Opening the Door on “The Door Jam”

For high-school age kids in Door County, summers are not for the weak of heart – 50-hour workweeks, multiple jobs, bosses that seem to lack the phrase “take it easy” in their vocabulary, and very little time to relax. I cannot believe the stories that my friends from other cities tell – work one or two days a week, go to concerts, go to the beach…the list of fun, non-work orientated activities seems to go on and on. Some don’t even have jobs! They have this crazy notion in their heads that summertime is for relaxing and having fun. For us here, that is a completely foreign concept.

While many may be chopping potatoes in local restaurants more than they would like, they can find solace in the numerous recreational activities that abound in the county. From hangin’ in the park to bonfires on the beach, many utilize these pastimes to keep whatever sanity is left after a 13-hour day in the kitchen. One such source of relaxation and recreation is music. It may be impossible to catch whatever band is playing at the Bayside if you are under 21 or lack the proper identification, but there are other opportunities to let a minor fully digest the musical flavors of the county.

The Door Jam, located in Sister Bay, is one such place. People come from all over to experience the full musical potential of local inhabitants, with a few tourists thrown in. It’s a way for people to be steeped in the musical aptitude of the community. With concerts, musical clinics and a Bluegrass Camp held August 2 – 7 (which shouldn’t be missed), the Door Jam abounds in ways to become involved with the music of the Door. Perhaps the most popular event that the Door Jam offers is their Open Mic, held every Thursday evening at 7 pm.

I have always had the preconceived notion that an open mic was someplace where you saw half-baked performers play half-baked songs. It was a thing that never interested me as I want to be entertained and an open mic is hit or miss. At the urging of Lloyd Michalsen, the granddaddy and driving force behind the Door Jam, I finally attended. I was pleasantly surprised at what I encountered.

The talent that gets up and performs is very eclectic, and the ages of participants range from eight to 80. The musical flavors represented ranged from folk and bluegrass to down-home, nitty-gritty blues shuffles. Being one of the few places in the county that does not require an ID, youth utilize this unique opportunity that is presented to them. On most nights, more than half the participants are under the age of 21. The music reflects this distinctive prospect. Kids bring a new-fangled element of imagination and creativity that many other open mics seem to lack.

The Door Jam deeply instilled a newfound sense of musical inspiration. After a musical hiatus – having spent eleven grueling months in Siberia – the integral part that music plays in my life was lost. After going to a few open mics, I realized that this was a rare opportunity to intermingle with people who appreciated music just as much as I do. Soon, with my harmonicas in tow, I got up for the first time, and rediscovered what it felt like to get up in front of an audience and blow my pants off.

The Door Jam is only one such instance of the unique offerings that the county offers to its youth. It may seem like summertime in Door County caters to the wants and needs of vacationers, many of whom are middle-aged and come here to unwind from the life they left at home. They see Door County as a place of fancy restaurants, theater, and gift shops. Nevertheless, if you look in the right places, it couldn’t be farther from the truth. I encourage whoever is willing to discover the lesser known places of the county, such as the Door Jam. Who knows – it could change your life. It did mine.

The Door Jam is located at 10744 N. Bay Shore Drive, next to Bhirdo’s Shell Station in Sister Bay. For more information on The Door Jam, call Lloyd Michalsen at 920.421.1327.