How to Create an Unforgettable Pure Michigan Holiday Gathering

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care… Surely it’s the little details that add up to unforgettable gatherings, is it not? And as we’re entering the season of St. Nicholas, we’re also prepping for holiday gatherings where the magic and merriment happen! From family sit-downs to seasonal soirees, read on for our #GoGreat tips to give your holiday gatherings that something special this year.

Prost Dinner Setting with wine glasses

Prost! Wine Bar & Charcuterie, Photo Courtesy of Go Great Lakes Bay

Discover priceless know-how toward memorable dishes, tips and ideas for unique hosting gifts and even wine pairing considerations. Go Great Lakes Bay this season, and enjoy discovering “how-to” create unforgettable holiday gatherings!

Warm and Cozy

Board of Artigiano Cheeses

Cheeses from Artigiano, Photo Courtesy of Go Great Lakes Bay

Nestled together around a warm pot of melty fondue, friends and family won’t soon forget how cozy your gathering felt. Nor will they ever forget the pleasure of dipping into the fondue you served: melted Gruyère, aged in the natural Kaltbach caves from the canton of Lucerne in Switzerland, and that hearty charcuterie platter…

Have this evening this season, and learn “how-to” at Artigiano, Bay City’s artisan cheese shoppe. Artigiano (ar-TEE-giano) offers not only small batch, handmade cheeses (and artisan crackers, premium extra virgin olive oils and balsamic vinegars), but also free, drop-in events including fondue demonstrations and “Cheese 101″.

The Talk of the Town

Zehnder's, Photo Courtesy of Go Great Lakes Bay

Zehnder’s, Photo Courtesy of Go Great Lakes Bay

When you serve authentic Lebkuchen Cookies or luscious German Chocolate Coffeecake around your Giant Santa Cupcake Cake centerpiece, guests will ooh and ahh-and ask where you learned how! The truth: at Zehnder’s Holiday How To’s.

• November 8 – 10, 2016, times and prices vary.

• Choose from 10 enjoyable classes, including “Hosting a Holiday Party” (think wine, hors d’oeuvres, hands-on fun and a special discount coupon for Zehnder’s Retail Marketplace) and “Decorating Holiday Cookies”.

• Call to reserve your place, and don’t delay. Some classes are SOLD OUT already!

Wine Makes Everything Fine

Charcuterie board of cheeses, meats and olives

Charcuterie Board from Prost! Wine Bar, Photo Courtesy of Go Great Lakes Bay

Looking to serve a perfectly-paired wine this holiday? (Good thinking.) But red or white, and what complements the menu? Or perhaps you’re gifting wine? (Good thinking, too.) Visit Go Great Lakes Bay restaurants and wineries for tasty research, and learn “how-to” pair wines perfectly with holiday flavors.

Whine Bar, Inc.: Walk in anytime for a flight (a sampling of three wines; price depends on selection), or on Whine Wednesdays to purchase select labels at $15 per bottle.

Prost! Wine Bar & Charcuterie: Study over 60 wine selections with Prost’s exceptionally trained staff, and sample wine served on tap for a fresh perspective; daily specials.

• Eastman Party Store: Stop into the Eastman Party Store anytime for expert pairing advice and a massive selection of fine wines, beers, spirits, cheeses, fresh breads, olive oils, and vinegars. Or head into Ideal Party Store in Bay City, featuring over 3,000 wines, 700 beers and a large liquor selection, too!

Crews & Brews

Inside of Frankenmuth Brewery

Frankenmuth Brewery, Photo Courtesy of Go Great Lakes Bay

Gathered together with your closest friends, frosty mugs in-hand, good times and holiday memories are in the making. Before deciding on the selections you’ll offer, try flights, flavors and talk micro-brew “how-to”.

• Time-honored Flavors: Offer guests frothy goodness from the oldest brewery in the state of Michigan: Frankenmuth Brewery. The Christmas Town Ale is seasonal-don’t miss out! And, should wee celebrators be in attendance, don’t forget to nab some Frankie’s Root Bier!

