Petoskey Stone Festival on May 26 celebrates Michigan’s State Stone!

Petoskey Stone Polish Project by Odalaigh
Petoskey Stone Polish Project by Odalaigh

The 7th annual Antrim County  Petoskey Stone Festival takes place on May 28, 2011 in Barnes Park in Eastport. Admission to the festival will be FREE to one and all!

About Petoskey Stones

Petoskey stones are composed of fossilized skeletons of colony corals which lived their lifespan in the warm sea waters that at one time covered all of what is now the beautiful state of Michigan during ancient Devonian time, some 350 million years ago. Outcrops of these rocks are restricted to the Little Traverse Bay area near Petoskey, Michigan. Glaciers that covered Michigan about two million years ago plucked Petoskey stones as well as many other kinds of rocks and distributed them over Michigan and surrounding areas. Most of the Petoskey stones found along beaches and in gravels have already been rounded and smoothed by glacial and water action. Many of these are suitable for hand polishing and will often take a high polish. Occasionally a Petoskey stone will be found in “rough” form that has not been subjected to smoothing by glacial or wave action. The sample shown above is a fine example of a “rough” Petoskey. It was found in the limestone quarry at Charlevoix. In 1965, it was named the state stone of Michigan.

Petoskey Stone Resources from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources

The Petoskey Stone – Some history, lore and facts about the “Petoskey Stone” (very thorough document)

At the Quarry, The Petoskey Stone Tells Its Story

Seeking Michigan: The Magic of Lionel Trains

Seeking MichiganBy Steve Ostrander, Michigan Historical Museum and courtesy Seeking Michigan and the Archives of Michigan. The goal of Seeking Michigan is simple: to connect you to the stories of this great state. Visit them regularly for a dynamic & evolving look at Michigan’s cultural heritage and see more stories from Seeking Michigan at Absolute Michigan.

“King of the Toy Train World”

For more than one hundred years, Lionel trains have been a favorite toy. Originally founded in New York City in 1900 by inventor Joshua Lionel Cowen, the company now resides in Michigan.

This photo dates from about the early 1930s. The train is identified as a Lionel - based on comparisons of the switches, signal, trucks, track gauges, etc. with contemporary Lionel catalogs.

Cowen designed his first train, the Electric Express, not as a toy but as a display for selling toys. Demand soon turned the train into a toy.

It was at this time that Cowen’s superior marketing abilities made their impact. Cowen is responsible for linking toy trains to the Christmas season. It was Cowen’s idea to include toy trains as part of crèche displays. Later, incredible showroom and department store displays would leave every young boy wanting toy trains for Christmas, and toy trains remain popular Christmas gifts today. Colorful annual catalogs also enticed buyers.

By the 1920s, Lionel was the king of the toy train world. It was during this period that Lionel produced some of their most beautiful trains. The locomotives and rolling stock were highly detailed.

Lionel ceased toy production during World War II and manufactured items for national defense.

“A Real Estate Developer Who Loved Toy Trains”

In 1971, Lionel moved to Mt. Clemens, Michigan, but the company experienced hard times. In 1986, Richard P. Kughn, a real estate developer in Detroit who loved toy trains from the time he was seven years old, bought Lionel Trains. The sales and quality of the trains improved dramatically.

Kughn once talked about his passion for toy trains. “I was walking home from school on trash day. There was a trash barrel out in front of a house with a train sticking out on top. I didn’t know much about trains or toy trains at the time, but it intrigued me so I pulled all the pieces out, including the tracks and the transformer. I took it home, and my dad helped me clean it up. We worked on it and put it on the ping-pong table in the basement, and it ran.”

Kughn said “If you’re happy in what you’re doing, in creating, putting things together, watching things happen in front of your eyes because of your efforts, it makes you smile. . .and time goes by rapidly when you play with toy trains—that’s happiness.”

In 1995, Kughn sold the company. Today, it is located in Chesterfield, Michigan.

Seeking Michigan would like to thank the following for consultation on the photo above:

Peter Magoun, Trains and Things Hobbies, Traverse City, Michigan
Mark Cowles, Lansing Area N-Trak Model Railroad Club
Various members of the National Model Railroad Association

You can click to visit Lionel Trains, and here’s a blast from the past – The Wonderful World of Trains from Lionel Trains.

