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How does a community band concert work in a hayfield?

Hundreds gather to support a school band fundraiser in Hastings, Mich.

Jennifer Kiel, Editor, Michigan Farmer and Ohio Farmer

June 10, 2024

20 Slides

It started with $16 fudge.

When Louis Wierenga’s then-seventh grade daughter, Lillian, brought home a fundraising flyer for the band selling enormously priced fudge, “I said I don’t need $16 fudge. I’m big enough,” Wierenga smirks, while rubbing his belly.

In the middle of the night, he came up with this idea of having a concert in a field with the band playing, and all the proceeds benefiting the band rather than 40% of the fudge sales.

Despite the cold and breezy evening in rural Hastings, Mich., that first concert in June 2013 brought in about $1,000 with freewill offerings.

It led to six more years of annual performances, where they made enough money (more than $45,000) to buy new instruments and a trailer to haul them. They also brought some people to a farm for the first time. With the onset of COVID-19 in 2020, the concerts were suspended.

But on a gorgeous, warm, cloud-free evening May 30, the Hastings Hayfield Concert returned in a big way to a portion of Wierenga’s 960-acre Maple Knoll Farms.

Drone footage by Aiden Moyer; other footage by Jennifer Kiel

“This event vividly shows how hundreds of Michigan farmers and farm couples reach out and get involved to make their communities better places,” says attendee George Hubka of Dowling, Mich. “Louie is a very modest person — it was great to see the crowd's applause for him.”

More than 600 people attended the event. The crowd nestled folding chairs into a field of alfalfa, forming a half circle around the band. A red barn draped with a gigantic American flag served as the backdrop for the three-hour event that started with the Thornapple Jazz Orchestra.

An intermission allowed guests to check out the John Deere sprayer parked nearby and to look through the array of products and services up for bids at the silent auction in the barn. Also for sale were hot dogs, hamburgers, chips, drinks and cotton candy, as well as a freewill offering at the ice cream wagon — 36 gallons were scooped.

“I was overwhelmed with the generosity of those giving to the silent auction and for those who bid well over the value,” Wierenga says.

Guests returned to their seats as students to seniors alike gathered their instruments to perform as the Community Mass Band. Every member of the audience stood facing the enormous flag while the “The Star-Spangled Banner” was played, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.

“This is by far the most successful year of the Hayfield we have ever experienced,” says Spencer White, Hastings band director. “The community was extremely generous in our silent auction and cash auction. And we sold close to 600 hamburgers and hotdogs. I am very thankful for Mr. Wierenga's persistence and insistence on having this event. He and his wife, Mary, and their whole team at Maple Knoll Farms put in so much work to make the event possible. They are truly special people!”

Cash donations were taken at the end, and in total, the event netted more than $12,000 for the Hastings band program.

“After starting it back up, we weren’t sure how many people would show up,” Wierenga says. “It was as large, if not the largest, event yet.”

It’s not a surprise Wierenga, who is in his second term on the school board, is also a church trustee and involved with several ag organizations. He was also named a 2023 Master Farmer by Michigan Farmer magazine. And while Lillian graduated high school in 2019, Wierenga remains committed to the program.

“Hastings is known for its quality bands and has won several awards; it’s important to support them,” he adds. “Our health willing, Mary and I plan on having it again next year.”

It seems to prove the logistics of any idea can be solved when enough people get behind it.

Editor’s note: Sometimes words are not enough. You must see it and hear it to really feel it. In addition, the National FFA Band has been led by Hastings band directors for more than 30 years. Scroll the photos and watch the video for more.

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About the Author(s)

Jennifer Kiel

Editor, Michigan Farmer and Ohio Farmer

Jennifer was hired as editor of Michigan Farmer in 2003, and in 2015, she began serving a dual role as editor of Michigan Farmer and Ohio Farmer. Both those publications are now online only, while the print version is American Agriculturist, which covers Michigan, Ohio, the Northeast and the mid-Atlantic. She is the co-editor with Chris Torres.

Prior to joining Farm Progress, she served three years as the manager of communications and development for the American Farmland Trust Central Great Lakes Regional Office in Michigan, and as director of communications with the Michigan Agri-Business Association. Previously, she was the communications manager at Michigan Farm Bureau's state headquarters. She also lists 10 years of experience at six different daily and weekly Michigan newspapers on her resume.

She has been a member of American Agricultural Editors’ Association (now Agricultural Communicators Network) since 2003. She has won numerous writing and photography awards through that organization, which named her a Master Writer in 2006 and Writer of Merit in 2017.

She is a board member for the Michigan 4-H Foundation, Clinton County Conservation District and Barn Believers.

Jennifer and her husband, Chris, live in St. Johns, Mich., and collectively have five grown children and four grandchildren.

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