Oppermann’s Cork ‘N’ Ale (locations in Saginaw and Midland): Touting over 600 beers, 4,000 wines and 2,000 liquors to choose from, consider New Belgium Brewing Co.’s “Pumpkick” ale for the holidays, with hints of pumpkin spice and cranberry.

Make it Matter

Want to know “how-to” truly create unforgettable holiday gatherings?  Have fun! Decorate your home joyfully, and give gifts with sentiment whether as host or guest. Pick up priceless “how-to” (and where-at) toward decorating, gifting and creating heartfelt holiday gatherings this season.

Decorative Gourd Workshop: Enjoy the surroundings of Chippewa Nature Center, and the know-how to create beautiful containers from gourds (think seriously cool and unique gifts) on November 19, 9 a.m. – noon (must register by November 15).

• Get to Creative 360 Stage, Studios & Gallery from 2 – 4 p.m. on Saturday, December 3 to discover Candy Making for Christmas! Who doesn’t love a sweet treat? Not to mention that the perfect gift is also a lot of fun in the making! Pre-registration is required; don’t delay.

One last “how-to”: Handmade gifts take time to create … but shopping on Saturday, December 3 at Chippewa Nature Center’s Nature Art Show & Sale and Creative 360′s Second Hand Picasso Art & Collectible Sale, December 3 – 19th, will result in quick, easy and absolutely unique gifts.

Cheers! To holiday how-to’s and to getting help with your unforgettable holiday gatherings when you Go Great Lakes Bay!

Meet the Blogger

Guest Blogger - Jen W. O'Deay

Jen W. O’Deay is a freelance writer in Bridgeport, Mich.  She specializes in writing that connects, delivered through feature articles, branded content and marketing copy.  You can find Jen reading, always, camping with her family, or at: www.feelthesewords.com

Celebrating 100 Years of the National Parks Service at Michigan’s National Sites

In August, the National Park Service celebrated 100 years of keeping our national sites clean and beautiful. Find out how the 7 National Park Sites in our great state were founded and what to do when you visit, courtesy of guest bloggers representing each of the park sites.

Find Your Park

One hundred years doesn’t come around very often. Indeed, there are few institutions with the staying power of the National Park Service which celebrated that very rare century mark this year.

All year, NPS sites throughout Michigan and beyond are paying tribute to the NPS Centennial – which in fact has been an ongoing celebration since early 2016. The NPS recognizes Founder’s Day as the official birthday of America’s grand institution that serves to preserve and protect its natural wonders.

Each NPS site in Michigan has a truly unique story to tell and offers visitors a chance to escape within a day or less driving distance. Read more about how each park, lakeshore, trail and heritage area were founded as we pay tribute to 100 years.

1. Experience Isle Royale’s unique history and untamed wilderness

Isle Royale National Park, established on April 3, 1940 and designated a National Wilderness in 1976, is the most isolated and wild of Michigan’s seven sites. The park’s stunning vistas are truly a way for visitors to explore wilderness, slow down the pace of life and relax the soul.

The wilderness island has many stories to preserve based around island life and industry. At one time, Isle Royale supported a robust fishing and resort community, and similar to its Keweenaw neighbor, Isle Royale played an important role in the early copper mining industry.

Views of Isle Royale, the least-visited National Park in the nation

Photo Courtesy of Joshua Nowicki Photography

The park has attractions for history buffs as well as outdoor adventurers and hikers. One of the more popular historically preserved sites is the cottage of Elizabeth Kemmer who served coffee and meals to island workers. There are also several beautifully preserved lighthouses on the island such as Rock Harbor.

In celebration of the Centennial, Isle Royale stewards invite adventure-seekers to experience an untamed land for a real escape from life’s hustle and bustle. Here you can enjoy a leisurely guided hike by a park ranger or make unforgettable memories by spotting a moose.

