Throwback theater

Sean Rowe will be the featured performer at the inaugural Red Jacket Jamboree at the Calumet Theatre.

By Noah Hausmann

The Red Jacket Jamboree, a live old-timey radio variety show, will feature stories, songs and humorous sketches about the Keweenaw Peninsula at its upcoming, premiere performance October 14 and 15 at the historic Calumet Theatre.

The jamboree was inspired in part by the Red Metal Radio Show, which ran 2009 to 2013 and also broadcast from the Calumet Theatre. The Red Metal Radio Show dramatized stories from the lives of Calumet residents around the year 1909. The Red Jacket Jamboree revives this concept while also combining it with traditional folksy or jazzy tunes and original material from contemporary writers, poets and songwriters, as well as a kind of “Prairie Home Companion” vibe, focused more on 1914 Calumet.

The event, hosted by Real People Media and Main Street Calumet, will also celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Keweenaw National Historical Park. The park will provide a humorous and history-inspired skit of its own. The jamboree will emphasize narratives that are heritage-themed but contemporary in relevance.

“Our purpose is to enrich, educate and entertain,” Real People Media Executive Director Rebecca Glotfelty said. “When you can say, ‘Gee, I never knew that,’ you walk out feeling like you learned something, and in a way that feels easy too. You just sit there, listen and enjoy. I think it will satisfy a lot of ages, with good music and good storytelling.”

The headlining performer for the October show will be nationally-known singer-songwriter and naturalist Sean Rowe. This songster may not be familiar yet to many in the Upper Peninsula, but he has “a million clicks” on his music videos, Glotfelty said. She hopes getting a big-name performer will “get a buzz out and draw people to the Keweenaw,” a major goal of the program.

“We picked [Rowe] because his narrative lyrics fit into our theme,” Glotfelty continued. “He’s a naturalist, and one of the things we’re talking about is harvest time. We’re picking performers that go with the theme.”

Also taking the stage are The Red Jacket Jamboree Band, Red Jacket actors and special guests, with the show emceed by Lena Dorey.

This is the first of a season of shows. The organizers plan to invite bands from all over the U.P. and Michigan; but local performers are at the heart of the jamboree, since “they have the voice of the Keweenaw.”

Real People Media’s goal is to help people share their stories. Since the live performances at the jamboree will be recorded, this will preserve and proliferate Michigan tales, history and heritage. The long-term goal is that these recordings will be broadcast or even syndicated for radio markets throughout Michigan and Wisconsin.

“We sent out a press release and social media posts for people to come share stories about the Keweenaw and Calumet,” Glotfelty said. “We don’t want to discourage anyone from telling their story—they don’t have to be professional.”

The Red Jacket Jamboree has been granted $19,500 from the Michigan Council for Art and Cultural Affairs to help support a season of productions and defer the cost of bringing in performers. Subsequent jamborees will occur during other popular Keweenaw events, such as the Copper Dog 150 and Pasty Fest, in order to help the local tourism economy, a principal mission of Main Street Calumet.

“This will piggyback on top of [those events],” Glotfelty said. “We’re hoping to bring in more tourists. It’s a real draw for the local economy if people come for the events, stay for the show too, and rent hotel rooms and eat at restaurants.”

Many locals have volunteered with the project, including assisting stage production, sponsoring financially and participating as storytellers; plus, businesses helped get the word out about the event.

“It’s our first one, but we’re encouraged by the big community response,” she added.

The Red Jacket Jamboree will start at 7 p.m. Saturday, October 14, and 2 p.m. Sunday, October 15, with doors open an hour before. Seating can be reserved for $12.50 for students and $17.50 for adults.

Visit to learn more or to get involved.


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