Jeff has lived in Manistee for 47 years – and the rest is history.
“I’m pretty sure I haven’t missed a forest festival.”
In those few decades…his festival routine has changed a little bit.
"Well, when I first started coming, I went to the carnival and now I go to the beer tent,” Jeff Mikula laughed.
The National Forest Festival, now in its 81st year – still draws in the crowds, increasing the town’s population about five fold.
25,000 people will be walking through this same spot when the festival kicks off.
And for some, the promised excitement is worth traveling potentially thousands of miles.
“They come from all over, there’s a group that comes from California every year,” Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Stacie Bytwork said. “They love the Scottville Clown Band so they’re super excited.”
“One of my favorite things is having people visiting Manistee and just remark on how beautiful the area is, how they’d love to come back, and then they come back and buy homes and just make it an annual part of their trips,” Jeff said.
Trip after trip, and generation after generation.
“I can’t wait for this time of year when everybody comes back and does the same thing and bringing their children back and knowing this will be part of their memories growing up and it’ll just continue through the generations,” he said.
Jeff plays a dual role though.
Not only is he a loyal attendee — he’s the co-chair for the festival now, so he has the pleasure of putting the behind the scenes work together, too.