October 24th Northern Lights over Michigan

northern lights, clare county MI by ats8110
northern lights, clare county MI by ats8110

Last night our Michigan Northern Lights Log got over 2 dozen reports from the region of sightings – follow the link to subscribe via RSS. Here’s the skinny on last night’s Auroral Amazement via Michigan in Pictures

Michigan was treated to an amazing show of Northern Lights as the skies exploded in red, green, white and even blues and yellows of the best display of the Aurora Borealis in years. Our Michigan Northern Lights Log and Flickr group lit up with photos and reports.

There were places you would expect – Marquette, the Keweenaw Peninsula, Escanaba – but also reports from literally EVERYWHERE in Michigan: Bath, Bellaire, Big Rapids, Blanchard, Clare, Charlotte, Charlevoix, Clark Lake, Coldwater Lake, East Leland, Frankfort, Fostoria, Grand Rapids, Jackson, Lapeer, Leelanau County, Lenawee County, Mecosta, Mikado, Mulliken, Ottawa County, Onsted, Pontiac, Petoskey, Reading, Saginaw, Stockbridge, Tecumseh, Traverse City, Unionville, Whitehall & White Lake. People even checked in with reports from Pittsburgh, Indiana & Ohio.

Definitely click through to Michigan in Pictures for a sweet set of photos of the Northern Lights over Lake Superior. There’s also all kinds of great info in the Northern Lights category including . Check out this great video of the Northern Lights from East Martin, MI by lakefxnet:

Hang Gliding in Michigan

Elberta Beach During the Hang Gliding Heydays by jimflix!
Elberta Beach During the Hang Gliding Heydays by jimflix!

A few weeks ago on Michigan in Pictures we featured this great photo of hang gliding at Elberta Beach (Frankfort) in the 1970s. Frankfort & Elberta on Lake Michigan was a hang gliding and soaring hotspot in the 1970s and earlier. Here’s a shot of sailplanes in the 1930s, a little Frankfort-Elberta Area Hang Gliding information and a video of present-day hang-gliding at Green Point Dunes (just south of Frankfort – read more about Green Point)

Another great spot is Warren Dunes in Southwest Michigan (there is a company that can take you gliding at Warren Dunes). You don’t even need dunes or cliffs at Cloud 9 Aerotow in Webberville.

Lights in the Sky: Persied Meteor Shower & Northern Lights

Aurora by Muvv
Aurora by Muvv

Over on Michigan in Pictures there’s a post about the 2010 Perseid Meteor  Shower which peaks tonight (August 12, 2010). Check there for viewing information about this shower which can produce in excess of 50 meteors per hour. Last year on Michigan in Pictures, we noted that the July/August shower which is associated with Comet Swift-Tuttle is also known as The Tears of St. Lawrence:

Laurentius, a Christian deacon, is said to have been martyred by the Romans in 258 AD on an iron outdoor stove. It was in the midst of this torture that Laurentius cried out: “I am already roasted on one side and, if thou wouldst have me well cooked, it is time to turn me on the other.”

The saint’s death was commemorated on his feast day, Aug. 10. King Phillip II of Spain built his monastery place the “Escorial,” on the plan of the holy gridiron. And the abundance of shooting stars seen annually between approximately Aug. 8 and 14 have come to be known as St. Lawrence’s “fiery tears.”

Stories like that always make me wonder why the phrase “mean as a Roman” isn’t more popular. Persieds aren’t the only thing lighting up the sky recently. Michigan in Pictures also featured a post about the early August Northern Lights. The photographer was featured in the CNN video below, and another Michigan in Pictures regular Shawn Malone was featured in this National Geographic photo feature about how that Huge Solar Storm Triggered Unusual Auroras. So take a look up in that Michigan sky tonight with friends and family – it’ll be well worth it!

National cribbage competition coming to Grand Rapids

Cribbage Pegs by the photoshoparama
Cribbage Pegs by the photoshoparama

The American Cribbage Congress will be holding the Grand National 28 in Grand Rapids on September 25–27, 2009. In addition, the Grass Roots Tournament of Champions will be held on Friday, September 25. Entrants who want to play Grass Roots cribbage on Monday–Thursday nights will have plenty of opportunity, for Michigan boasts thirteen Grass Roots clubs.

All events will be held at the same location: Crowne Plaza Hotel, located near the airport on the southeast side of town (5700 28th Street SE, Grand Rapids MI 49546). A special cribbage rate is available for all GN players (make reservations by calling 800.227.6963).

