The Sawdust City Music Festival: History & Melody Meet in Gravenhurst

In the late 1800s, Gravenhurst, Ontario was known as “Sawdust City” due to the number of sawmills and the importance of the timber trade to the town. This summer there is a new festival coming to “the gateway to Muskoka,” one that will pay homage to the town’s rich history. The Sawdust City Music Festival, happening August 4-6, will present amazing live performances in unique and historic venues throughout the picturesque town.

Festival founder and artistic director Miranda Mulholland grew up cottaging on Gull Lake. Her great-great grandfather, Charles Mickle, owned the main sawmill in the town and served as mayor twice.

Grandpa Mickle believed strongly that arts and culture were the backbone of a successful community and was instrumental in the creation of the Gravenhurst Opera House. That same passion for the arts and for music was passed down to Miranda. A musician and songwriter who started the indie record label Roaring Girl Records, Miranda dreamed for years of marrying her passion for music with her love for Gravenhurst and its beautiful surroundings. The long-awaited result is the Sawdust City Music Festival.

From the beginning the festival was designed with a very organic and accessible atmosphere in mind. Miranda wanted to ensure that everyone – from cottagers to first-time visitors to locals – would be able to appreciate as much of the town and the music as possible. With the exception of the main event, all of the festival performances and activities will be free for all to enjoy, including a song writing workshop Saturday and all of the shows at Sawdust City’s Saloon.


Exceptional Musicians Coming August 4-6

With an eclectic mix of artists and genres, from solo acts to full bands playing blues, country, folk and more, the weekend will appeal to all musical tastes.

Miranda herself is one half of the duo, Harrow Fair, who will be performing. Muskoka’s own Papa John Witterick will play his signature Deep South inspired blues, while North Bay native Benjamin Hermann will perform from his lineup of modern folk. Country music fans should be sure to check out Zachary Lucky, Jessica Mitchell and the alternative country band NQ Arbuckle. Many of the performers have received Canadian music awards, and all will put on exciting shows in intimate settings.

The main event is the concert by the Jim Cuddy Family Band. Taking place at the Gravenhurst Opera House on Saturday night, there are regular tickets as well as VIP packages available. The VIP package gets you access to the pre-show reception and preferred seating for the concert, as well as a private tour, tasting and performance event at Sawdust City Brewing Co. You will also get preferred seating for each of the shows at the brewery. For the complete performance schedule, click here.

There is also a Super VIP Package that adds a ticket to the star-studded Cottage & Barbeque Event, where you will travel by boat to a secret cottage to enjoy dinner and special performances. This package also provides a meet and greet with Jim Cuddy before Saturday’s show.

The Sawdust City Music Festival is a celebration of incredible live music and the vibrant arts scene in the charming town of Gravenhurst. With free events throughout the town’s unique and historic venues, plan to attend one or all of the shows over the 2017 August long weekend in Muskoka.

See & Do In Gravenhurst

Also named after Gravenhurst’s rich logging heritage,
Sawdust City Brewing Co. is a local craft brewery and one of the festival’s main sponsors. A signature feature of the brewery is their unique saloon, which has twelve taps rotating a selection of beers, alongside wine, spirits, cider and a single-malt scotch bar.

Gravenhurst is a place that recognizes and celebrates the importance of live music, and the town has many unique concert venues. The festival features a varied line-up of locations, including concerts each night at the Sawdust City Saloon. There will be a performance aboard the iconic barge at Gull Lake Rotary Park, and the festival’s “stripped down” acoustic series will have performances at smaller venues such as The Oar and Paddle Restaurant, Currie’s Music and Antiques and the historic Albion Hotel.

There is even an acoustic performance that will be held at the Muskoka Discovery Centre, a one-of-a-kind museum that houses an in-water collection of historic wooden boats, exhibits about the town’s boat building legacy and an interactive kids’ zone.

To plan your visit to the Sawdust City Music Festival, click here. For the complete performance schedule, click here. To purchase tickets, click here.