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The Polar Express Comes to Michigan


While growing up in Grand Rapids, Chris Van Allsburg remembers hearing train whistles and taking train rides with his father. These childhood sights and sounds became part of the inspiration for Van Allsburg’s well-known children’s book, The Polar Express. The story is about a young boy who takes a magical journey aboard a train to the North Pole and receives a special gift-a bell-from Santa. Only those who truly believe in Santa can hear the bell.

The book’s popularity led to a movie released in November 2004. Michigan railroad buffs recognize the sound of the movie’s train whistle, which comes from one of the nation’s few working steam locomotives.

Built in 1941, the Pere Marquette 1225 is an enormous steam locomotive, measuring one hundred feet long and sixteen feet high. Replaced in 1951 by a more efficient diesel engine, the 1225 was saved from the scrap heap and decades later, ended up in Owosso as the star of the Steam Railroading Institute (SRI). Shortly thereafter, the 1225 was restored to its former glory.

As researchers prepared the movie version of Van Allsburg popular book, they were drawn to Owosso and the 1225. Technicians recorded the sound of the whistle, the clatter of the wheels and the rumble of the four-hundred-ton locomotive rolling down the tracks. The sounds were merged with the animated Polar Express.

Photos of the Pere Marquette 1225 from Glancy Train’s Photo Gallery

Visit Owosso’s Steam Railroading Institute for rides on their North Pole Express.

PHOTO CREDIT: Pere Marquette 1225, Bannister, Michigan, May 31, 2003
Photo © Adrienne Scholl, Michigan State Trust for Railway Preservation, Inc.

For more great stories on Michigan’s past, look to Michigan History magazine. For more information or a free trial issue, call (800) 366-3703 or visit http://www.michiganhistorymagazine.com/.

Sunset on Mackinac

Stephanie of Stephanie Stevens Photography recently added a few timelapses from Mackinac Island to the Absolute Michigan pool on Flickr. About her incredible timelapse of Mackinac Island harbor at sunset, she writes:

Hour & a halfish time lapse of Mackinac Island as the sun goes down, with ferries coming & going, horse carriages & bicycles on the streets, people in the park, & even some glowing Frisbees. :)

Watch it in HD and definitely check out Stephanie’s Flickr, her photography site and also a timelapse of stars at Arch Rock. More from Mackinac on Absolute Michigan.

Michigan Cranberries & Cranberry Farming

Thanksgiving is just a week away, so we’re rolling out a classic feature on cranberries! 

Cranberries by argusmaniac
Cranberries by argusmaniac

Although Michigan only has a small number of cranberry farms in the northeast, Upper Peninsula, and the southwestern corner of the state along Lake Michigan totaling about 250 acres – compared to more than 18,000 acres in nation-leading Wisconsin – the state does have all the requirements to grow a cranberry industry. 

July Michigan Event Calendar

Our Festival Summer Giveaway offers you a chance to win a pair of FREE tickets to many cool events in July & beyond. They are in the blue boxes below and all you have to do for a chance to win is be a subscriber to our email list. We'll randomly select winners all summer long, so sign up today!

Expanse by g. s. george
Expanse by g. s. george

You don’t have to travel far when you live in Michigan to find a whole lot of fun. We encourage you to support the festivals, events, cities and businesses that are making all the cool things happen around the state. So get out this summer and have some fun and create some great memories in the process. Carpe diem!!

As usual we by no means have listed all the events happening around Michigan. Add ones we missed (with links) in the comments below!

July Quotes

“Many public-school children seem to know only two dates: 1492 and 4th of July; and as a rule they don’t know what happened on either occasion. – Mark Twain

“Patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels.” – Mark Twain

“Live in each season as it passes: breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit.” Henry David Thoreau

“You know, when you get your first asparagus, or your first acorn squash, or your first really good tomato of the season, those are the moments that define the cook’s year. I get more excited by that than anything else.” – Mario Batali

“It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato.” – Lewis Grizzard

Fast Facts – via Wikipedia’s July entry

  • The second half of the year commences in July
  • The birthstone for July is a red ruby
  • July was renamed for Julius Caesar… Previously, it was called Quintilis…

Pure MichiganAlso be sure to check out Pure Michigan’s July Event Round-up and our Absolute Michigan Event Calendar for more great Michigan events!

