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January 08, 2020 @ 12:00am

Local Musicians Continue to Hit the Right Note at Annual Flannel Fest, Raising Funds and Awareness for Those Most in Need

Trapper Schoepp performing at Flannel Fest 2019, photo by Mike Rausch

Artist Trapper Schoepp rocking Flannel Fest 2019, Photo by Mike Rausch

Flannel Fest, held at two locations again this year, featured performances of different Americana bands that raised more than $16,000 for Wisconsin households with no place else to turn.

Music has always been a major part of Erik Kjelland’s life. So, it should come as no surprise that he’s been using his talent as a catalyst to raise thousands of dollars and awareness for the Keep Wisconsin Warm/Cool Fund.

Six years ago, Kjelland, who spends much of his time singing, playing guitar and harmonica for his Madison-based band, The Mascot Theory, was having a conversation with a friend about organizing an event that would give back to the community. He and fellow musician Beth Kille, of the Beth Kille Band, hatched a plan to bring together some of the best musical talent in Wisconsin - and beyond - to help out those in need.

Flannel Fest was born.

“We were looking around for something more homegrown, and we reached out to the Keep Wisconsin Warm/Cool Fund,” Kjelland said of planning the inaugural event. “We really liked the fact that they are a Wisconsin nonprofit, and the feeling that we are directly helping out in Madison and other cities in Wisconsin.”

Since 2014, when the first Flannel Fest took place, dozens of bands and thousands from the community have gathered to support both local artists and the KWW/CF.

“We have really enjoyed our relationship with Flannel Fest and the support we have received from the event year after year,” ESI Executive

Director and KWW/CF Chief Spokesperson Tim Bruer said.

In the years since its formation, Kjelland and Kille have seen Flannel Fest grow to two consecutive nights; one in Madison, and another in Appleton. This year’s events took place Nov. 8 (in Madison) and Nov. 9 (in Appleton).

Through both nights, Kjelland said about $5,400 was raised to be donated to the KWW/CF. Because of a 2-to-1 donation match this year, the total will triple to more than $16,000 donated toward the organization, just in time to keep the homes of thousands of Wisconsinites warm through the frigid winter months.

“We really cannot believe the generosity of folks,” Kjelland said. “The attendees who open up their wallets and help out their friends, and also the bands that we have been working with. It’s really been incredible.”

Kjelland’s dedication toward the cause hasn’t stopped there, though. The past three years, he once again called on his friends in the music industry to come through for the KWW/CF. They answered the call, and then some.

Through an annual album release, known as the “Wisconsin Vinyl Collective,” musical artists with local ties contribute previously unreleased, original songs to be included on a vinyl album. It’s released every spring and coincides with an event where even more dollars are raised to benefit the KWW/CF.

“The music industry has really been incredibly supportive through events and things like Flannel Fest and (the Wisconsin Vinyl Collective),” Bruer said. “With really no prodding at all, we have seen band member after band member take part in those things and come forth with unsolicited support and talking about their own personal experience.”

Kjelland said he’s really enjoyed the “partnership” that has been built with the KWW/CF, and is looking forward to many more Flannel Fest’s in the years ahead.

“By the time Flannel Fest comes around every November, people realize that they, themselves, are quite fortunate to be able to go home and crank up their heat,” he said. “There are so many other folks out there who are less fortunate and need a helping hand, and I think Flannel Fest has really been a great opportunity and reminder for people to help out their neighbors, all while having a great time at a really fun event.”

The sea of flannel in the crowd at Flannel Fest 2019, Photo by Brooke Billick

The Mascot Theory at Flannel Fest 2019, Photo by Mike Rausch

The Listening Party at Flannel Fest 2019, Photo by Mike Rausch

The North Code at Flannel Fest 2019, Photo by Mike Rausch

Beth Kille Band at Flannel Fest 2019, Photo by Mike Rausch


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