Beauty and History at the Great Lakes Lighthouse Festival

Michigan lighthouses bring history, beauty, and uniqueness to our coastline. Each year, visitors can take an in-depth tour of some of these lighthouses at the Great Lakes Lighthouse Festival. This year’s festival will be held October 10th- 13th in Alpena, MI. Guest blogger Peggy Allen of the Michigan Historical Center walks us through what visitors can expect at the upcoming festival. 

Visiting the coastline of Lake Huron, stopping at a Michigan state park, fond memories can be made so easily.

Although modern navigational technology has made lighthouses nearly obsolete, some still do serve as a guiding light for ships on the Great Lakes. More than 115 lighthouses dot Michigan’s Great Lakes coastline providing unique opportunities for visitors to learn about our maritime history.

Tawas Lighthouse Tawas Point State Park and Lighthouse in East Tawas invites you to experience the sights of Michigan.  This fall, Oct. 10-13, brings the Great Lakes Lighthouse Festival to the sunrise side of Michigan.  Visitors can explore many lighthouses from short to tall, white to stripes, all found along the great Lake Huron up to the Mighty Mackinac Bridge.

Headquarters for the 18th Great Lakes Lighthouse Festival is in Alpena.  At the APLEX Event Center there will be over 100 maritime vendors, artists, authors and more.  This half-way point allows you to rest up, listen to presenters and talk with other lighthouse enthusiasts.  There is plenty to do and see for every family member.

When traveling north on US-23 your autumn view is spectacular with painted foliage and pristine water guiding your way past several historic lighthouses.

Stopping at Tawas Point is a highlight. The land curves out into the blue water as the lighthouse nestles between Lake Huron and Tawas Bay.  This allows a majestic view of Michigan’s sunrises and sunsets with plenty of wildlife along the way.

This festival is the only time during the year that visitors will be able to tour the Guest Keeper Quarters above the museum.  Guest Keepers themselves will be able to show you around the entire lighthouse and give you the inside scoop on staying in the lighthouse and becoming a guest keeper yourself.

Tawas LighthouseEntering the park, Tawas Point Lighthouse will guide your way.  The gift store is an historical landmark itself and was built in 1906. There you can purchase unique souvenirs to mark your visit, as well as your ticket into the lighthouse.

At the lighthouse itself, you will experience the history that helped make Michigan. You can learn about past keepers, their family life, the trials of keeping the light burning and reasons why there are so many lighthouses on the Great Lakes. You are welcome to walk in and explore the space, where you can touch as well as look as you learn about life at the lighthouse.

Tawas LighthouseYou may also climb the 85 steps up to the lens room and see the original 4th order Fresnel lens that still guides ships today.  The 360-degree view from the top reveals the beauty of this point. The significance of our lighthouses in years past can be discovered over many visits – the importance of keeping lighthouses in our future can be found in just one.

For more information on the Tawas Point Lighthouse, including tours, the lightkeeper program and upcoming events, go to www.michigan.gov/tawaslighthouse.

Peggy Allen of the Michigan Historical Center has been the caregiver to the Tawas Point Lighthouse and grounds for the past decade. She works to renovate, up-keep and introduce many events and opportunities for guests to experience the many facets of Tawas Point Lighthouse and State Park.  

Will you be at this year’s Great Lakes Lighthouse Festival? Let us know!

Be Part of the Benton Harbor Arts District

Benton Harbor is home to a thriving art and culture scene – including events like Artoberfest, an Oktoberfest-style celebration of art, culture, music, and food that’s coming up on September 21. Read about Artoberfest and more in the guest post below from Joshua Nowicki.

Shortly after moving to Southwestern Michigan two years ago, I fell in love with the Benton Harbor Arts District.

My first introduction to the Arts District was during one of the Art Hops organized by the New Territory Arts Association (NTAA).  I was amazed at the number of people downtown and by the variety of local businesses, restaurants, and galleries that invited artists to show their work.  The Art Hops, which are free and family-friendly events, are open to everyone; many of the participating organizations provide light refreshments for guests.  The upcoming Art Hop dates are October 18th and December 20th, 2013.

