GAY - The fourth annual MusicFest in Gay is becoming quite a Keweenaw County tradition, but if it weren't for Clarence Monette, neither the event nor the historic school in Gay would exist.
Monette was awarded the Keweenaw County Historical Society's President's Award during Saturday afternoon's event for his vision in preserving the historic school, which was on the verge of demolition just five years ago.
"I am so happy to be able to honor Clarence Monette, who was the cause of all our trouble," joked KCHS president Virginia Jamison. "He showed me the building and I thought 'No way, I don't want any part of this.' Then he showed me his plans and what could happen with this building, and you know what, some of it has already started."
Stephen Anderson/Daily Mining Gazette
Left, Historian and author Clarence Monette, whose vision to restore the school in Gay came to fruition, cuts the ribbon on the school during a ceremony Saturday, as Keweenaw County Historical Society President Virginia Jamison holds the ribbon.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held during a music intermission Saturday, officially opening the school as a museum. A fully restored classroom at the school, which was open from 1927 to 1961, was open for people to check out, and the 10-year project still has about five years to go to restore the entire school.
"I've traveled throughout the country, and I've got to tell you what I see happening here with the Keweenaw County Historical Society, for a county of small population, is just incredible," said Mike Pflaum, superintendent of Keweenaw National Historical Park.
The event kicked off under sunny skies at 2 p.m. with the Singin' Sheriff Ron Lahti and Joe Kezele performing for the large crowd from the entryway of the school. The intermission was then held for the official grand opening and the presentation of the award to Monette.
"It's been a great pleasure working with the historical society on renovating this school," said Sherman Township Supervisor Rob Middlemis-Brown during the ceremony. "It was about at its demise when they ended up purchasing it, so we really appreciate them stepping forward to purchase it, and now you're restoring it. Hopefully this will be a key spot for tourists to stop by."
Keweenaw County board member and former teacher at the school Frank Stubenrauch rang the original teachers' bell, and Monette ceremonially cut the ribbon, which was also held by several past students and teachers and current stakeholders in the building's restoration.
"Believe me, I didn't think it would happen," Monette said.
After the presentation, Dodge Street Band-Classic Rock and The Wingnuts entertained the crowd, which was seated throughout the large schoolyard on lawn chairs and picnic tables. A wide array of concessions were available, live auctions were held throughout the afternoon, and, coupled with a silent auction and donations, about $4,000 was raised for the continued restoration of the school.
"This is the most successful MusicFest we've had," said KCHS member Dick Mintken after Wing Nuts cleared the stage after their final set. "It's been a great day for the Gay School."
For more information about the school restoration project and other KCHS events - including an Aug. 17 seminar at the school - visit keweenawhistory.org.