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

From Family Fun to Extreme Terror – Halloween Events in Pure Michigan

Halloween is finally here. Whether you are looking for more family-friendly events or houses of horror that test even the bravest souls, there is plenty of Halloween fun happening around Michigan. Here are some of the events taking place around Michigan today that are sure to get you into the spirit of the season.

FAMILY-FRIENDLY BOOS

Halloween Spook Train
Spook TrainTake a ride on this spooktacular two-mile train ride. This Michigan Halloween happening is great fun for the entire family with 20 minutes of pure thrills and chills as you ride over bridges, trestles and even a 100-foot tunnel. Plus, there will be plenty of scares and laughs from the live spooks who are dying to entertain you.

Halloween Ghosts & Goodies
Your favorite spooky friends await you at Crossroads Village and Huckleberry Railroad throughout the month of October. Blinking pumpkin lights will lead you to 20 delicious candy stops around the village in addition to tasty cider and donuts for everyone. You’ll love the enchanted forest, magic show in the Horton-Colwell Opera House and the straw maze. Top off your trick-or-treat tour with a ride through the autumn country side on the famous Huckleberry Ghost Train Express.

Hell-O-Hollows Weekends
It is Halloween in Hell 365 days a year! To celebrate, bring your family and friends to enjoy delicious Hershey’s Ice Cream. Try the Grave Digger Sundae and get a Death Certificate. Droppings from the Coffin Bar will make you scream for ice cream. Free kiddies’ cones if you are in costume!

SPOOKTACULAR FUN

Skeletons Alive in Northville
Looking for a spooky downtown experience? Downtown Northville has been transformed with 100 life-size skeletons. The annual outdoor public display of boney friends takes place each October and features skeletons decked out in an array of costumes.

Terror on Tillson
Year after year, visitors flock to a small neighborhood in Romeo to experience Terror on Tillson, one of Michigan’s largest neighborhood funded Halloween attractions! The quaint street transforms from a street lined with majestic maple trees and historic homes, dating back to the late 1800’s, into a haunted habitat. Go check out all of the decorations and trick-or-treat to your heart’s content!

ErebusEXTREME TERROR

The Terrorfied Forest & Manor
The Terrorfied Forest is a 30 acre attraction that takes you deep into darkness. Step into your nightmares and see what is lurking in the woods. Navigate your way through heart pounding fright as creatures of the night come out to play. The 40 plus minute walk of over 1 mile of terror is sure to leave the hair on the back of your neck standing the entire time. Beware, your screams will only draw the monsters to feed on you faster.

Erebus Haunted Attraction
Erebus, the four-story Haunted House located in Pontiac, was entered into the Guinness World Records as the World’s Largest Walk-through Haunted Attraction from Aug. 2005 – Sept. 2009. Victims go through four stories of terrifying paths with fearsome ghouls, ghosts and monsters at every turn.

For more Halloween-related events happening in Michigan, visit michigan.org. What are your favorite Halloween attractions? Share with us 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.