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Michigan Heritage Awards

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The Costabella Cloggers
2016 awardee, Hessel (Mecosta and Isabella Counties), Team clogging

In the early 1970s, a group of fewer than a dozen young musicians and members of the Mount Pleasant Food Co-Op decided to hold a fundraiser for the co-op with music and dancing at the Rhode’s family farm in Remus, Michigan. By the following year, this musical event had turned into the Wheatland Music Festival and moved to its current location on the 160-acre Wernette family farm. A portion of the original festival organizers went on to form the Costabella Cloggers that same year after seeing performances by cloggers from around the country, such as Ira Bernstein, The Fiddle Puppets, and the Green Grass Cloggers. The Costabella Cloggers  purchased and renovated an old school bus and hit the road. The group performed with boundless energy at festivals and camps throughout Michigan and in Virginia and Canada until 1985, when their growing families and work obligations prevented them from continuing this lifestyle.

All but one original member still live in mid-Michigan and they have all continued to share their knowledge and ability with anyone interested in learning. They have mentored such dancers as Nic Gareiss (2016 MTAAP master artist), Heidi Kulas Whitfield, Becky Hill, and Christine Galante, and many more. In 2013, the Costabella Cloggers came back together to perform at the Wheatland Music Festival as part of the celebration of the festival’s 40th anniversary celebration, “Carry It On…” During the performance, the group presented the pieces to enthusiastic response from the festival audience, many of whom had seen the Costabella Cloggers in their first iteration in the 1970s. The audience reception reinvigorated the group, and they began to hold monthly open clogging sessions at the Wheatland festival site. During these sessions, members of the Costabellas facilitate open improvisation, teach steps, and rehearse and revive their old routines.

For their work and skill in preserving and disseminating team clogging in Michigan, Costabella Cloggers Ron “Red” and Marcia LeClear (2015 MTAAP master artists), Pamela “Peach” Burke, Jon Cotton, Chris Cooley Cotton, David Cotton, Dave Goodwin, and Kris Lukens are awarded the 2016 Michigan Heritage Award.

-Micah Ling

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