In its heyday, the Idlewild Resort area was the place to perform for musicians and other entertainers who had already “arrived” and for those that were hoping to get noticed. The Idlewild Music Fest recognizes these musical roots with a two-day celebration. Coordinated and supported by business leaders, the nonprofit community and faith community of Lake County, the Idlewild Music Fest brings an unmistakable beat back to echo across Idlewild Lake and Williams Island, if just for awhile.
Idlewild is a vacation and retirement community in Yates Township located in a small rural northwestern part of the U.S. state of Michigan near the southeastern border of Lake County. It was one of only a few resorts in the country where African-Americans were allowed to vacation and purchase property before this discrimination became illegal in 1964.
Idlewild surrounds the lake it was named for. The headwaters of the Pere Marquette River run through here, with a couple of public access points adjacent to Broadway Road, where it crosses. About half of the township is contained in the Manistee National Forest.
Called the “Black Eden”, from 1912 through the mid-1960s, Idlewild was an active year-round community and was visited by well-known entertainers and professionals from throughout the country. At its peak it was the most popular resort in the Midwest and as many as 25,000 would come to Idlewild in the height of the summer season to enjoy camping, swimming, boating, fishing, hunting, horseback riding, roller skating and night-time entertainment.
When the 1964 Civil Rights Act opened up other resorts to African-Americans, Idlewild’s boomtown period subsided but the community continues to be an important place for vacationers and retirees and as a heritage landmark.
The Idlewild African American Chamber of Commerce was founded in the summer of 2000 by businessman John O. Meeks for the purpose of promoting existing local businesses and for attracting newer ones to the Lake County area.