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2014 Michigan Notable Books

20 books celebrating Michigan people, places, and events

The Library of Michigan has announced their list of Michigan Notable Books for 2014. “The Michigan Notable Books Program helps to show what is ‘great’ about the Great Lakes State,” said State Librarian Nancy Robertson. “It is amazing to see the quality of books that are written focusing on Michigan year after year,” added Robertson.

Annually, the Michigan Notable Books Program (MNB) began in 1991 as part of the Michigan Week celebration. The annual list features 20 books published in the previous calendar year that are about Michigan or the Great Lakes region, or are written by a Michigan author. Selections include nonfiction and fiction books that appeal to a variety of audiences and cover a range of topics and issues close to the hearts of Michigan residents.

For more information about the MNB program call 517 373-1300, visit www.michigan.gov/notablebooks or email rileyr1@michigan.gov.

Ford’s Model T

This article was published in Michigan History Magazine in 2005 and shared by the Archives of Michigan. This Tuesday, July 30th, is the 150th birthday of Michigan’s most influential figure, Henry Ford. The photo with the article seems to have vanished, but we have replaced it with an incredible shot by Lou Peeples. Be sure to click the photo to see it bigger!

title=“I will build a motor car for the great multitude,” Henry Ford announced. “It will be so low in price,” he added, “that no man making a good salary will be unable to own one.” With these words Henry Ford introduced the world to the Model T. It was October 1908 and, when the Ford Motor Company quit making the Model T nineteen years later, it had become one of the world’s most popular cars.

The Model T (there were models A through S) carried a 4-cylinder motor, and traveled up to 45 miles per hour. It came in one color, black.

The Model T also introduced drivers to new mechanical improvements. In a Model T, the driver controlled the car with three floor pedals: a brake and a pedal for forward and one for reverse. This left the driver’s hands free to steer the car. Unlike most cars of the time, the steering wheel was on the left side of the car.

The Model T was popular because it was cheap (eventually less than $300) and easy to fix. All a driver needed were pliers and a screwdriver to keep it running. Spare parts were easily available, and the Model T never seemed to wear out.

Americans loved the Model T. A woman from Georgia wrote Henry Ford, “Your car … brought joy into our lives.” The Model T even developed international fame. As one newspaper noted, “The Ford Motor Company has beaten out both the [U.S.] flag and the Constitution in carrying civilization into the wild places of the world.”

In 1927 the Ford Motor Company stopped making Model Ts; it had produced 15,007,033 cars. In the 1970s, Germany’s Volkswagen Beetle finally surpassed the Model T in numbers made.

As the Ford Motor Company likes to say to this day, the Model T “put America on wheels.” How true.

PHOTO: Model T circa 1922 by Lou Peeples

Remembering Gwen Frostic

Let’s just wander here and there ~~
like leaves floating in the autumn air
and look at common little things ~~
stones on the beach ~~
flowers turning into berries…
From the winds we’ll catch a bit
of that wondrous feeling that comes ~
~~ not from seeing ~~
but from being part of nature…

~Gwen Frostic

Today is (thanks to Gov. William Milliken) Gwen Frostic Day in Michigan. Frostic was born in 1906 and passed away in 2001. We heartily encourage you to read the fascinating story of one of Michigan’s best known artists in from the Detroit Free Press (via archive.org).

April is Michigan Wine Month!

Future wine.. by Daylily18
Future wine.. by Daylily18

Governor Rick Snyder has declared April as “Michigan Wine Month” to honor Michigan’s wide selection of quality wines and the wine industry’s significant contribution to the economy. Sales of Michigan wine in the state rose more than 6 percent in 2012, while total wine sales increased just 1 percent. Michigan wine sales have outpaced total wine sales over the past 10 years, doubling Michigan wineries’ market share to 6.5 percent.

The Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council has added 11 new wineries to its roster over the last year — for a total of 101 wineries that support Michigan agriculture by using primarily Michigan grapes and other fruit for their wines. Michigan’s wineries welcome more than 1 million visitors to their tasting rooms each year, and Michigan’s wine and grape industries contribute more than $800 million to the state’s economy annually.

NAIAS 2013

NAIAS 2013

via Michigan in Pictures…

Snapshots from the 2013 North American International Auto Show aka NAIAS 2013 aka the Detroit Auto Show started yesterday for media & industry. The public show runs Saturday, January 19 through Saturday, January 26. Here are a few quick hits:

Get more NAIAS on Michigan in Pictures!

Have you been to Winter Driving School?

“The single biggest thing I can tell anybody is to slow down.”
~Instructor Mark Osborne

I-96 Westbound Closed by p912s (Scot)
I-96 Westbound Closed by p912s (Scot)

Wintertime driving can be challenging, and even deadly. It makes a lot  of sense for Michiganders to spend a some time and thought on staying safe behind the wheel in wintertime. The Keweenaw Research Center Winter Driving School at Michigan Tech offers drivers the tools to succeed. You don’t have to make the trip to Houghton to benefit from their knowledge, however.

Their handy Winter Driving guide details some of the proper vehicle maintenance that can help you to focus on driving, not mechanical problems, which can become a lot significant in the winter. Here’s a few solid tips – many more if you click the link!

Seeking Michigan: From Signage to Santa

Seeking MichiganBy Mary Zimmeth, Archives of Michigan 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.

25 Christmas Lane on a winter’s eve, circa 2010 (Photo courtesy of Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland)

My favorite holiday movie is National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989). Clark Griswold, (Chevy Chase), our hero, has a plan for the traditional Griswold family Christmas that includes fifty thousand twinkling outdoor lights on the roof. When Clark drags his entire family out to see his masterpiece, the lights don’t work. The frustrating, yet entertaining, effort to fix the problem resonates with me (This includes Clark on the roof checking each individual bulb.). My favorite part comes when Clark prevails, the family is impressed, and he thanks his father for teaching him about exterior illumination.

Beginnings

Wallace Bronner (1927-2008) knew that exterior illumination is essential for the holidays. We are all familiar with his enormous enterprise: Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland, located on 25 Christmas Lane in Frankenmuth. Initially, this behemoth of holiday cheer started as a signage business. During the early forties, Wally worked as a sign painter and a clerk at the Hubinger Grocery Store, which was owned by his maternal relatives. Part of his job included designing window displays. In 1945, as Frankenmuth celebrated its centennial year, Bronner Display and Sign Advertising was in demand for painting signs and decorating store windows and parade floats. That year Wallace Bronner met Irene Ruth Pretzer, the woman he would marry on June 23, 1951 at St. Peter Lutheran Church in Hemlock, Michigan.

Signs designed by Wally Bronner for the city of Clare, 1951 (Photo courtesy of Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland.).

Irene was instrumental in helping Wally land a monthly window display contract with the Jennison Hardware Company of Bay City (c. 1947) (Irene had attended Bay City Junior College and boarded at the home of G.W. Cooke, president of the hardware company.). Bronner’s work for the hardware company resulted in a referral to the town of Clare, Michigan (1951). This first municipal holiday commission was to design decorative lamppost panels. After that job, Wally hired his friend Fred Bernthal to look for new clients in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Ontario.

Bronner also entered into contracts with General Plastics Corporation (Marion, Indiana) and Mold-Craft Corporation (Port Washington, Wisconsin). These companies provided street trims and ornaments, latex Santas, reindeers and nativity scenes. In 1952, Bronner staged two shows exhibiting outdoor Christmas decorations, one in the Frankenmuth Township Hall, the other at the St. Lorenz School gymnasium. Both were successful. However, both venues were temporary. Bronner decided to rent a more permanent building, a vacated one-room schoolhouse (formerly Frankenmuth School District Number 1). Thus, year round exhibit of Christmas decorations became possible! “At first the people of the community thought the idea to be rather unusual, but accepted it fully when Frankenmuth became known as the Christmas Town.” (Bronner’s 2005 Corporate History, page 35.)

