To “visit the sick, relieve the distressed, bury the dead, and educate the orphan” is the mission of the Odd Fellows Lodge, explains Ainslie Heilich. He moved to Tuscola seven years ago. It was during the time that he was renovating a building for his tattoo shop, Vintage Karma, that he explored the space above it, finding the old lodge space and “stuff stuck in the crawl space.” Heilich goes on to describe how the Odd Fellows Lodge started in Tuscola in 1865 but then closed in the 1950s. He quickly realized, after some more digging into who the Odd Fellows are, that this was the sense of community he’d been looking for since his marching band days in high school. As he says, “Lodges were the original social network.” Heilich goes on to say that you have to “work together as a unit.” Since religion and politics are checked at the door “you can just talk to (members) as a person.” He emphasizes that “it’s important to not whittle (someone) down to their labels.”

Heilich expresses that at the Odd Fellow Lodge #316 “we have branded ourselves as a lodge for creative individuals consisting of 'musicians and artists' with a “focus to improve and elevate our community to make a better world.” One of ways they do this is through their annual Odd Market. The Odd Market is their biggest fundraiser of the year, and though this will be the third time they’ve done it, this will be the "biggest one by far,” Heilich excitedly reports, with over 40 artist booths. “We have our own flavor here in Tuscola — farm punk." Heilich explains that the Odd Market is “unexpected, high quality, with a lean toward edgy, rather than a more conservative art market.” Heilich is excited that “over a dozen members of our lodge will be performing, and showing their art. Which is a great showcase of our lodge.”

Along with artist booths there will also be some food trucks including a grand unveiling of Cast Iron Pub & Irma Lou’s Kitchen. The head chef, Chef Kenny, has returned home from his jobs in New York and California where he was a chef to celebrities.

This year’s Odd Market will benefit First Gig Rock 'N Roll Camp for Kids. Heilich describes the camp as a “non-profit rock camp for kids, showing them how to be in a band." So far camps have been held in Decatur, Champaign, and Danville, and First Gig provides venues and professional musician instructors. According to Heilich, the proceeds from the Odd Market will help defray the costs of the camp bringing the price down on the facilities and lunches for First Gig, making it more accessible for kids to attend. In fact, one the bands from last years camp, After Curfew, will be playing at the Odd Market.

Along with artist vendors, musical acts and food, there will be a couple of raffles including an artist basket filled with art from the vendors and a Vintage Karma basket with a $500 gift card towards a tattoo.

One of the benefits of living in a small town, surrounded by other small towns is you get the opportunity to pop over to them so easily. Heilich expresses a lot of pride for Tuscola. “People tend to overlook the railroad cornfield towns — they can be seen as cookie cutter. But there is something growing here.” It’s easy to assume that being out in the country everyone thinks a certain way, but Heilich describes Tuscola as “being progressive and thinking outside of the box. There’s a way to find that balance between ideologies.” Heilich goes on to say that “you don’t have to move to Chicago or New York to be who you are.”

The Odd Market is happening August 18th from 10 a.m to 10 p.m. at the Tuscola Community Building. The event will happen rain or shine — there is an inside area available. Entry is free, and it will be handicap accessible.

Music will be happening all day with Killer Bee Honey headlining at 8 p.m. There will also be Fire dancers then.

Art booths will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Bring cash as not all booths will accept credit cards.

Kids Inflatable Obstacle Course from 11 a.m. to 3 p/m. $5 gets you a wrist band to play as long as you like. This is a kid-friendly event, including the music, but be aware that some of the art is for adults.

For more information follow the event updates on Facebook. You can learn more about Odd Fellows at IOOF.org.

Photos and graphics provided by Ainslie Heilich.