Everyone was excited last weekend by the appearance of West End native Jacob Michael on the Billboard Music Awards program, viewed by many millions of people worldwide. As I reported last week, Jacob’s band, Gentlemen Hall, won a national battle of the bands concert sponsored by Billboard magazine and the prize was an appearance on the awards show. Jacob’s mom, Carol Perkins of Lutsen, was in Las Vegas for the contest and the awards show. Many of Jacob’s family and friends made the trip to show their support, including Jacob’s brother, Josh Schmidt, and Matt Kangas, originally from Schroeder, now living in Los Angeles.
Carol reports that the whole experience was tremendously exciting for everyone, especially Jacob. After they won the contest, Jacob and the band were whisked away for a grueling round of press events, rehearsals, and pre-show parties. He did have some time to spend with his family just before the show. Carol reported that he was excited but humbled by the whole experience. The band’s actual performance was cut fairly short on television. No surprise that the show went long with long-winded thank you speeches. However, they did get to play two full songs to the live audience – a crowd of some 20,000 people, including all of the most influential people in the music business. Jacob was featured on lead guitar in both songs and lead vocals in one of them.
Carol reported that every detail of their performance was managed, right down to what clothes they wore. They are the first band in history without a record contract to play at the Billboard Awards. They are now under professional management and will soon be sent out on tour. As Carol said to me, “they won’t be playing in bars anymore.” I’m predicting – you heard it here first – that we’ll be seeing Jacob back at the Billboard Awards soon, this time as a nominee. It is nice to see the rest of the world recognize the talent that we in the West End have known about for years. By the way, Jacob got to meet the Black Eyed Peas, Taylor Swift and other mega-stars, but he was most happy to meet, in person, the members of the legendary band U2.
In other news, the Gala for the Grove fundraiser for Birch Grove Community School was a smashing success, with a sold out crowd and a successful raffle and live auction. The hit of the evening was presence of a some four week old puppies, one of which was auctioned off. Congratulations to the organizing committee, board of directors, staff and all the great supporters of Birch Grove who made it happen.
Speaking of Birch Grove School, mark your calendars now for Marion McKeever's Award Winning Fishcakes benefit scheduled for Tuesday, June 14 at the Satellite's Restaurant in Schroeder. Marions and her famous fishcakes have been a popular standby of the West End for many years. Tickets are available at Grand Marais State Bank in Tofte, Satellite's Restaurant, Birch Grove and at the door.
Two trees were planted at Birch Grove this week in honor of my parents, Frank and Mary Alice Hansen. Many years ago, they taught parent education classes in the West End called “Children the Challenge”. When Frank died last year, some of the parents from those classes resolved to plant the trees, but decided to wait until spring when transplants have an easier time of it. Mary Alice was able to attend and had a great time. We all spent some time remembering Frank and also remembering all the great West End residents who are no longer with us, but contributed so significantly to our quality of life.
The Forest Service sent out some interesting figures this week that track the use of the BWCA Wilderness over the last 11 years. It shows that the number of permits issued under the reservation quota system peaked in 2003 and has been declining steadily every year since. They attribute this to an aging population, natural phenomenon like fires and tent caterpillars, confusion about the permit reservation system, and the recession. It will be interesting to see if the decline continues in the next few years.
There seems to be an explosion of rabbits in area this year. This is a normal phenomenon that comes around every ten years or so when the snowshoe hare population spikes. Driving the Sawbill Trail in the evening has become an exercise in weaving around rabbits that seem intent on committing suicide under your car. I saw a tiny baby on the road last night, so apparently there are more rabbits on the way. Last year, one of our crew went out to get something out of his car right next to our crew housing building here at Sawbill. When he opened the door, a rabbit came out of nowhere and jumped right into his car. He shut the door and the rabbit settled serenely on the floor mat. After showing it to a few other people, he left the door open for a while and the rabbit departed.