NEW YORK MILLS - The longest, and often darkest, night of the year approaches in the Northern Hemisphere, and the Cultural Center in New York Mills offers a way to spend those extra hours of darkness: their Longest Night Music Festival, set this year for Thursday, Dec. 21.

The Longest Night is an annual concert which brings together various and varied local and regional musical artists to each play a short set. The spirit of the event is to share in merrymaking and music-making on the winter solstice. Audience and performers together bond in the warmth of community and commonality while the chilling December winds blow outside.

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n the line-up this year are: Chasing Clarence, Day Gun, Laurie Kallevig, The Longest Night House Band, Ben Ranson, Dave Virnala, and the Wadena Puppeteers.

Chasing Clarence, a Park Rapids trio that includes local newspaper reporter Eric Bervig, is Northern Minnesota's undefinable folk-rock ensemble who brings a surprise guest to the Longest Night. Day Gun is the latest musical incarnation by Michael Dagen of Hewitt, Minn.; he returns after a rock-the-house performance last year. Longest Night first-timer, Laurie Kallevig, brings her ukulele from the dark jungles of India to the chilly streets of New York Mills.

The Longest Night House Band makes its 2017 world premiere! Producer Dennis Happel is joined by talented musicians Chris Frost, Lou Hoglund, Erin Swyter, Phil Gilbert, and Colin Hoglund. Returning to the festival are Ben Ranson, off the heels of a successful solo tour, and Dave Virnala, local favorite and perennial Open Mic Night strummer. Ranson is a graduate of the Berklee School of Music.

The Wadena Puppeteers will bring another first to the Longest Night: puppeteering! Lisa Winter, Tamara Moore, and Emily Uselman, with the help, support, and talent of students from St. Ann's Catholic Church, bring a lively puppet performance to the stage at the Cultural Center.

Visual artist Nate Luetgers will also doing some live painting during this event, according to the center's executive director, Betsy Roder.

The show starts at 7 p.m. on Thursday. This concert is free to attend and all are welcome. Refreshments are served and a cash bar with beer and wine is available.

For more information, please call the Cultural Center at (218) 385-3339 or visit the Center's website at