The event received a nice writeup in the Grand Rapids Press on mlive.com titled – Cribbage tournament brings nation’s best players to Grand Rapids in battle for cash

It’s the first time this Who’s Who battle of card sharks has visited the state. For cribbage groupies, it’s a chance to see De Lynn Colvert, of Missoula, Mont., who is billed as the greatest player in the cribbage universe.

Ace cribbage players are sticklers for the rules, but the state’s mightiest wooden board warrior said all is fair in friendly banter.

While game code is sacred and “timber haulers” are despicable, that doesn’t stop experts from serving up a tall tales and trash talk.

These human calculators “love to drink, play cards and tell lies,” said Jeff Shimp, 70, of Grand Haven, who holds the imposing title of Life Master One Star in cribbage circles.

The tournament is expected to draw about 350 cribbage players from across the country. They will battle for bragging rights and a top prize of about $1,500, depending on the event’s take. Other tournaments, including more than a dozen satellite tournaments, kicked off Friday at the hotel.

mlive.com also has another feature with Muskegon cribbage board collector Dan Betz who 450 boards many of which were crafted by the Drueke Co., founded in Grand Rapids in 1914 and now is located in Ludington.

The Woodward Dream Cruise, a Detroit Classic

Red, White and Chrome Dream Cruise by kelley girl

The 15th annual Woodward Dream Cruise happens this Saturday, August 15, 2009 in Detroit, Michigan. It’s billed as the world’s largest one-day celebration of car culture, and with more 1.7 million visitors and over than 40,000 muscle cars, street rods, custom, collector and special interest vehicles, it delivers. Be sure to check out their Woodward Dream Cruise history page!

Speaking of history, Michigan in Pictures has an excerpt from Cruisin’ the Original: Woodward Avenue from Arcadia Publishing that features some excellent photos from the 1950s. Did someone say photos? Check out this Flickr slideshow of Woodward Dream Cruise photos.

The Detroit News are official sponsors of the event and are featuring extensive Woodward Dream Cruise coverage of the activities, photo galleries, live video on Cruise day and live blogging as the event unfolds. Do not miss their Interactive: Your guide to the Woodward Dream Cruise.

Absolute Michigan’s video correspondents Scott Allman and Jim McClain visited the Woodward Dream Cruise in 2008 and got some great shots of the cars along with interviews with the interesting and colorful characters that make up the world’s largest one-day car event:

It’s definitely worth clicking over to see the high quality version.

Steam whistles, steel wheels and Daylight (4449): Owosso’s TrainFestival

Daylight-4449-1976-freedom-trainJuly 23-26, 2009 the TrainFestival 2009 rolls into Owosso. The Steam Railroading Institute is hosting the event and says:

Steam and Diesel Locomotives from around the country will be on display for visitors to tour the cabs, take photos, watch demonstrations and much more. Huge model train layouts will be on display including a massive all-Lego model train. Railroad vendors from around the globe will have unique items for purchase that you won’t find any where else. Families will be able to take an all day excursion or shorter one-hour train ride behind various vintage locomotives. For the thrill seeking visitor, you will even be able to pull the throttle and blow the whistle on one of these steam locomotives. Scaled down miniature trains will be hauling passengers around the grounds of the event as well.

One of the trains on hand will be Daylight 4449 (photo courtesy Wikipedia) – the last remaining operable locomotive from the art deco era and the trail that was selected to pull the American Freedom Train for the Bicentennial in ’76 (click the picture to see bigger). You can learn all about it at that link and even follow along with its progress towards Owosso via their twitter feed.

2009 Rothbury Ticket Giveaway Is Over!

After tallying the votes from an enormous number of submissions we have identified our winner. Drum roll please……

“I moved from Michigan to Florida this January for work. People said “Florida in the winter….wow, you’re lucky” and “you got a job in this economy, man, you’re lucky”. Well let me tell you something my Michigan friends….you can take a man out of Flint, but you’ll never take the Flintstone out of the Man. Give me one excuse to leave this this oceanside resort for a reunion with the best people in the world, my Michigander soul people, and I won’t be taking Interstate 75 south again. This Michigan Man is ready to find a way to join all the spirited people celebrating our nations birth with some Great Times in the Great Lakes…..and I thank you absolutemichigan.com for bringing me home!!! Say Yeah to Rothbury, the best music line up of the year….Say Yes to Me in M!ch!gan!!!”