July 2 – 9
National Cherry Festival Traverse City
The National Cherry Festival features over 150 events including free air shows over the Bay, colorful parades & marching bands, music shows, sporting events, rides & carnival games on the midway, pie-eating contests, clean blue skies, warm sunshine, crowds of smiling faces, and loads of luscious cherries prepared every way you can imagine!

July 11 – 17
Common Ground Lansing
Common Ground is situated in downtown Lansing along the banks of the Grand River in Adado Riverfront Park. Common Ground is an event for all your senses. This annual celebration features an outstanding line-up of musical acts, focusing on top-level, national, contemporary music performers, scores of food vendors, and a dynamic display of outdoor interactive activities for kids. With an attractive, intimate venue, state-of-art production and a comprehensive array of patron amenities, the festival is the premier special event of the summer in the greater Lansing region. Absolute Michigan gave away a pair of tickets!

July 8 – 9
Michigan Elvisfest Ypsilanti
The world-renowned Michigan Elvisfest began in 2000 in Ypsilanti, Michigan’s Historic Depot Town. Beautiful Riverside Park is the place where Elvis fans flock by the thousands every July to pay homage to the King of Rock & Roll and to hear the most award-winning professional Elvis Tribute Artists in North America, as well as other talented Legend Tribute Artists.

July 8 – 10
Blissfest Cross Village
The 30th Blissfest Music Festival will be a celebration of music, culture, art and community featuring a world of diverse and innovative folk and roots music and dance at the Festival Farm in picturesque rural northern Michigan. It is truly a blissful musical weekend to be shared with families, friends and music-lovers of all ages. The annual event is a showcase of the many musical styles that define American roots and world music. Bluegrass, Blues, Cajun, Celtic, Folk, Jazz, Latin, Ethnic, World music and dance all share the stage.

July 9 – Aug 7
Silver Leaf Renaissance Faire Battle Creek
Neither heat, rain nor scary beast will shut their gates that hold jousting and performances and all manner of medieval fun. The Faire is also West Michigan’s premier Artisan Marketplace with over 100 vendors selling their wares and crafts, you will find everything from turkey legs to wood-carving, leather to silks, and blacksmiths to fairy wings.

July 14 – Aug 7
The Michigan Shakespeare Festival Jackson
The Michigan Shakespeare Festival has been presenting the timeless themes and glorious language of William Shakespeare since 1995, growing each year into a premier regional event that draws respected actors from across the nation, and satisfied audiences from throughout the Midwest.

July 14 – 17
Venetian Festival St. Joseph
The name implies gracious glides on a glowing river and the gentle sounds of water rippling as gondoliers pole their slender boats and sing soft love songs to couples snuggled in the bows. Such were the hot days and long nights in Venice, Italy, where Venetian Festivals started so many years ago. In St. Joseph, they still celebrate hot July days and long summer nights with boat rides and love songs and couples holding hands. The Venetian Festival on the St. Joseph River is all of that plus music, fine food and fun for all ages!

July 14 – 17
Concert of Colors Detroit
The Concert of Colors is metro Detroit’s free annual diversity music festival. It is presented by ACCESS/Arab American National Museum, New Detroit Inc. and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) with the goal of bringing together metro Detroit’s diverse communities and ethnic groups by presenting musical acts from around the world. Over its 17-year history, the festival has become a beloved highlight of metro Detroit’s summer festival season.

July 15 – 16
Michigan Storytellers Festival Flint
It’s free fun for all INSIDE the Flint Public Library. Don’t miss our master storytellers who bring the oral tradition to life. As always there will be several workshops and storytelling concerts during the day on Saturday with storytellers in concert beginning at 7PM on Friday and Saturday.

July 15
Sip of Michigan Birthday Bash Detroit
Drink Michigan and the Rattlesnake Club in Detroit are joining forces for the 2nd annual Sip of Michigan party. In addition to being Drink Michigan’s 1st birthday, the event is a benefit for Homefront Hugs, a Michigan-based organization dedicated to helping our troops, their families and our veterans. Enjoy Michigan wine, beer and spirits, food pairing stations, and live entertainment on the Detroit riverfront from 8-midnight at the Rattlesnake Club. The event is $35 and includes 35 tasting tickets and all appetizers and entertainment – Absolute Michigan has a pair of tickets for our winner!

July 16 – 17
Quake on the Lake Waterford
Over the past 10 years, the “Quake” has become on of Oakland County’s must-attend events and is the North American Inboard Hydroplane Championship. The event is the proud holder of 17 American Power Boat Association (APBA) world speed records being set in 5 different racing classes making Pontiac Lake one of the fastest one-mile race courses in the country! There’s also music from Rare Earth, the Verve Pipe and others.

