Steel Bridge SongFest Puts a Jingle in Local Pockets

When something as organically grassroots as the Steel Bridge SongFest comes along, people don’t have a lot of hard facts and figures to share.

It’s 80-or so musicians gathered at the Holiday Music Motel in what is known as the Construction Zone, a place where music is made and songs are created with the soon-to-be 82-year-old Steel Bridge just across the street as the backdrop and metaphorical spine holding everything upright. And then all those musicians unleashed at venues all over Sturgeon Bay for four days. And all the folks who come to see them. And Jackson Browne returning to help close the four-day fest.

The demographics? Rock. Pop. Rap. Soul. Jazz. Country. Folk. Funk. Blues. Punk. Music in all the popular idioms. Listened to by a lot of people.

How do you crunch numbers on that?

“We don’t really have any hard numbers, but it has definitely put us more on the map as far as being a place for music,” said Jon Jarosh of the Door County Visitor Bureau.

And, he adds, the festival’s home base, Holiday Music Motel, directly across the street from the namesake Steel Bridge, has also deepened Door County’s music credibility with a year-round presence that Door County has not previously been known for.

And it doesn’t hurt that Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famer Jackson Browne is returning to the fest after a five-year absence.

“He certainly draws a little bit more attention to it,” Jarosh said, adding, that if you look beyond the star power, “people might be amazed at the number and variety of musicians.”

At the aforementioned Holiday Music Motel, a two-story building with 18-rooms on the northern side of the Steel Bridge, manager and cellist/singer/songwriter melaniejane said she is constantly fielding calls about the festival. “But mostly they want to know when Jackson is playing.”

melaniejane is also Steel Bridge SongFest co-founder pat mAcdonald’s musical partner in the exciting duo Purgatory Hill. Making music, running the motel and helping keep the fest on course keeps her mighty busy, so she appreciates a little help from friends.

“Stone Harbor (just across the street) has been wonderful,” she said. “They’ve extended great discounts to people who are coming. All the venues have been very accommodating. Cherry Lanes has been great. We’re trying to feed 80 or so people here every night. Cherry Lanes was awesome. They said, ‘Hey, why don’t you come over here. People step up at different times when you need them.”

“We welcome this event and now that they are not shutting down our street it works better for everyone,” said Nancy Bertz, general manager at Stone Harbor Resort & Conference Center. “It puts a whole new energy to the air all around town! We appreciate what they do for the entire community.”

“We just love being a part of it,” said Steve Hoffman of Cherry Lanes. “It’s a very important part of the town and we look forward to it every year. Stop on by.”

For a full list of Steel Bridge SongFest musicians and venues, visit or check out the Pulse’s annual Live Music Preview in this issue.

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