Stace S

Rothbury by Dave Vann

Rothbury Snoop Dogg Crowd by Dave Vann

We are pleased to announce that just as we did last year we are having another Rothbury Ticket Giveaway thanks to the very generous festival organizers. This year we will be giving away a pair of 4 day GA Tickets camping included!

Tickets can still be purchased and just like last year’s Rothbury Festival they are offering a variety of packages to suit all lifestyles. Unique to this year’s festival are the 2 day Saturday & Sunday tickets.

About the Rothbury Music Festival

This year the Rothbury Music Festival takes place July 2-5, 2009 in Rothbury, Michigan (near Muskegon). RothburyFour days of music on six stages feature some of the biggest musical acts around including THE DEAD • BOB DYLAN AND HIS BAND • THE STRING CHEESE INCIDENT • WILLIE NELSON & FAMILY • THE BLACK CROWES • DAMIAN ‘JR. GONG’ MARLEY & NAS • STS9 • G. LOVE & SPECIAL SAUCE • GOV’T MULE • UMPHREY’S MCGEE • BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE • YONDER MOUNTAIN STRING BAND • and about a jillion others!

The festival also will be showcasing “Circus & Theater“, a feature that demonstrates the festival’s commitment to the performing arts and theatrical culture.

All kinds of interesting Environments & Experiences where you can wander through the Sherwood Forest and stumble upon its many mysteries. Put your hands on some great new gadgets and games at the Festival’s Epicenter or wake up and get loose in a unique yoga journey.

The Rothbury Think Tank will be focused on finding energy independence and feature the innovators, entrepreneurs, thought leaders, celebs, and rabble rousers who – in this time of economic, energy and climate crisis – are offering a green path to a brighter future.

Rothbury in Video and Pictures

Checkout more Rothbury videos on their YouTube channel!

There is also this awesome slideshow from Rothbury 2008 via Flickr…

Cherry Blossoms: Subtly Sweet Signs of Spring

Driving today on the Leelanau Peninsula, I noticed the cherry trees beginning to bloom. Apparently, the south side of the farms have warmed and are ready to begin the growing season, while the trees planted in the north appeared a little less eager to wake from winter’s slumber. Within days, the orchards will be adorned in pinkish white petals.

Across cultures, the bloom of the cherry tree is revered. In both China and Japan, annual celebrations mark this special time in the growing season. The delicate, short-lived blossom symbolizes the temporariness of human life. In the span of a growing season, an orchard in bloom lasts the equivalent length of a sunrise; you glance momentarily at the sun peeking over the horizon, while sipping morning coffee. Before long, this fiery orb fills the sky and you return to your oatmeal as if nothing miraculous happened at all.

As breathtaking as a sunrise, the blossoming cherry trees have this same potential for being overlooked. Without fanfare the blossoms emerge, signaling the start of the annual growing season and fortelling the fruits to come. High off the ground, this delicate flower begins growing as the unpredictable north leaves them susceptible to devastating frosts. At the end of their short lives, the blossoms sprinkle to the ground and cover the ground as snow and then return again to the earth.

The Leelanau Peninsula is known for its cherries, and the opportunity to witness the gorgeous spring bouquets of blossoms bursting in the orchards is here and now. Check out the 2009 Cherry Blossom Tour this weekend or make a date to tour the area. No reservations are required, but this show runs for a limited time only and will not be back again until 2010!

Dark Chocolate Chunk and Dried Cherry Oatmeal Cookies

* 1 cup butter
* 1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
* 2 eggs
* 1 & 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
* 1 & 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 3 cups oats
* 1 cup dried cherries
* 8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chunks

Preheat oven to 350 °.

Beat butter and brown sugar together until smooth. Add eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition. Add vanilla.

In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Gradually add to the butter mixture just until combined. Do not overmix. Stir in oats, cherries, and chocolate.

Drop by tablespoonfuls onto lined or lightly greased baking sheets. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until bottom edges are lightly browned. Cool on pans for a few minutes, then remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

These may also be made into bar cookies. Press the dough into a lightly greased 13?x 9? baking pan. Bake for about 30 minutes.

Photos: Blossom, Barn & Blue Sky and Blue Sky & Blossoms by Andrew McFarlane. You can click both of them for background-big pictures!

Article courtesy of Leelanau.com