July 16 – 17
Ragtime Street Fair Dearborn
Savor an American original -Ragtime music. You’ll hear Scott Joplin rags like “Maple Leaf Rag” and “The Entertainer” along with  much, much more as scores of other musicians travel from all over the country to perform on nearly a dozen stages throughout Greenfield Village. It’s syncopated, jazzy, hot and live. Fresh summer food, too, and dancing in the streets!

July 20 – 23
Ann Arbor Street Art Fair Ann Arbor
Established in 1960, the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair is the Original of the now four award-winning Ann Arbor Art Fairs: The Ann Arbor Street Art Fair, the Original, The State Street Area Art Fair, The Ann Arbor Summer Art Fair and the Ann Arbor’s South University Art Fair. Together, the fairs attract over a half a million attendees from across the nation. The Original Fair was named the Number One Art Fair in the country by AmericanStyle magazine readers survey (October 2004) and has made the Top Ten Fairs and Festivals list every year since.

July 21 – 23
Taste of Kalamazoo Festival Kalamazoo
Every year, on the fourth weekend of July, thousands of hungry festival-goers flock to downtown Kalamazoo to enjoy the endless variety of foods prepared by Kalamazoo’s most popular eateries. More than 30 local restaurants and chefs will offer mouth-watering combinations of ethnic items, family favorites, exotic dishes, and local specialties along with music and all kinds of family fun – Our Festival Summer giveaway includes $10 in tasting tickets!
July 22 – 24
Hiawatha Music Festival Marquette
The Hiawatha Festival is the only event of its size and scope in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Without Hiawatha, local performers and fans would have to travel between four and six hours to the nearest festivals of its size and type. Each year’s event features traditional-music styles that include bluegrass, old-time, Cajun, Celtic, acoustic blues and folk – including singer/songwriters – and dance. Mainstage acts include nationally known performers as well as regional and local favorites. Absolute Michigan will be giving away a pair of tickets through Festival Summer so stay tuned!

July 22 – 23
Michigan Brewers Guild Summer Beer Festival Ypsilanti
The Summer Beer Festival is the Michigan Brewers Guild’s oldest and largest of our four annual festivals. The festival takes place outside in a lovely riverside setting and will feature more than 300 different beers from more than 50 different Michigan breweries. A variety of tasty food items are available for purchase from independent food vendors inside the festival and there will be a diverse selection live music from a variety of local bands.

July 23 – 24
Thunder Over Michigan Air Show Ypsilanti
The Yankee Air Museum’s annual at Willow Run Airport in Ypsilanti welcomes back the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels in 2011. The show also features the USAF F-16 Viper East Demo Team, realistic re-enactments, Vietnam era aerial dog fight aircraft display and tours including the revolutionary MV-22 Osprey and over two dozen F/A-18 Hornets from across the country. A pair of general admission tickets could be yours!

July 26 – 31
Traverse City Film Festival Traverse City
The Traverse City Film Festival has grown to become one of the largest film festivals in the Midwest, and one of the most respected in the country. Last year, there were over 80,000 admissions to nearly 100 screenings, a number of them U.S. or world premieres. A special emphasis is given to foreign films, American independents, documentaries, and films which have been overlooked but deserve the attention of a public starved to see a good movie.

July 29 – 31
Yale Bologna Festival Yale
Every July Yale plays host to the Yale Bologna Festival, a 3 day weekend event that closes the streets and transforms this small community of just under 2,000 to a gathering of over 20,000 Bologna starved party-goers! A tradition in Yale since 1989, this festival has grown considerably since its humble beginnings. The festival draws people from all around Michigan as well as other states, eager to see who will be the next King and Queen of Bologna. The Bologna Festival includes such events as the famed outhouses races, a street dance, fireworks and a parade down Main Street that continues to grow each year.

July 29 – Aug 7
Coast Guard Festival Grand Haven
The United States Coast Guard has a long and prestigious history in Grand Haven and around the world. Celebrate the Coasties with activities, events, and attractions for all ages. Many are free, and you will find plenty of fun and choices from Kid’s Day to the Street Dance and Cruise-In Car Show, to carnival rides, picnics, parades, fireworks and ship tours.

