MusicFest held at Gay School

GAY – The former Gay School building, once on the verge of being torn down, is returning to its former glory room by room.

One of the main drivers of that renaissance was going on just outside Saturday as the Gay MusicFest was held for the fifth year.

The festival, including performances by several local bands, raises money for renovation at the school, which operated from 1927 to 1961. The Keweenaw County Historical Society has spent about $40,000 on renovations since it bought the building in 2008.

Rooms on the ground floor have been restored to close to their original appearance, after previous owners had stripped out walls and other fixtures.

“This was in shambles,” Dick Mintken of the Keweenaw County Historical Society said while standing in a classroom. “The ceiling was coming down … they nearly destroyed the place.”

An upcoming project will include installing bookshelves in the former library.

They also hope to tackle the second floor of the school, which resembles a pre-work version of the ground floor. One of the rooms will be used to store a number of looms that had been in use in Gay’s heyday, which are now sitting on the ground floor.

“There’s a lot of work to be done, but it’s come a long way,” Mintken said.

Bands in previous MusicFests set up on a makeshift stage on the steps of the Gay School. That changed this year with the building of a new pavilion in the school courtyard. The project cost $50,000, split half between Sherman Township and half from a Michigan Department of Natural Resources recreation grant.

Volunteers contributed carvings and timbers, as well as 400 hours of volunteer labor. Construction took less than a month, finishing on June 28.

“The park was just an empty area, so they wanted to provide a recreational area next to the historic building,” said township Supervisor Frank Kastelic.