Gr8LakesCamper: Cheeseburger in Caseville
Once again, our recent Cheeseburger in Caseville camping trip did not disappoint!
The festival, now in its 12th year, is basically a 10-day tribute to Jimmy Buffett and the laid-back beachcomber lifestyle for which he’s known. Featuring music, cheeseburgers, beach volleyball, cardboard boat races, sand castles, the Parade of Fools and much more, the festival is annually voted among the best in Michigan.
For 50 weeks out of the year, Caseville is a quiet community of about 2,700 people on the shores of Saginaw Bay in Michigan’s “thumb.” But during the festival, Caseville becomes a colorful city with tens of thousands of Parrotheads. Downtown Caseville goes all out for the festival. Huge pink flamingos hang from the light posts. Store awnings are covered in grass skirting. Parking lots are taken over by civic organizations grilling and selling cheeseburgers and the aroma of grilled meat hangs in the humid air like a blanket of cheesy goodness. On the first Friday of the festival, the local newspaper reported that 28,000 cheeseburgers were sold that day alone (not a typo; twenty-eight thousand cheeseburgers!).
It is a great event, and we’re happy to have camped there, if only for a weekend, for the last three years.
We stay at Albert E. Sleeper State Park, about 4-5 miles north of both Caseville and the County Park that serves as Ground Zero for most festival events. One reason we stay here instead of the County Park is because we can “escape” all the hoopla going on. A second reason is it’s easier to make a reservation at the state park, especially if you want multiple sites next to each other.
Sleeper State Park is basically divided into two sections. The north section is older and shower facilities reflect this. The south section is newer and the shower facilities are nicer, but there are more campsites in this section. Also, many sites are suitable for tents and small campers only, and many sites are fairly unlevel. Pay close attention to the campsite descriptions when making a reservation.
Our group — 17 people on four campsites — arrived at various times on a Thursday. Hobo pies and s’mores were that night’s yummy dinner. Friday morning was a big breakfast (pancakes, cantaloupe, sausage, orange juice and coffee) and then late in the afternoon we headed down to Caseville.
After parking at the county park and meeting up with my buddy Steve and his family, we set up our lawn chairs at the park’s natural amphitheater and followed our noses to the dozen or so places grilling cheeseburgers in parking lots and on sidewalks.
The music that night was really good classic rock covers from Marty Viers and The Music Doctors. They were as entertaining as the cast of characters found in the crowd and on the dance floor. One older lady in particular had us all laughing. She was the only one dancing during the warm-up act, and since it was Tribute to the Military Night soldiers from the local National Guard were in uniform and walking back and forth. One time a soldier passed by her, the dancing lady scooted up behind him and goosed him! The rest of the soldiers gave her plenty of leeway after that.
A very cool laser light show followed the concert. It was a nice ending to a good day. We drove back to the campground and went to bed, since the next day, Saturday, promised to be the best day yet. We were going to participate in the sand castle competition, and the night included the music of only the greatest Jimmy Buffett tribute band of all time — Air Margaritaville.
So, naturally, we woke up to rain.
Flashback to a year ago: At the 2009 Cheeseburger in Caseville festival, it rained so hard and so long on Saturday we had several inches of standing water at our campsite. We played every game we had in the camper 500 million times. So you can understand the feeling of dread that came over us when, this year, Mother Nature was once again raining on our parade.
Fortunately, the rains lasted only until right around noon. It was only a light rain, too, so no campsite lake either. We cooked and ate breakfast (blueberry pancakes, fresh fruit) under awnings, so no big deal with that, either.
My family headed back down to the county park in Downtown Caseville so we could again meet up with my buddy, Steve, and his family. The sand castle competition was to have started at 10 a.m. — our families were going to work on one together — but due to the rain we sorta expected the contest to be canceled. We got to his campsite and shot the breeze for a while, then decided to take a walk down to the beach, just to see what was going on.
Yep, you guessed it, the sand castle competition was not canceled.
So we very quickly registered and started to build a sand castle. It was already 1:30 p.m., and the competition ended at 3 p.m. We had our work cut out for us. But we had me and Steve, plus a bunch of our kids, and the wives came and helped after they got back from getting more ice (got to keep the coolers properly cooled!).
For our sand castle we made a “Crabby Patty” (see picture) from Spongebob Squarepants. The theme for this year’s Cheeseburger festival was crabs, and it was the kids who came up with the idea of making a huge crab, but its body would be a cheeseburger. We were all very proud of the result! Plus, we took fourth place. I think there were about 10 entries that day (the rains scared off a lot of people), but I’m telling everyone else there were 120 entries.
That afternoon we went back to our campsite, ate dinner, showered and the whole group headed back for the concert. Air Margaritaville took the stage at 7:30 p.m. They would play until 10:30, and the crowd — a good 7,500-10,000 people strong — were all of the same happy-go-lucky mood. We were there to be entertained, and Air Margaritaville did not disappoint. They are very good musicians who stay true to Jimmy Buffett’s songs, and that’s exactly what the crowd wanted. They have a great sense of humor about them, too. Frank Bama, lead singer, started the concert by saying “If you have a favorite Jimmy Buffett song you’d like to hear, keep it to yourself. We’re playing from a list.” Great, great time that night dancing to and singing songs we know by heart.
Sunday morning came too soon. We had another big breakfast, then packed up camp and headed home. (We need later afternoon check-out times!)
So, thanks Caseville for another great time. There’s so much more to this festival than what we have experienced, and one of these years we might even make it to the Parade of Fools (100,000 people are said to witness that colorful event). But until then, we’ll have a cold beverage in one hand, a cheeseburger in the other and a tropical song in our heart.
Does anyone know of any other similar festival? Would love to experience it firsthand!
From the personal blog: Stumbled across a website that lists free (or nearly free) RV dump stations across the United States. It’s searchable by state, and then each dump station is listed by city and highway location. Click here to read more.
Gr8LakesCamper celebrates the world of RV Camping in the Midwest. Gather around the campfire and share tips, ideas and stories on RVing, camping and travel destinations. Follow Gr8LakesCamper on Twitter, Facebook and the personal blog.
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