July 30 & 31
Maker Faire Detroit Dearborn
Motor City becomes Maker City with over 300 exhibiting makers, demonstrations, hands-on workshops, music & vendors. From robotics, electronics, and rockets to food and fashion finds – if it’s made, there’s a good chance it’ll be at Maker Faire! The 2 day event at the The Henry Ford in Detroit is an interactive and family-friendly showcase of creativity and cool technology that takes the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) mindset to the next level. We have a pair of passes to give away through Festival Summer, so stay tuned!

July 30 – 31
Art On The Rocks Marquette
Located in a beautiful wooded area on the shore of Lake Superior in north Marquette, the annual Art On The Rocks at Presque Isle Park features a huge variety of artwork in all media for show & sale.

Michigan: Great Lakes Surfing Capital


Surfing Michigan by farlane

We’ve pulled together a great collection of Great Lakes & Michigan surfing videos with a few links:

Did we miss something? Of course we did!! Tell us and/or add a link in the comments.

Great Lakes Folk Festival: August 13 – 15, 2010

The roots, the rhythms and the richness of music, dance, arts and culture from across America and around the world come to downtown East Lansing for the Michigan State University Museum’s annual Great Lakes Folk Festival, Aug. 13 – 15.

The festival encourages cross-cultural understanding of our diverse society through the presentation of musicians, dancers, cooks, storytellers and craftspeople whose traditions are rooted in their communities.

The festival includes nearly 100 musicians or dancers in groups, who perform at least twice and sometimes as many as four times over the weekend. Also featured are traditional and other food vendors, craft vendors and many other individual artists/demonstrators. There are five performance stages (including one with a 2,400 sq. ft. dance floor), a children’s hands-on activity area, crafts demonstrations, and crafts marketplace. In addition there are special programs every year, which feature some aspect of traditional culture.

MSUMuseumFiesta

Photo credit: Patrick Power

Observes GLFF founding director Marsha MacDowell, “The folk festival is a unique celebration of the histories, traditions, and cultures of the many peoples of the world, and while we have a focus on Michigan and the Great Lakes, we also present artists from around the nation and world. This is one of the few venues in the country to regularly showcase award-winning state and national artists, including recipients of the Michigan Heritage Awards and the National Endowment for the Arts’ National Heritage Fellowship Awardees. ”

This award-winning event is one of the region’s premiere arts programs and a summer-time high note — and is expected to draw more than 90,000 visitors throughout the weekend to celebrate culture, tradition and community. GLFF was named the state’s top public humanities program by the Michigan Humanities Council and the event received an artistic excellence grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to help produce this year’s activities.

Festival hours are: Friday, Aug. 13, 6 – 10:30 p.m.; Saturday, Aug. 14, noon – 10:30 p.m.; and Sunday, Aug. 15, noon – 6 p.m. For more information, call the MSU Museum at (517) 432-GLFF (4533) or learn more at http://www.greatlakesfolkfest.net and on Facebook and Twitter.

Admission to the MSU Museum’s Great Lakes Folk Festival is free (donations are encouraged).

Get a feel for what the festival is like by checking out this flickr slideshow!
View Larger Map

From the Vine: Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail

As part of our celebration of Michigan Wine Month, we’ll be (re)featuring excerpts on each of Michigan’s five wine trails (and one taking you beyond the trails) from the Michigan Notable Book award-winning From the Vine: Exploring Michigan Wineries.

(Lake Michigan Shore and Fennville AVAs)

The Lake Michigan Shore viticultural area, with its blend of northern continental and maritime climates, produces distinctive fruit forward wines of unparalleled quality. The region hugs the southeast shore of Lake Michigan, extending from the Michigan-Indiana border north 70 miles to the Kalamazoo River at Saugatuck. Wines grown at the southern end have a noticeably lower acidity than the more minerally wines from the northern extreme, and the ability to ripen long season reds tends to diminish as one progresses from south to north.

Overall, the long growing season, with its cool ripening period during the last 60 days, results in wines having an intense fruit character not found in very many wine growing regions. Even the flagship red wines, like Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc, have a distinctive fruit-forward character that is not commonly found in warmer areas. The firm acidity of the white wines and the mild-mannered tannins of the red wines along, with the distinctive fruit character make Lake Michigan Shore wines very “food friendly” and “European” in character.

– Doug Welsh, Winemaker, Fenn Valley Vineyards

Get information about the wineries & winemakers of the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail including their upcoming Lake Michigan Shore Wine Festival (June 19, 2010).