2. Keweenaw: A region shaped by copper

Michigan’s Keweenaw National Historic Park boasts radiant, natural landscapes while also preserving the history of the region’s once vast copper mining industry. In 1992, the National Park Service decided that preserving the natural wonders of the land as well as its history and its assets was important enough to designate the park as a National Historic Park.

The history of Keweenaw’s copper mining dates back at least 7,000 years, and through preservation efforts, industries of long ago such as the Calumet & Hecla Mining Company would be lost to time. According to the park’s enabling legislation, U.S. Congress determined that the Calumet area was essential to telling the story of copper mining on the Keweenaw Peninsula.

The mining industry was once king in the Keweenaw Peninsula

Photo Courtesy of NPS.gov

The Calumet Unit is just one of many enjoyable assets to park patrons, and one of many featured pieces in the park’s day-long Centennial Celebration. While in the area, check out the local bike trails or snowmobile trails if visiting in the winter.

3. Automotive goes beyond Detroit in the MotorCities National Heritage Area

The story of Michigan can hardly be told without including the creation and evolution of the domestic automotive industry. In 1998, U.S. Congress deemed that history to be important enough to require safeguarding, thus the MotorCities National Heritage Area was established by an Act of Congress to preserve, promote and interpret the history of the automotive industry and labor story in southeast Michigan.

The effort to create the MotorCities, originally established as the Automobile National Heritage Area, was led by U.S. Rep. John Dingell and Sen. Carl Levin. The original legislation recognized that, “…the economic strength of our Nation is connected integrally to the vitality of the automobile industry, which employs millions of workers,” and, “the industrial and cultural heritage of the automobile industry in Michigan includes the social history and living cultural traditions of several generations.”

President Bill Clinton signs the Automobile National Heritage Area Act of 1998 creating the MotorCities National Heritage Area.

Photo Courtesy of the MotorCities National Heritage Area

The MotorCities is one of 49 National Heritage Areas in the U.S. and the only one in Michigan. National Heritage Areas are a unique aspect of historic preservation as they protect and promote the country’s most significant historical events that have shaped and impacted culture and economy.

Throughout the Centennial celebration, the MotorCities encouraged would-be adventurers to “Find Your Road Trip,” with a one-of-a-kind tourism guide showcasing 30 automotive historical sites along with Michigan’s National Parks. While there, the world-famous Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village should be near the top of your list of things to see.

To request your own copy of the “Find Your Road Trip” guide, visit motorcities.org/findyourroadtrip.

4. North Country Trail

The state’s only National Scenic Trail, North Country National Scenic Trail stretches across 4,600 miles and seven states – including Michigan. Headquartered in Lowell, North Country Trail was created by the National Trails System Act of 1968 and is administered by the National Park Service.

The NCT is the longest of 11 National Scenic Trails established in the U.S. When the Trail was established in 1980, portions of it were designed to follow the already existing Finger Lakes (New York), Baker (Pennsylvania), and Buckeye (Ohio) Trails. Their sponsoring organizations became affiliates of the North Country Trail Association and agreed to maintain those portions of their trails to be used by the North Country National Scenic Trail.

Photo Courtesy of Chris Loudenslager

Most of the NCT’s activity comes from adventurous hikers who brave the rugged terrain and experience wide variety of terrain, flora, and fauna. The NCT offers everything from a leisurely afternoon stroll to a multiday, rigorous long-distance hiking challenge. In every locale, opportunities abound for bird watching, botany, photography, and wildlife study, either alone or as an experience shared with others seeking the respite of the outdoors.

5. Pictured Rocks: America’s first National Lakeshore

Michigan’s vaunted Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is the state’s oldest National Park unit. Established on Oct. 15, 1966, Congress determined the region was important enough “…to preserve for the benefit, inspiration, education, recreational use, and enjoyment of the public, a significant portion of the diminishing shoreline of the United States and its related geographic and scientific features.”

When President Lyndon Johnson signed the bill, Alger County became the home of America’s first National Lakeshore.

