For nearly 20 years, thousands of concert goers gathered together at Castle Farms to hear great musicians such as The Beach Boys, Aerosmith, Bon Jovi, Tina Turner, and Ozzy Osbourne!
It all started when Art Reibel purchased the Castle from John VanHaver in 1969. While he and his wife were originally planning to use the property as an equestrian riding academy, plans changed when they saw the potential success of hosting concerts, since the rock music genre had gained much popularity in the early 60s and 70s. Before long, a 50 foot wide concrete and steel stage was built outside along the King’s Gallery stone wall. They installed wooden bench seating near the front for “VIP” guests while all general admission ticket holders brought lawn chairs or blankets and filled the lawn. Castle Farms became a premier rock concert venue in northern Michigan! So much so that Reibel decided to tear down two of the adjacent stone dairy barns in order to contain the growing number of concert goers.
To accommodate the performers, Art Reibel converted the rooms—which were originally used to house and feed farmhands—into dressing rooms for the musicians to get ready and wait before going on stage. Some musicians left proof of their presence in that wing. In what we now call the East Bridal Suite, there is a stone that boasts the etched name of “Bon Jovi” as well as the initials “HL”, which we can only guess may belong to Huey Lewis. They represent just a few of the many artists who set foot on Castle Farms’ property, adding to our rich history.
Once the concerts finished for the evening, the party would continue in what is now the Queen’s Tavern. This quaint stone room was originally a dairy, divided into three areas used for sterilizing and processing milk in the 1920’s. John VanHaver restored and renovated the space in the mid 1960’s, opening it up and making it into a gift shop. When Art Reibel purchased the property, he made a few further changes to VanHaver’s work by adding an octagonal dance floor, a bar, and disco lights to convert the space into a private, after party venue for VIP guests. The last concert was held in 1996.
Even though we no longer host rock concerts at the Castle, two of the bands who played here in the 1980’s have northern Michigan on their tour route once again! REO Speedwagon rocked the Castle 4 times, in 1981, 1985, 1987, and 1993. They recently performed at Traverse City’s National Cherry Festival on July 5, 2017! If you missed that concert, you have another opportunity to experience a “Castle performer” at the Charlevoix Venetian Festival. The classic rock group, Loverboy, will be performing just a stone’s toss away from Castle Farms in downtown Charlevoix on July 19, 2017. After you catch their show, come tour the Castle and see memorabilia from many big names that played on the stage in front of the stone ruins. While here, you’ll see the amazing restoration that created a destination for families from all over the country.
photos: Castle Farms Music Theater (1977-1996) Facebook page