Q & A with Pure Michigan 400 Grand Marshals Meryl Davis and Charlie White

We recently announced that Olympic Champion ice dancers, Meryl Davis and Charlie White, will give the command “Start your engines!” as Grand Marshals at this year’s Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 17th. Today, Meryl and Charlie answer our questions about their training, the race and their favorite things to do in Pure Michigan!  

How did you get started in ice dancing? 

2014 Winter Olympic Games - Season 2014Charlie: I started figure skating and playing hockey at age 5. I started ice dance specifically because I was figure skating too much like a hockey player, and I needed to work on the basics.

Meryl: I started ice-dancing when Charlie’s coach at the time asked if I would be interested in trying-out with Charlie. I hadn’t danced before and didn’t know much about the sport. I was nine.

Have you done any of your training in Michigan? If so, where? 

Meryl and Charlie: We’ve always trained in Michigan. We started at the Detroit Skating Club, and we now train at the Canton Arctic Edge.

What do you love most about training in Michigan? 

Charlie: The atmosphere is very conducive for working hard, and I think that’s something Michigan really prides itself on. Michigan is the place to be if you are a competitive figure skater!

Meryl: We’re so lucky to train in Michigan. Not only do we have access to the world’s best coaching and facilities, but we’re able to stay close to home. It’s so rare to have such world class opportunities right in one’s own back yard!

What is your favorite thing to do in Michigan when you’re not training? 

Screen Shot 2014-08-11 at 3.18.58 PMCharlie: My fiancée and I are huge fans of the parks here. We love to take our dog on long walks or go kayaking - there’s so much to do.

Meryl: I love getting outdoors! No matter the time of year, there’s always something special to see around Michigan. Summers are particularly special as I grew-up on a lake and love spending days on the boat with my family.

Name one thing that fans might be surprised to learn about you.

Charlie: I’m a huge sci-fi and fantasy geek!

What advice would you give to any beginning athletes out there? 

Charlie: Whatever you’re doing, make it fun. Because training is always going to be hard, but if it’s fun it makes it so much easier!

Meryl: As an athlete, one’s support team is vital. Still, I think the best advice I can give is to listen to yourself; your dreams, your goals and your dedication have to be your own.

What about serving as Grand Marshals of the Pure Michigan 400 are you most looking forward to?

Screen Shot 2014-08-11 at 3.19.48 PMCharlie: We love being able to represent Michigan across the world, but we especially cherish the opportunities to celebrate Michigan with our fellow Michiganders!

Meryl: Charlie and I are so excited to have the opportunity to experience new things! We’ve been busy representing our state on the world and Olympic stages, so getting to come home and make memories with our friends and family is truly special.

Where is your favorite Pure Michigan getaway destination? 

Charlie: We made it to Petoskey for my fiancées birthday in July and so far I think that’s definitely our favorite destination so far. But wet looking forward to exploring even more.

Meryl:  I love Good Hart (outside of Harbor Springs).

What does Pure Michigan mean to you?

Charlie: Pure Michigan is everything that makes Michigan special.  There is so much to offer here, and Pure Michigan is such a great way to highlight the amazing opportunities some may otherwise miss out on!

Meryl: Pure Michigan means home; it means getting back to my roots and enjoying the simple beauty our state has to offer.

 Watch Meryl and Charlie take NASCAR driver Austin Dillon for a spin on the ice in the video below and catch them at the Pure Michigan 400 at MIS this Sunday, August 17, 2014! 

A Peek Inside Jackson County’s Historic Mann House

Today, guest blogger Mary Dettloff from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources gives us a quick look inside Jackson County’s historic Mann House.

The Mann House, Concord Michigan.

Photo courtesy of Michigan Historical Museum

The historic Mann House in the small farming community of Concord in Jackson County recently was repainted to more accurately reflect the Victorian-era paint scheme it likely had, but that’s not all that’s new at the house.

A recent partnership between the Michigan Historical Center (MHC) and Eastern Michigan University’s historical preservation program now places three graduate students at the state historic site each summer to operate and maintain it. The students also perform research there in between greeting visitors and giving interpretive tours.

