Tulip Town Michigan

From its very beginnings, Holland, Michigan provided a refuge for those seeking religious autonomy and a more vibrant economy.  Persuaded by religious oppression and economic depression, a group of 60 Dutch Calvinist men, women, and children, led by Rev. Albertus C. VanRaalte, prepared for their 47-day trip from Rotterdam to New York.  VanRaalte intended to purchase land in Wisconsin, but travel delays and an early winter caused the group to layover in Detroit.  After hearing about available lands in West Michigan, VanRaalte decided to scout the territory.  He reached his destination on January 1, 1847 on the banks of Black Lake – today’s Lake Macatawa.

The hundreds of Dutch immigrants that followed VanRaalte expected to find their promised land, but instead found an insect-infested swamp and dense forest.

In 1850, VanRaalte donated land for an academy to prepare young men for advanced study.  The next year, the Pioneer School opened on this site, and four years later the institution was renamed the Holland Academy.  In 1859, the campus was enlarged to sixteen acres, and eventually evolved into Hope College.

The 1920’s brought Holland’s most enduring and famous festival – Tulip Time.  In 1927, Lida Rogers, a biology teacher at Holland High School, suggested the planting of flowers as a community beautification project.  In 1928, Nelis Tulip Farm imported tulip bulbs from the Netherlands and the city planted them along the street curbs and in the parks – a tradition that continues to this day.

In 1961, Holland businessman Carter Brown conceived of transplanting an authentic windmill from the Netherlands as a memorial to the city’s Dutch heritage.  Prolonged negotiations with Dutch officials, and authorization of $450,000 in revenue bonds, finally resulted in permission to remove one of the ancient windmills and transport it to Holland.  Its new location became known as Windmill Island, and it remains a major tourist attraction and Tulip Time venue.

For more information on Holland or to plan a visit, please visit: http://holland.org

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Hemingway’s Home of Sunsets and Stones

Overlooking the shores of Lake Michigan’s Little Traverse Bay in the northern tip of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula you’ll find Petoskey, Michigan. Petoskey was known as Bear River when the first missionary arrived in 1855. The town was later renamed after the Ottawa Indian, Chief Pe-to-se-ga. Petoskey was officially granted a charter in 1879.

Petoskey is known for its abundance of Petoskey Stones. Petoskey stones are fossilized colony corals (Hexagonaria percarinata) that were scraped up from the bedrock surface by glaciers. Petoskey stones can be found on beaches, in ditches, and in gravel pits. Similar fossils of the Hexagonaria genus occur in many parts of the world, but the “percarinata” is limited to the Traverse Group.

Petoskey has been called the “land of the million dollar sunsets” ever since 1873. On a late fall day that year, the train whistled to a stop at the end of its line – Petoskey. On board was a reporter for a Grand Rapids newspaper, who in reporting on the wilderness scenery, rhapsodized about the area’s “million dollar sunsets.”

Petoskey was also the home to Ernest Hemingway during his boyhood. The Michigan Hemingway Society holds their annual Hemingway Weekend in Petoskey. The annual Hemingway Weekend in Petoskey features speakers, readings, exhibits, and tours of northern Michigan sites where the Nobel Prize-winning author spent his boyhood years. This year, Hemingway Weekend is October 16-18.

For more information or to plan a visit to Petoskey, please visit: www.petoskeydowntown.com or www.petoskey.com

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Michigan’s Cheesy Potato City

When a Michigander hears the name Pinconning, chances are that the first thing they think of is cheese. But, did you know that Pinconning is an Indian name, which means “a place of potatoes?” It was named for the potatoes that grew by the river.

The first European settler in the area was GeorgeVan Etten, who put up a sawmill. Later, the Detroit and Mackinac Railroad built a line through Pinconning which “put the town on the map.”

Today, The City is most famous for the production of Pinconning Cheese, which began approximately 100 years ago. This is an old style recipe which has a taste somewhere between a colby and a cheddar. The process has been refined since its origin, and the cheese factory now produces a variety of styles, from fresh to aged.