Lovers Leap at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Photo Courtesy of Instagrammer @mc_angela

Protecting the shoreline was a major tenant of the 1966 Congressional Act. The shoreline zone was established to preserve its scenery and outstanding natural features and to provide the benefits of public recreation. The inland buffer zone was created to stabilize and protect the existing character and uses of the land, waters, and other properties. Today, Pictured Rocks is famous for the breathtaking multi-colored sandstone cliffs in which you can kayak to, in addition to a few incredible waterfalls.

Today, stewards of Pictured Rocks work to keep the region’s incredible natural beauty protected while managing ever-increasing visitorship and interest in the park.

6. Discover Michigan’s role in the War of 1812 at River Raisin

The most recent federal land designate in the state, the River Raisin National Battlefield Park was established to preserve the story of the War of 1812 and its impact in southeast Michigan. Congress created River Raisin under the Omnibus Public Land Management Act signed into law on March 30, 2009.

A portrait of the historic River Raisin militia encampment

Photo Courtesy of NPS.gov

The site tells the story of the River Raisin Militia which was called into action during the summer of 1812 to build a military road which was to link Detroit with Ohio. The militia men were the centerpiece of a U.S. force encamped along the north side of the River Raisin when they met a surprise attack on the morning of Jan. 22, 1813 led by 600 British and Canadians and about 800 Native Americans.

A trip to the River Raisin Battlefield Visitor Center will not only be a learning experience for the kids, but it will also be a great adventure. They will love interacting with the soldiers and scenes; they will feel as if they were really there.

7. Preserving Michigan’s maritime history at Sleeping Bear

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is also celebrating its own milestone marking 50 years in 2016. Established by Congress on Oct. 21, 1970, Sleeping Bear Dunes is rich in history from early Native American cultures to the shipping, logging, and agricultural heritage of the area. Even the name of the area comes from the Native American Legend of Sleeping Bear.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is one of Michigan's most iconic areas

Photo Courtesy of the National Parks Service

Long before there were roads and highways in Michigan, people and goods were being transported regularly on the ships of the Great Lakes. The Manitou Passage (between the Manitou Islands and the mainland) was a busy corridor for commercial shipping. The location of the Manitou Islands made them ideal for a refueling stop for steamers to pick up wood for their boilers. That was one of the driving forces for early settlement of the islands. Docks were built, and trees were cut to fuel the growing Great Lakes Shipping fleet.

The farming legacy of the area is embodied in the Port Oneida Rural Historic District as well as some of the farmsteads on the southern part of the park.

Learn about the logging and farming culture by visiting Glen Haven, the little historic logging village located on the shore of Lake Michigan. There were a number of little logging villages in the area that no longer exist. There isn’t much left of these Ghost Towns, but as you walk around their sites, you will find trace evidence of the people who lived, worked, and played in this country.

How many of Michigan’s seven National Parks Sites have you visited? Share with us by commenting below!

The Keepers Behind Michigan’s Haunted Lighthouses

What is it about lighthouses that keeps spirits lingering, long after the lights have been extinguished? Perhaps it is an undying passion for these beloved beacons or maybe it is a tragic loss of loved ones that ties these ghosts to these hallowed grounds. With more lighthouses than any other state, many of Michigan’s nearly 120 lights remain home to the restless souls of their former keepers. Guest blogger Dianna Stampfler gives the story behind a few keepers of Michigan’s haunted lighthouses.

Photo of James Donahue

James Donahue, Photo Courtesy of Dianna Stampfler

Captain James S. Donahue was a wounded Civil War soldier when he was appointed the keeper of the South Haven Lighthouse in 1874. Having lost a leg in battle, the physical demands of tending were even more taxing for him. Yet, during his 35 years of service, he is credit with saving more than a dozen lives. Today, the keeper’s residence sits perched atop a bluff overlooking the Black River and out to Lake Michigan and the 35-foot red tower. The Michigan Maritime Museum uses the building as an archive and research facility, and many have reported sounds they attribute to Donahue. Footsteps, self-opening doors and eerie sounds are among the unexplainable occurrences.