The partnership is a boon for the MHC because it provides fresh insights and research on the property, and EMU benefits by providing students with the opportunity to have hands-on experience operating a historic site that is really a small museum.

The Mann House, Concord Michigan.

Photo courtesy of Michigan Historical Museum

The house, built in 1883 by Daniel and Ellen Mann, is a near-perfectly preserved Victorian-era home. The Manns’ two daughters, Mary Ida and Jessie Ellen, were taught to value education and life-long learning, which ultimately led them to preserve their family’s nearly unaltered home and its furnishings. Visitors touring the house today are immersed in the family life and Victorian culture that shaped this pair of independent women.

Last summer, the graduate students from EMU who worked at the Mann House did research on the Mann family and the community of Concord, and developed a new house tour for visitors. Among the things they learned were that sisters Mary Ida and Jessie Ellen were ahead of their time when it came to being independent women.

Ellen Mann and her daughters all graduated from Michigan State Normal School (now EMU), which was unusual for the time. The Mann sisters traveled the world – throughout the United States, Europe and Asia – before it was common for women to travel alone. Several items that they acquired on their world travels are on display in the Mann House today. Also on display are some vintage clothing, items from the 1840s that belonged to Daniel and Ellen Mann’s parents, furniture from the 1870s the couple acquired when they married in 1873 and furnishings from the mid-1880s when they moved into the house.

The Mann House, Concord Michigan.

Photo courtesy of Michigan Historical Museum

This summer, the EMU fellows working at the site will continue researching the community, the house and the family who lived there. One student is focusing on gardening and foods of the late 19th and early 20th century. Another is looking at various modes of transportation available in Concord at the time the family lived there. A third student is returning for her second summer at the Mann House, and is continuing her research on the lives of Jessie and Mary Ida Mann to introduce more aspects of the sisters into the house.

The Mann House is located at 205 Hanover St. in Concord. Admission is free, and visitors should know that the Mann House is not a universally accessible site. The Mann House is open Thursdays through Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Aug. 31. Visitors should allow about one hour to tour the house, grounds and carriage house.

Mary Dettloff is a northern Michigan native and currently works as a senior communications advisor for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. 

10 Fun Facts About Michigan International Speedway

Photo courtesy of Craig Gardiner Photography

Photo courtesy of Craig Gardiner Photography

Pure Michigan 400 race weekend is here! More than 100,000 fans will be at Michigan International Speedway to cheer on their favorite drivers as they race around NASCAR’s fastest track on August 17th.

Think you know NASCAR? Test your knowledge with these lesser known facts about Michigan International Speedway

  • The 40 trams used at MIS that bring fans from the parking lots to the track were the same trams used at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.
  • Five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson has never won at MIS, but he’s the honorary president of the MIS Kids Club. He even holds special events at the track.
  • There are 9,000 campsites at MIS – making it the largest registered campground in the State of Michigan.
  • Marcos Ambrose broke the 200 MPH barrier in qualifying in 2012. Marcus was recorded at 203.241 mph.
  • Bill Elliot is the active driver who has led the most laps at MIS. In his 37 year racing career Elliot has been in the lead at MIS for 1004 laps.
  • Parking is always free at MIS! Guests can also bring in their own food and beverages, and parking lots open two hours before the grandstand so there is plenty of time for tailgating.
  • MIS is NASCAR’s fastest racetrack! MIS is superfast due to the repave in 2012 and long straightaways on the track that let drivers reach their highest speeds.
  • People have gotten married at the track before, but did you know that Roger Curtis presided over the wedding? It’s true! Roger Curtis, the president of MIS is an ordained minister and married a happy couple in Gatorade Victory Lane on June 17, 2012.
  • David Pearson has won the most Cup poles at MIS with 10. Who will take the pole this year?
  • MIS is the only racetrack where a fan awards a special trophy to the winning driver and team. It’s part of MIS’s Fan Appreciation Program.

Plan a visit to MIS and other Michigan automotive attractions at michigan.org. Follow the race on Twitter at #PureMichigan400.