicians is nobody's ever heard. Okay, you know, typically that's, that's the crux of it is, you know, they're they're not national touring band or anything like that. You'd have to go out of your way to have seen them. Sure. Or you're friends with somebody in the band. So you know them. You know, dropping their names isn't going to do us any good here. But what I can tell you is that these folks are wammie award winning artists. wammie is Oh, Wisconsin area music industry. They're super tight bands are super fun. They have a ton of passion for what they do. And they put on awesome, awesome shows.
Fuzz Martin 9:29
Is the music style, all kinds of similar in terms of like, Is it blue grassy or more country? Rock? What are what are we looking at that?
Mike Christian 9:38
That was another interesting dynamic that we encountered as we're trying to put these things together. And what we decided was if we're going to have a bluegrass festival, we'll do something different than grown, but homegrown itself is all encompassing. So we do steer clear of the B extremes on either side. So it's not you're not going gets elevator music and you're not going to get heavy metal. Sure, but something I think our determining factor is what would be pleasant listening to a park on a Sunday after Yeah,Fuzz Martin:
yeah, a cup of beer and a brat.Mike Christian:
And with with the family there, you know, get a friendly, all of our events are kid friendly. So nothing offensive or aggressive. It's just really well done us and again, passionate passion from the artists really shows throughFuzz Martin:
to the artists come from all over the state or they mostly around this region.Mike Christian:
We take that into consideration. We do like to focus a little bit more regionally. But there is a huge music scene in Appleton out west in La Crosse area. And Milwaukee obviously is a is a hotbed Madison. So those are the four regions outside of Washington County that we kind of bulk out.Fuzz Martin:
And again, it costs nothing to attend the festival. What were the dates againMike Christian:
on July 10? Is the homegrown Music Festival. All right,Fuzz Martin:
very good. And then this year as the Hometown Foundation as the nonprofit you guys are supporting to local organizations, right?Unknown Speaker:
Yeah, we did. Last year, the Moose Lodge was one of our our organizations that locked in every week to help us out on the side of things. So they ran the food stand. We invited them back again this year, because they're just great to work with they have a heart of gold. And they're really, really great about community involvement. In Additionally, this year, we reached out to chicks for a cause a long standing nonprofit organization in the area that does wonderful things and raises tons of money for people with cancer families with cancer. So really both worthwhile organizations and those two are going to be our kind of our, our main partners in all of our events this summer.Fuzz Martin:
You mentioned families before so you don't have to be 21 to be there or is thereMike Christian:
not 21 to purchase alcohol is pretty standard at at events but we love the idea of family friendly and using the parks in that fashion. Getting the community together in that setting. It's it's not a beard chuggin sort of rhino and holler and sort of thing. It's again sitting at the at the picnic table or getting up and doing a little dancing and having a good time but totally kids bring the kidsFuzz Martin:
sure what time of the dayMike Christian:
does it start HomeGrown kicks off at about noon. Okay, first band strikes a chord at noon. Okay, we'll open the park at 11am Typically, we're done by 8:30 / 9 o'clock,Fuzz Martin:
you've expanded beyond just doing the one festival now you have a couple other concert series is going on. Tell us about those much toMike Christian:
the demise of my wife. She you know, she loves and encourages this completely she knows it's important. This all kind of stemmed from homegrown though our fans would say really? You're only going to give us one day a year. And do I take that to the drawing board? And I say well, I can do more. And there's plenty of bands. You know, that's that's the other surprising thing that I every year, we get hundreds of submissions from bands who want to play at events. So I've got we've got plenty of bands to work with plenty of dates on the calendar. And yeah, so we started last year and 2021 series on Thursday nights called Ragner rocks. And then we did a few offshoot things on Friday nights at Sandy Knoll Park. And while that sounds at Sandy,Fuzz Martin:
okay, and then you've got so both of those are going on again this year, right? We're gonnaMike Christian:
we're gonna limit it just to Thursday nights this year, though. So we'll alternate locations. Gotcha. Regner one weeks and you know, the next week and kind of work that back and forth all through the summer.Fuzz Martin:
I did see that on Thursday, June 30. At Sandy Knoll, you have the Happy Schnapps Combo, which everybody loves.Mike Christian:
doesn't love the Happy Schnapps Combo. They're, they're so fun. They fit our criteria being a Wisconsin original band. So howFuzz Martin:
long have they been around? They've been around since like, when I was a child. Well, we're both we're both same age. So we're both like, nine or 10. Right when they sayMike Christian:
easily 30 years. Yeah, I think that was the first song I ever heard from the Happy.Fuzz Martin:
Yes, in case you don't know, listening. The Bears Still Suck is the Happy Schnapps Combo. SoMike Christian:
that wasn't just commentary from you know? Yes.Fuzz Martin:
Yes. My wife is from Chicagoland. So I have to be careful, Shanna. That was just the title of a song that me saying what I normally say when they're playing Regner Rocks is there's two weekends tooth or excuse me two Thursdays in June this year and then Sandy and all the Sounds at Sandy Knoll?Mike Christian:
Yeah, we can. Our first open date at Sandy Knoll is June 30. This year, so I couldn't start that series as early as the regular series. So yep, we'll run a couple of Thursdays in in in West Bend here at Ragner Park and then start the The alternating weeks at Sandy Knoll.Fuzz Martin:
And then at Sandy Knoll. They have the A beer truck or something there too.Mike Christian:
Yep, we have a little concession area again, chicks for cars and the West Bend Moose Lodge will be there supporting us with both food and beverage sales. SoFuzz Martin:
Excellent. Well, looking forward to a great summer of music here in West Bend again, with Ragnar rocks and sounds at Sandy Knoll, and, of course, the HomeGrown Music Festival. If people want to learn more information, actually, first of all, do you need any help right now? I know you've got the, the organization's helping out in the booth. But do you need any volunteers or anything like that?Mike Christian:
Our Foundation Board of Directors is really impactful in some of these events as well. So we also formed little committees with volunteers. It doesn't hurt to reach out and okay, if you're interested in helping out we'll certainly find an opportunity for you. But we do like to have our bases covered so that we're not piecemealing it week to week, no, sir. But there's always opportunities. Just even if it's to go backstage and fill coolers for bands or you know, make sure they got enough snacks and pickups and garbage around the grounds. Make sure kids are behaving and you know, just kind of in general grounds grounds work putting out signs, things like that. Yeah, we can always use a hand.Fuzz Martin:
Right. And then also, I know you have sponsors that help to support the show as well, right?Mike Christian:
Yeah, absolutely. West Bend mutual is a huge community partner in general, and they step up really what really in a big way for us. The standards Delta defense. And then there's some foundations, the West Bend Community Foundation, the NASS Family Foundation, and then just some smaller, small businesses in the area that always want to contribute and make sure that we're doing good stuff.Fuzz Martin:
You're available at hometown.foundation is the website, right?Mike Christian:
Yep. I always like to say WWW dot hometown dot Foundation, because it is a little confusing. It's, there's no.com At the end, right? So it's just the dot foundation.Fuzz Martin:
Yep. So hometown, www.hometown.foundation. Also, you can find them on Instagram, both for the Hometown Foundation and for HomeGrown Music wi and then also Facebook, right?Mike Christian:
Yeah, absolutely. That's, that's our bread and butter, kind of the Facebook crowd. We don't think we have a Twitter handle. But we don't we don't do a lot with that. Really, Facebook is the spot to find most of our information.Fuzz Martin:
Great, Mike. Best of luck to you here in 2022. I hope that you have a great concert. All three of the different concert series that you have going on are great. And thanks for putting us in our community.Mike Christian:
Absolutely. And thanks for having me today.Fuzz Martin:
Absolutely. Thanks again to Mike Christian of the Hometown Foundation and the HomeGrown Music Festival for joining me this week. I hope you enjoyed the episode. But more importantly, I hope you're able to get out and enjoy some great music happening here in Washington County. This summer. If you ever want to hear something on the show, I do take requests. I'm like a good wedding DJ. But with interviews, you can email me email@example.com or go to fuzz.cc/guest that is fuzz.cc/guest new episodes drop every Monday. You can find them on Spotify, Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, or wherever you'd like to listen to shows, namely podcasts. Thanks again for listening and we'll talk to you again next week right here on 15 minutes with fuzz
Transcribed by https://otter.ai