“Thinking Big”

Wally Bronner with employees. (Photo taken in the 1960s. Photo is courtesy Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland)

Herman Bronner (Wally’s father) was a building contractor and stone mason. He convinced his son to “think big” by changing the plans for the first Bronner-owned building from two, L-shaped, rectangular buildings to one large, square building. The Bronner’s store at 121 East Tuscola (a lot adjoining Aunt Hattie’s grocery store) opened in 1954. It was divided into two sections, one space for the sign painting business, the other for Christmas decorations.

Wally was grateful for his dad’s vision and business acumen. The municipal clientele grew to include shopping centers and commercial interiors. As buyers selected decorations for their stores and churches, their wives requested home decorations. From 1954 to 1963, Bronner exhibited at the Saginaw County Fair, which, at the time, boasted numbers of three hundred thousand people. By 1960, the company was officially incorporated, and home decorations were added to the product line. In 1964, the first billboard advertising Bronners appeared on I-75, ten miles south of Exit 136 (Frankenmuth). Many travelling up North are familiar with that sign. Subsequent ones (more than sixty located in seven states) continue to extol the importance of holiday cheer and illumination.

Source material

Picturesque Story of Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland, as related by Wally Bronner. Published by Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland, 2005.

The History of Bronner’s Christmas Decorations by Doris A Paul. Published by the Frankenmuth Historical Museum, 1981.

Brad Redford, a native of Frankenmuth visited Bronner’s last year and has a pretty funny video in his show Redford’s Rundown. However, we’re going to have to go with this awesome music video of Wally Bronner (Christmas Always) by Michigan rockers The Hard Lessons. A little tip: click that link and subscribe to their email list to download their entire new album Arms Forest AND stay tuned at the end of the video for the B-side of this song, O Holy Night!

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. 

Roundup: Opening Day of Michigan deer hunting season


Buck on the run by oakwood

Opening day of deer season probably ranks pretty high in the list of Michigan holidays. The Michigan DNR has all the details on deer hunting in Michigan, including a reminder that much public land is open to hunting – be aware!

Michigan saw just 650,000 hunters last season, but that number is expected to climb to about 700,000 for the November 15-30 firearm deer season. As in 2011, some of these will be 10 and 11 year-olds due to Michigan’s Hunter Heritage Act. The Michigan DNR is your best source for information and their MI-Hunt program allows you to locate public lands open to hunting.  There’s also a lot more info from the White-tail Deer Portal from the DNR and MSU.

The Battle Creek Enquirer says that while “up north” was the place to be in years past, that trend has slowly changed to the point where southern Michigan is seen to offer the best hunting and has produced the highest number of deer killed. They also say that:

This year, however, there is a wild card: Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease.

EHD is an often-fatal disease transmitted to deer by midges. Late this summer, an EHD outbreak was confirmed in Ionia County. It eventually spread throughout most of southern Michigan. In late October, the disease had been confirmed in 30 counties and accounted for a minimum of 12,000 dead deer – a number that accounts for only those deer reported to the DNR. The actual number of deer lost is anyone’s guess.

The DNR is asking for your help in reporting dead deer from EHD. One bright spot is that EHD does not affect humans, so edibility of the venison is not impacted by this disease.

An excellent, in-depth report from Bridge Magazine last year titled Deer have Michigan on the run is still relevant. It explains that:

The number of hunters in Michigan has been shrinking since the 1960s, according to state data. Hunting license sales have decreased 15 percent over the past 15 years, from 934,430 in 1995 to 786,880 last year.

The ranks of hunters are shrinking nationwide. But the effects of that trend are especially prevalent in Michigan, where deer dominate vast areas of the landscape, hunters are the primary method for keeping the herd in check and revenue from the sale of hunting licenses funds many of the state’s wildlife management programs.