"Icarus" by David Kolka located in Thayer Park (part of the Krasl Art Center Biennial Sculpture Invitational)

One of my favorite places in the Arts District is Water Street GlassWorks, a non-profit, studio, gallery and school which is dedicated to the glass and metal arts.  Visitors are invited to overlook the school’s ‘hot shop’ and watch students’ and artists’ glassblowing and casting.  The perfect complement to the warmth of the GlassWorks is ice-cold gelato from Water Street GellatoWorks.  The GellatoWorks which serves Palazzolo’s gelato and Uncommon Grounds coffee, is an arm of the GlassWorks and provides funding for the organizations’ FiredUp! program and job skills training for the participating students.

While in the Arts District, you will probably notice a number of orange metal sculptures located on various rooftops and walkways. These sculptures were created by Michigan based artist, John Suave, and are part of the ‘I Am The Greatest Project,’ a program of Anna Russo Sieber Gallery.  The gallery features exhibits of both local and national arts, along with art, language and cultural classes, and outreach programs.

The artist studios at 210 Water Street offer a great opportunity to meet local artists working in their studios. 3 Pillars Gallery, an intermittent urban gallery, offers various creative events. The Arts District is also the location of Richard Hunt Studio Center which is one of the galleries/studios of internationally acclaimed sculptor, Richard Hunt.  Moreover, it is home to The Citadel Dance & Music Center along with The Oak Room at the Citadel; both are performing arts organizations.  Further, the Arts District has recently expanded with the addition of the Wall Street Studios just across Main Street.

There are a variety of unique dining options in the Arts District including The Phoenix, Larks Bar-B-Que, Charlie’s Piggin’ N’ Grinnin’, The Library Pub & Eatery, and The Ideal Place.  Also nearby are Cafe Mosaic and Bread + Bar by Bit of Swiss.  If you love Michigan beer, The Livery offers a tasty selection of ‘hand-forged microbrews’.  The Livery is also the place to go for concerts and entertainment including Open Stage sponsored by the NTAA which features regional musicians, poets, and storytellers on the first Monday of every month.

Interior of a loft in the Benton Harbor Arts District

Earlier this year, the NTAA hosted a Loft Hop which gave participants an exclusive look at the unique living spaces in downtown Benton Harbor. The level of comfort and luxury that the historic downtown buildings provide to their residents is amazing.  In fact, downtown living is so poplar that there is a wait list for available spaces.

If you are in Southwest Michigan on September 21, you will not want to miss Artoberfest, an Oktoberfest-style celebration of art, culture, music, and food. This year, it features two headliner bands: The True Falsettos and Deacon Blues.  Artoberfest will feature Michigan microbrews from Arcadia, Bells, Greenbush, The Livery, Shorts, and Tapistry.

Be sure to visit the Arts District as part of your next trip to Southwestern Michigan.

To learn more about the Benton Harbor Arts District, Art Hops & Artoberfest, visit www.newterritoryarts.org.

Joshua Nowicki is a St. Joseph, Michigan based photographer and a member of the New Territory Arts Association board of directors.  

7 Can’t Miss Events at the 10th Annual Grand Haven Salmon Festival

The Grand Haven Salmon Festival is celebrating its 10th anniversary September 13-15, 2013 with a weekend full of activities that pay tribute to the area’s bountiful waterways as a natural resource, while coinciding with the region’s annual Salmon migration.

Below, Stefanie Herder of the Grand Haven Area Convention & Visitors Bureau highlights seven can’t miss events happening at this year’s festival. She also shares some festival tips so you can get the most out of your experience at the annual event.

Will you be at the Grand Haven Salmon Festival this weekend? Share with us in the comments section below!

Salmon Festival Fish Boil. Photo credit: Brian Fett.

1)    Friday Night Fish Boil
The Fish Boil is the kick-off event of the festival and is one of the crowd favorite from kids to Grandmas and Grandpas. The Grand Haven Sons of the American Legion are the chefs for the evening, cooking up their secret recipe of boiled salmon and accompaniments. Think tender, juicy salmon served with boiled potatoes, onions, and corn on the cob all covered in melted butter. Ah-Maze-Ing!

Festival Tip: Get your tickets in advance and arrive early. This is a popular event.

2)    Big King Fishing Contest
Before sunrise on Saturday, anglers head out to Lake Michigan in hopes of landing the largest King Salmon of the day with a chance at winning their share of the $2,500 in cash prizes. With local reports of monster salmon in the 25-30lb range, it’s sure to be a BIG year for the tournament.