From the Vine: Exploring Michigan WineriesFrom the Vine: Exploring Michigan Wineries is a must-have for wine enthusiasts, first-time tasters and travel buffs alike. Authors Sharon Kegerreis and Lorri Hathaway capture the personalities of the hardworking families behind the wines and the exceptional experiences awaiting you at 51 Michigan wineries.

More Michigan Notable Books!The 192-page hardcover book, honored as a 2008 Michigan Notable Book, begins with an insightful foreword by Governor Jennifer Granholm and wraps up with a handy wine glossary. The book is organized by four designated wine trails and “beyond the trails,” providing a sneak peek at Michigan’s wine trail destinations. Interesting tidbits on wine topics including Pinot Grigio vs. Pinot Gris, Syrah vs. Shiraz, Sparkling Wine: Why Can’t We Call It Champagne? and Ice Wine provide basic answers to lingering questions; and delicious side stories on local chocolate and cheese artisans tempt your taste buds.

Grab a glass of your favorite Michigan wine and let the beautiful photographs and intriguing stories take you on a journey through Michigan wine country. Order autographed copies of From the Vine at www.michiganvine.com during the month of April and get a $5 discount and free wine journal.

Michigan Good Food Tour: Fair Food Matters in Kalamazoo

beets450 by CreateWithKim
beets450 by CreateWithKim

The Michigan Land Use Institute’s Patty Cantrell is reporting on how communities across Michigan building stronger communities with healthy, local food in the Good Food Tour. The latest, Kalamazoo: Oh, the Webs They Weave!, begins:

The rise of Kalamazoo’s strong Good Food movement is a story about people—and about how one good thing often leads to another when those people are passionately committed to a local food economy—and communicating with each other.

For many in this region, the Good Food movement revolves around a non-profit called Fair Food Matters. FFM hosts the Eat Local, Kalamazoo! group, which sponsors events throughout the year to connect local people and local foods. FFM also puts on the Fair Food Film Festival and operates projects like the Can-Do Kitchen, summer chefs classes for kids, and learning gardens, like the Roots of Knowledge garden at Woodward Elementary School, in nearby Portage.

Read on for much more about good, local food in Kalamazoo & Southwest Michigan and also check out Fair Food Matters.

Wheatland Music Festival – September 9-11, 2011

trio by worth a few words
trio by worth a few words

The 37th Annual Wheatland Music Festival will be held September 9-11, 2011 at the 160 acre Wheatland Music Organization (WMO) property near Remus (Mecosta County midway between Big Rapids and Mt. Pleasant). The goal of the WMO is to serve as a resource center for the preservation and presentation of traditional music and arts, an idea that began with the First Wheatland Bluegrass Festival as a benefit for the Mt. Pleasant Food Co-Op, August 24, 1974.

The 2009 festival lineup features nationally known performers like The Steel Drivers, Red Stick Ramblers, Ruthie Foster, Aubrey Ghent and the The Wilders along with Michigan favorites including Detour Bluegrass and Robin & Linda Williams.

Wheatland Music FestivalWheatland limits ticket sales to maintain a environment conducive to enjoying the great music, so you need to get weekend tickets in advance. You may purchase online or call 989-967-8561 for availability. You can buy Sunday-only tickets at gate beginning at 8 AM on Sunday, September 7 for $25.

Photo credit: 2005 Wheatland Music Festival by Peggy Brisbane. Peggy has been photographing the musicians at the Wheatland Festival in 1983 and has photographed most of the festivals since then. View more photos in the Wheatland Music Organization photo gallery and also in the Wheatland Photos group on Flickr.

Here’s a cool video from 2007 capturing the feel of this classic Michigan festival.

Absolute Michigan Giveaway: 2009 Epicurean Classic in St. Joseph

Tasting Tent II by farlane
Tasting Tent II by farlane

The 2009 Epicurean Classic takes place St. Joseph August 28 – 30, 2009. It’s one of the premier annual celebrations of culinary artisanship, drawing big name chefs from around the nation and world who lead classes & cooking presentations and mingle in a relaxed and unimaginably tasty setting. Add in wines and wineries from all over the world and food & kitchen supply vendors sampling their wares and you will see why many people count this as one of Michigan’s signature events.

Suzanne E. of Lansing was selected as the winner of a pair of Gourmand Passes for the Classic. Click above to get YOUR tickets now!

Enjoy a taste of the Epicurean Classic in this video from Scott Allman Productions and be sure to attend – you will not be sorry!