Some may argue that the White River Light Station in Whitehall might never have been built had it not been for Captain William Robinson, who moved to the area in 1860s with his wife, Sarah, and seven of their eventually 13 children. A thriving lumbering industry brought them there from England, and Robinson had hoped he would be able to find work to support his growing family. With the amount of traffic traveling in and out of the White River, Robinson was surprised there was no light to guide their safe passage.

He began petitioning the lighthouse service to have a beacon built, and in the interim would hang a lantern on a pole at the end of the channel every night to aid the passing ships. When the light was constructed and lit in 1875, the Robinsons were appointed the first keepers. For nearly 50 years, the Robinson faithfully kept his light shining—passing away there in 1919 at the age of 87. Yet, he and Sarah are still said to be the permanent residents of the home. While Bill prefers to walk up the spiral staircase to lantern room, Sarah finds peace in an upstairs bedroom where her youngest children slept.

Photo of Captain Townsend

Captain Townsend, Photo Courtesy of Dianna Stampfler

Visitors to Seul Choix Point Lighthouse in Gulliver, south of US2 in the Upper Peninsula, have been documenting strange activities there for decades. From the pungent odor of cigar smoke, to hazy faces in bedroom mirrors and moving furniture, the antics of Captain Joseph Willie Townsend are never-ending. Appointed in 1902, his tenure was cut short after he passed away in 1910.

Given the remote locale and the time period, the Captain’s body was embalmed in the basement of the light and his body lay in state in the parlor for nearly three weeks to allow family the time they needed to trek to the U.P. to pay their respects. Perhaps that is why Townsend lingers on. Members of the historical society who maintain the lighthouse complex have collected countless reports, photographs, videos and other “evidence” of the keeper’s presence. There’s even a book, “Spirits at Seul Choix Pointe” by Marilyn S. Fischer, which features many of the more noteworthy ghost stories.

Seul Choix Lighthouse

Seul Choix, Photo Courtesy of Dianna Stampfler

Spending the night in a haunted lighthouse may be more than you bargained for, but it’s what you get at the Big Bay Point Lighthouse B&B located northwest of Marquette. Set along the shores of Lake Superior, the first keeper at this 1896 light was H. William Prior. About five years into his service, he enlisted the official help of his son, George, as an assistant keeper. However, that arrangement was short lived for both of them.

George had an accident, which eventually lead to his death. The grief-stricken father was last seen headed into the woods. It was a year later, in 1902, when a hunter found Prior’s skeleton hanging in a nearby tree. Innkeepers attribute the slamming of cupboard doors in the kitchen to an angry Prior, yet according to reports from paranormal teams who have visited the light, as many as five spirits are present.

Big Bay

Big Bay, Photo Courtesy of Dianna Stampfler

When Saginaw River Range Lighthouse keeper Peter Brawn became disabled and bedridden shortly after his appointment in 1864, his wife Julia was quick to step in and fill his shoes as the acting keeper. Following his death in 1873, she remained in the head position in an official capacity and her son, DeWitt, became her assistant. Within a short period of time, Julia married a man named George Way and she was subsequently demoted while her new husband took the helm. He ended up dying at the lighthouse in 1883, after which Julia and her son left lighthouse service. Today, the property is private and under restoration but those who have had access report hearing footsteps, voices and other interesting sounds that may be attributed to the two keepers (and husbands of Julia) who died there.

Photo of Julia Tobey Brawn Way

Julia Tobey Brawn Way, Photo Courtesy of Dianna Stampfler

Have you visited one of these? Share your experience in the comments, spooky or not!

Dianna Stampfler lives in Petoskey and is the president of Promote Michigan. She has been researching Michigan’s lighthouses for nearly 20 years, presenting “Michigan’s Ghostly Beacons” and “Ladies of the Lights” to groups around the state.