Photo credit: Ed Post.

Festival Tip: Check out the Big King Weigh-In and awards ceremony around 1:30pm at Waterfront Stadium. If you haven’t seen a Lake Michigan salmon up close before, you won’t believe just how big they can get!

3)    KidZone
This free event on Saturday is chock-full of environmental and educational activities for the kiddos. Here they can have all sorts of fishy-fun by having their face painted, making cute crafts, playing games, and much more. Get up-close and personal with Michigan wildlife, including snakes, turtles, and birds. See live Michigan butterflies inside the Butterfly Tent. Kids can even catch their very own fish at the fishing pond. Again – it’s all free!

Festival Tip: Keep your eyes open for Smokey Bear who will be at this year’s event. It’s a great photo op for the whole family!

4)    Salmon Cook-Off & Wine/Beer Tasting
This premiere event takes place Saturday afternoon under a bright white tents along the Grand Haven harbor. Arrive hungry because you have the opportunity to taste specialty salmon dishes from local eateries. Every year we’re amazed with the creativity of the cook-off contestants who have produced dishes including salmon sushi, salmon sliders, salmon brats and even salmon poppers – salmon stuffed jalapenos wrapped in bacon. Who knows what the chefs will come up with this year, but we can’t wait to try them all! Over 50 Michigan wines and microbrews are available to sip and taste including wines from Chateau Chantel, St. Julian, and Fenn Valley wineries.

Photo credit: Brian Fett.

Festival Tip: Just like the Fish Boil, this is a popular event. Purchase your tickets in advance to save time and money. Advance ticket holders get to use the Fast Track entrance and skip the line. Kind of like a foodie amusement park.

5)    Purple Romp Grape Stomp
Grape stomping. Pretty much everyone has always wanted to try this. The Purple Romp Grape Stomp takes place during the Salmon/Wine Tasting event and is always a blast for participants and spectators. In this bracket style tournament, Romp Stompers face-off to become the Ultimate Grape Stomp champion.

Festival Tip: Get to the Salmon/Wine Tasting event early for a chance to get entered into the competition. Competitors are highly encouraged to come dressed in their best Stomp “uniform.”  

6)    Fall Harvest Entertainment Tent
Even after a full day of festival fun, there is still plenty to celebrate at the Fall Harvest Entertainment Tent on Saturday evening. Soul’d Out, a local favorite band, will be playing a variety of music including Rock, Jazz, Blues, and Funk. Don’t forget to bring your party pants because you are sure to dance all the way until the stroke of midnight.

Festival Tip: The infamous “King” Salmon and his Royal Court have always made their annual appearance at the Entertainment Tent. This is another fun photo op as you can imagine. 

7)    Geocaching Event
Sunday afternoon you can search for hidden treasures during the 2nd annual Salmon Festival Geocaching Event. All you need is a GPS or a smart phone with the Geocaching app, the special event cache coordinates, and you’re ready go. Teams of all sizes and ages are welcome to participate and everyone has a chance to win great prizes.

Festival Tip: If you haven’t tried geocaching before, sign-up for a free account at Geocaching.com and practice finding a few caches near you before the event. There are currently over 1,000 caches hidden all around the Grand Haven area.

Fun festival fact: As part of the Salmon Festival’s journey towards sustainability, the event uses all compostable and recycled products. In 2012, the event was able to reduce their total waste by over 50% compared to 2011’s festival. Almost 60% of last year’s total waste was either composted or recycled instead of going to the landfill. We have our goals set even higher for this year!

We hope you are able to be our guests at the 10th Anniversary of the Grand Haven Salmon Festival!

Stefanie Herder is the Customer Service Coordinator for the Grand Haven Area Convention & Visitors Bureau – The Grand Haven CVB has planned the Grand Haven Salmon Festival for the past 9 years. Stefanie was born and raised in the Grand Haven area and graduated from Grand Valley State University with a degree in Hospitality & Tourism Management. Stefanie and her husband, Josh, enjoy taking full advantage of four seasons of fun Pure Michigan has to offer including golf, kayaking, camping, snowboarding, and yes – fishing & wine tasting.