Fewer hunters mean: Less money for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to manage wildlife; less money to maintain forests, marshes and other areas where birds and mammals reside; less money for conservation officers who keep poachers in check; and less money for small businesses that count hunters among their best customers.

It also means more deer – read on to learn about the impacts of our 1.7 million deer.

In another great article from last year, AnnArbor.com noted that Opening Day is Michigan’s other Black Friday, as deer hunters spend an average of $800 each, making deer hunting a half a billion dollar industry in Michigan. The Freep adds a feature on hunting gear that’s made in Michigan. If you are gearing up, be sure to look in on our Sporting Goods section.

Happy hunting!

Michigan Wine Grape Acreage Growth and the Grand Rapids Wine Festival!

Pour-Over by TerryJohnston
Pour-Over by TerryJohnston

Our winner is Kimberly W. who writes she’s excited to check out Six-One-Six restaurant. Their festival menu looks delicious: Braised Devries Pork Shoulder with Butternut-Chipotle Crema, Salsa Verde, Micro Cilantro and Lime! Six-One-Six is a special favorite of of Absolute Michigan as in addition to their delicious offerings, they have a focus on locally sourcing food & drink!

Before we get to the great news on Michigan’s wine industry, we’d like to give you a chance to meet a lot of the industry leaders with a pair of tickets to the Grand Rapids Wine, Beer & Food Festival good for either Friday or Saturday!

The festival takes place November 8-10 at DeVos Place in Grand Rapids and is not to be missed! It brings together dozens of Michigan wineries, breweries, cideries and restaurants along with wine & food distributors from around the nation and world and a host of acclaimed food & wine experts offering tasting & seminars to create one of Michigan’s best culinary experiences. Click the link or watch the video below for more!

To enter, all you have to do is send an email to giveaway@absolutemichigan.com with your name, a contact phone number and either your favorite Michigan wine, beer or cider OR a restaurant, winery or brewery that you are excited to check out. We’ll draw a winner from the emails we receive tomorrow (Friday) at 11 AM!

Michigan’s wine grape acreage doubled over the past decade, according to a report recently released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service. While acreage of juice & jelly grapes have remained steady at about 12,000 acres over the past decade, acreage of wine grapes has doubles from 1,300 to 2,650 acres, making Michigan the 5th largest grower of wine grapes in the US. According to the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council, there are 101 commercial wineries producing more than 1.3 million gallons of Michigan wine annually. That number has increased from 32 wineries in 2002 producing 400,000 gallons. For more information about the Michigan wine grape industry, visit the council’s website, www.michiganwines.com.

“This data confirms the steady growth of the wine industry,” said Gordon Wenk, Deputy Director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development, who also chairs the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council. “Michigan’s wineries are committed to the concept of regional identity by utilizing a high percentage of Michigan-grown fruit in their wines.”

grapes after sunset rain by aimeeern
grapes after sunset rain by aimeeern

Riesling is the most widely planted wine grape, with acreage nearly tripling in the past decade, and Michigan Rieslings and earned more than 20 top awards in 2012 for Riesling wines from bone dry to sweet late harvest & ice wine. It’s more than Riesling though. Cabernet Franc, a hearty, cooler climate red grape akin to the better known Cabernet Sauvignon also tripled in the past decade. Pinot Gris nearly quadrupled and Pinot Noir moved past Chardonnay as the state’s second most planted variety, with acreage increasing 150 percent in the last 10 years.

All in all, more than 40 varieties of wine grapes with at least two acres of production were reported. Traditional European varieties (vinifera) account for two-thirds of Michigan’s wine grape acreage. The balance is mainly comprised of hybrid varieties (crosses between European and native North American varieties). Get the complete results at michiganwines.com/fastfacts!

Here’s a video from last year courtesy our friends at Michigan by the Bottle: