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. 

Five Reasons to Race Across the Mighty Mackinac Bridge

Stretch those hammies and get ready for the Mighty Mac Bridge Race – a certified, 11k run like no other in Michigan or beyond. Today, Mindy Rutgers from St. Ignace Visitors Bureau tells us why this race is a can’t-miss.

Mackinac BridgeThe Mighty Mac Bridge Race will take place on Saturday, September 27, 2014 with the starting line in Mackinaw City and the finish line and after party in St. Ignace. What makes this race special? Here are five reasons you’ll want to race across the Mighty Mac.

Twice as Nice

Why run a course on one peninsula when you can cover two? This span connects Michigan’s Upper Peninsula with the Lower Peninsula. Why run on a bridge that crosses one body of water when you can race across the nexus of Lake Huron and Lake Michigan? One is fine but twice is nice and that’s never truer than when your own two feet are taking you to new heights.

Bucket-List Worthy

Photo courtesy of St. Ignace Visitors Bureau

Photo courtesy of St. Ignace Visitors Bureau

If you’re a runner with a bucket list of interesting locales, what could be better than the 5th longest suspension bridge in the world? Maybe the longest suspension bridge in the Western Hemisphere? Check! The Mackinac Bridge is the fifth longest in the world and the longest suspension bridge in the Western Hemisphere with a total length of 26,372 feet. For those keeping track, the length of the suspension portion is 8,614 feet.

Enjoy the Journey AND the Destination

For those who say the journey is more important than the destination, we say you can have your fudge and eat it, too. Enjoy a truly awe-inspiring view across the five-mile bridge and then land in picturesque St. Ignace, where a Samuel Adams party, complete with participant medals and division trophies, awaits. From Noon to 6pm, snag some swag while mingling with runners, visitors, and people who only wish they had your endurance and commitment.

Carb Loading Yooper Style

Photo courtesy of St. Ignace Visitors Bureau

Photo courtesy of St. Ignace Visitors Bureau

There’s never been a better excuse to have a baked potato with your fresh-caught whitefish dinner or a traditional U.P. pasty, with its starchy potato and ground beef filling, than fueling up for a race. Foods of all types are found in St. Ignace restaurants and, of course, the car trip home might require a slab of fudge or two. Go ahead. You earned it.

This isn’t just any selfie

Race participants will each receive a “Time to the Top” photo on the Mackinac Bridge – a truly special memento from race day. Forget the selfie. Watch the comments roll in when you share this picture on social media. Runners will also receive a long-sleeve t-shirt and a Kewadin Casino package, which means the Mighty Mac Bridge Race could make you both rich and famous.

Learn more and register for the Mighty Mac Bridge Race at www.stignace.com or call (800)338-6660.

Mindy Rutgers is the Executive Director of the St. Ignace Visitors Bureau. She has worked in Michigan’s tourism & hospitality industry since 1996, holding posts in the Detroit metro area, as well as in the Upper Peninsula.