For more information about Pinconning, please visit: www.infomi.com/city/pinconning/

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A “Grand” Date in Michigan History

Mackinac Island became one of the nation’s favored summer resorts during the Victorian era. Vacationers arrived in large lake excursion boats from Buffalo, Cleveland, Chicago and Detroit seeking the cooler weather on Mackinac Island. To accommodate overnight guests, boat and railroad companies financed the building of Grand Hotel. The Grand Hotel opened its doors on July 10, 1887.

Perhaps the most noticeable first impression of Mackinac Island is the absence of automobiles. Mackinac Island is accessible only by boat or plane. Visitors and residents travel by foot, bicycle or horse-drawn carriage. There are only 600 year-round Mackinac Island residents. During the summer, there are more than 500 horses.

Today, Mackinac Island is widely known for its fabulous fudge.  Fudge devotees are known as “fudgies” – a term that is also synonymous with Northern Michigan tourists. Slab fudge, the most common style of fudge made on the Island, is made by pouring liquid ingredients onto large marble slabs for hand working. About 10,000 pounds of the creamy confection are made daily each season.

To learn more about Mackinac Island, please visit www.mackinacisland.org

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Hey Michigan! Do you know how Hell got its name?

There are two theories on how Hell, MI was named. Read on and choose which one suits you best.

Theory One goes like this: A pair of German travelers slid out of a curtained stagecoach one sunny summer afternoon, and one said to the other, “So schoene hell.” ‘Hell,’ in the German language, means bright and beautiful. Those who overheard the visitors’ comments had a bit of a laugh and shared the story with the other locals.

Sometime later, George Reeves, who, more than anyone else, was responsible for the origin of Hell, was asked just what he thought the town should be named. George reportedly replied, “I don’t care, you can name it Hell if you want to.” As the story goes, the name stuck and stuck fast. After some attempts to soften the effect of the name by suggesting they change it to Reevesville or Reeve’s Mills, he gave up on the whole thing and simply lived with it.

Theory Two goes like this: The area in which Hell exists is pretty low and swampy. And because it was a part of the Dexter Trail, which traced along the higher ground between Lansing and Dexter, Michigan, a formerly busy farm market and early railhead, traveling through the Hell area would have been wetter, darker, more convoluted, and certainly denser with mosquitoes than other legs of the journey. Further, river traders of old would have had to portage between the Huron and the Grand River systems somewhere around the present location of Hell. You can picture them pulling their canoes, heavy with provisions and beaver pelts, through the underbrush, muttering and swatting bugs as they fought to get to the banks of the next river.

For more information about Hell or to plan a visit, check out www.hell2u.com.

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Michigan’s Mighty Mac

When your state is split into a Lower and Upper Peninsula, what can be done to connect the two? Build a bridge, but not just any bridge, the suspension engineering marvel that is the Mackinac Bridge!

The Mackinac Bridge (aka the “Mighty Mac”, the “Mac”, the “Big Mac”) is currently the third longest suspension bridge in the world and the longest in the Western Hemisphere. It spans the Straits of Mackinac, a full five miles from shore to shore, with the suspension bridge being 8,614 feet long.

Before the bridge was built, the only ways across the Straits of Mackinac were boating or swimming. Swimming was not the chosen option. Ferries were used to carry people, cars and livestock between peninsulas. During Michigan’s hunting season cars might wait 24 plus hours to get a ferry ride.

In 1932, the Mackinac Bridge Authority (MBA) was established to bring a bridge to completion. After many years of financing proposals and setbacks, the bridge opened to traffic on November 1, 1957.

For those that find driving across the bridge a scary endeavor, the MBA provides a courtesy driver at no cost to uneasy travelers.

Mighty Mac Fun Fact: June 1973, an Amish family crossed the bridge in a horse and buggy. It took them an hour to cross and they were the first on record to ever cross the bridge like that.

For more information, visit www.mackinacbridge.org.

Mackinac Bridge

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