Mackinac Island Off-Season Weekly Update – Vol. V 11/29/2010

UPDATE (11/30/2010:  To read about Bear’s testing adventure to become a Delta Society Pet Partner, you can click here:


Happy post-Thanksgiving Monday!  As one of my sons said a couple of days after Turkey Day, “Man, I’m STILL in a food coma!”

I know you’re visiting here to get some news about the island, but first a little “Bree” update from Georgia.  We had a fantastic holiday with the whole Sumner (my dad’s side of the family) clan in my hometown of Sylvester, GA.  There were around 25 of us who gathered at first cousin Wanda’s house.  There are five of us Sumner first cousins, so the remaining numbers were our children, grandchildren, wives and husbands.  Food covered every available spot in Wanda’s kitchen (as was typical in your homes also, I’m sure), and the wonder of all of us together, giving thanks for our blessings, will remain in my heart until we gather again next year. 

I don't think we could have gotten one more person into Wanda's kitchen, but all these cooks sure put on one delicious Thanksgiving feast!

The big news from the island this week has to be the snow (it fell and stuck!), the upcoming Christmas Bazaar, and the lighting of the town Christmas tree.  The tree will be lighted on Friday, December 3, at 5 p.m., and you can watch it all by tuning in on the web site and clicking on “Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau”.  I received a few “webcam shots” this week from readers who captured some “goings-on” on the island, and one of them revealed the area where the tree will be set up is already being decorated.

This "web-snap" from Mary M. shows the Nativity Scene already brightly glowing across from the Tourism Bureau. This was taken on Nov. 24 off the website.


Another web-snap from Mary - this one on Nov. 26, after the snow fell, from the webcam.


From the Horn's Bar webcam again - this one is from Alice on the evening of Nov. 26.

When I checked the “cams” tonight, before I began writing, I saw that most of the snow is gone now from the island.  All the predicted lake effect snow mostly missed Mackinac and fell just south.  My friend Chris Ann, who is in Mackinac City for the holidays, sent this pic from her yard on Saturday, where 8 inches fell (about a mile from the island, as the crow flies).

Chris Ann raking snow - just south of the island.

For any of you wanting an easy – and delicious – idea for Christmas giving, there are three fudge shops on the island who offer year-round online fudge sh0pping and shipping.  They are:  Joanne’s at, Ryba’s at, and Murdicks at  Just don’t visit any of those sites when you are really, really hungry.

Received another great newsletter from Greg Main this week.  He has become such a great resource for this update.  Here’s the latest (Warning!  Put on your heavy coat and your lifejacket before you read the part about his trip over to the island this week on the ferry!)

At some point during the wee hours preceding dawn Friday morning, winter weather made its first serious showing around this area.  Strong, southwesterly winds picked up lake moisture, dusting the island with little more than an inch of snow on the park lawn and other grassy areas, but it was enough, for at least two people anyway, to warrant driving snowmobiles into town.  Due to the sustained wind, what little snow which was in the air was, for the most part, simply swept along the streets, not sticking, only piling up against curbs, sides of buildings or other obstructions, leaving the greater percentage of our streets clear.  Whether it was the promise of The Weather Channel and other media outlets predicting anywhere from 5 – 10 more inches of snow over the next 24 hours, or whether it was nothing more than ‘time to do it’, snowmobiles are in the public eye once again.  Overnight last night, another inch or so fell, but the previous day’s wind chill of 18 degrees was, by daybreak, a distant memory as temperatures rose steadily.  By sun-up, melting had already begun.  So much so, that by 3 p.m. today (Saturday) there is very little white left on the ground.  What little there is should be gone by Tuesday if temperature predictions are accurate.

Coming back to the island on Friday morning, after spending a day and a half in Manistique for Thanksgiving, a sense of disappointment came over me as I pulled into the Arnold Transit parking lot at 10:30.  The ferry schedule noted there should be an 11 o’clock ferry, yet the ferry wasn’t docked in its usual place.  After a quick scan of the area,  I noticed it was over at the Favorite dock.  A sense of dread then accompanied my disappointment as I immediately realized the Cat had been taken out of service, which means the slow boat is back and so are 30-minute-plus ferry rides for the remainder of the season.  Normally, I don’t mind the longer rides, as I always have a crossword puzzle or something else to read to pass the time.  This day, however, even though I had reading material with me, I wasn’t looking forward to spending the extra time on the water.  

Driving along U.S. 2 from my home to St. Ignace, there are several stretches which parallel Lake Michigan, giving one various long and short views of conditions out on the water.  From a distance (and the relative calm inside my vehicle), the white-capped, angry seas were nothing more than an interesting distraction, akin to listening to thunder and rain or looking out the window at a raging blizzard  from the comfort of ones’ home.  The closer I got to St. Ignace however, the more the wind was buffeting my truck, and at the popular swimming beaches, which are about 12 miles or so west of St. Ignace, the waves were crashing onshore with such intensity, very little of the sand beach was visible.  So much sand was being churned up, the water was brown nearly 100 feet off shore.  At that point, I remember thinking how thankful I was for the stability and speed of the Catamaran.  As I began the descent into town just past the Aurora Borealis Motel, a quick glance to the right looking out over Moran Bay, showed two freighters at anchor, which is never a good sign for travel on the lakes.  From inside Arnold’s waiting room, looking toward the island, every now and then a huge, white spray was visible in the distance, and it wasn’t moving very rapidly.  Slow boat.  Dang it!  I’ve been on many a rough ride over the years in waves much worse than what greeted us that morning, but never, never did I experience the exaggerated side-to-side rolling of the boat as we did about half way through the trip. Conditions were ideal, I guess, as we entered into some crazy wave action.  Lasting about 10 minutes, it was all we (myself and two island police officers) could do to remain seated.  That aggravating, unlatched door in the women’s restroom was slamming so hard  it sounded as it the wood was splitting.  At one point, all of the cushions on one side of the bench seating flew off (literally) onto the floor.  It was senseless to put them back until after we docked at the island.  I can’t recall ever being on the ferry when we rolled so far to one side as to be looking out the windows and almost straight down at the water.  All of this happened, of course, seemingly in slow motion, too!  Not soon enough, the rolling subsided, and we rounded the break wall to the welcoming calm of Haldimand Bay.   Interesting.  Memorable.  Don’t care to do it again. 

I did put a short video on youtube last week, showing Leanne Brodeur driving Blaze to school for the “Giddyup and Go” program, which teaches the younger children proper riding and care for horses.  I took several short videos at different intervals around town and it’s clear that Blaze has a mind of his own.  He broke into a slow trot when prompted but would, after a couple minutes, decide he’d trotted long enough and slowed to a walk.  Another slight flick of the reigns on his backside and into a slow trot he went again, only to gradually slow to a walk again.  It was fun to watch and record, and it’s nice to have Leanne available (and horses, too) to teach horse heritage and care to those who show interest (  This coming weekend is the annual Christmas Bazaar.  Hopefully, we’ll have some snow back on the ground again by the time the tree lighting takes place on Friday as it always adds to the ambiance of the season to have snow on the ground.  The long range forecast doesn’t show much promise for this, though.  Not to worry, because despite the weather, this is always a good, 3-day event which brings this small community together, showing not only the spirit of the season but the spirit of giving to good causes.  Personally, I always find several things of interest to buy as Christmas gifts.  Hand-crafted, specialized and customized items are always popular with me.  Of course, the baked goods are, too!

I expect to be out on the trails this coming week so I hope to come across something of interest or be otherwise inspired to jot down some notes to pass along next time I email everyone.   If you can be here for the Bazaar, I hope to see you at one of the events.  If not, I’ll do my best to keep in touch online.  Until next time, I hope all is well with everyone wherever you’re hanging your hat these days.”  Greg

Greg sent these three great photos of some Christmas decorations already up on the island:  



The corner of Cadotte Avenue and Market Street. Did you notice Santa Claus standing in the door to the hay loft?




Same location, but a close-up of the "vet on call" sign.


. . . and the same corner after dark. Beautiful.

That’s all I have from the island this week, but here’s a HUGE (at our house anyway) newsflash from Bear.  This morning he was evaluated to become a Therapy Dog and passed with all perfect scores in every category (a 12-part skills test – which is the basic test for the Canine Good Citizen award – and a 9-part aptitude test). He qualified to work in complex environments which means he had to pass each of the 21 categories with all “2’s” and could not have been tested before, or practiced before, in the facility where he was tested. It also means he can work in any environment, even those where a patient’s predictable behavior is not guaranteed. In short, he was wonderful!  Now paperwork goes in to the Delta Society, and we wait to get all our registration papers, working vests, etc. back. It will probably be January before all that is complete.  I was a nervous wreck, but Bear was cool as a cucumber – that’s my boy!

Our family this weekend (except for Ted, who took the pic): Top row - Jason, Blair and Casey-Mae (their little Maltese in Blair's lap) and Beyla, their Bernese Mountain Dog. Next row - Bear, me, and Blake (holding Maddie). I was going to have Maddie tested as a Therapy Dog also, but when she found out she couldn't steal food off patients' plates, she refused to go.

I’ll leave you with another great little video that Greg Main filmed this afternoon as the last ferry of the day left the island for St. Ignace.  Greg said a week from now this view won’t be possible, as it will be dark when the ferry leaves:

Have a great week, and good luck with the Christmas shopping.  I have not bought one single gift.  Oh, me.  For more pics of our Thanksgiving in Sylvester, you can click here on the Lake Blackshear blog:  Tomorrow, I will posting the whole story there about Bear and the testing procedures for becoming a Therapy Dog.

Stay safe and well, and God bless.


18 thoughts on “Mackinac Island Off-Season Weekly Update – Vol. V 11/29/2010

  1. I’m with you Brenda..not one gift yet…but there is lots of time!!
    I loved to read Greg’s post!! I sat here and read half of it to my hubby!! I don’t think I would have enjoyed his boat trip either!! Thanks for sharing his newsletter..made me wish I was there!!!

  2. I would have canceled my ride over to the island and picked another day. Our ride back to the mainland when we left the island was a little rocky…(NOTHING compared to what Greg was in) and I thought that was bad. I would have been petrified! YIKES!
    I watched the tree lighting last year. It was really cool. Hope to catch it again. The island sure looks pretty dressed in holiday clothes. I would love to see it in person someday.

  3. Beautiful pictures from the island. The best picture is of your family. What a beautiful family. Dogs included. Besure and check out the tree raising on the island. Truck just hit the stand for the tree. What a good laugh!

  4. I would not have been a very good passenger on that boat. As one who has motion sickness I would have been in there with the door slamming on the ladies restroom. Thanks for sharing Greg’s email with us.

  5. Nope, wouldn’t have liked that boat ride either. I’m going to miss the Christmas tree lighting this year as I’ll be down in Disney World. The tree is up as of this morning, I just took a screen shot.

  6. Love “seeing” The Island in winter. Thank you to everyone for the pictures.

    Note to Greg: Freighters at anchor …. never a good sign! Glad you made it to the Island safely.

    Drum roll, please: CONGRATULATIONS, BEAR! Your Mom has wonderful insights and ‘knew’ you are perfectly suited to this calling. Your test scores confirm her belief in you. Please ask Mom to smother you in congratulatory kisses and know how proud I am of you!

    Blessings One and All

  7. Brenda,

    Your posts of Greg’s messages sure have been interesting. Thank you for including them. I’ve walked around that corner of Market & Cadotte so many times, but never when it looked that pretty.

    I had a trip on the Star Line ferry from Mackinaw City once that was like the one Greg had, except it was in the summer time. First it was all sky; then it was all water, most of the way to The Island But I was a teenager then and thought it was great fun. Little did I know how dangerous it was. Oh, to be young again.

  8. Sounds like you had a wonderful Thanksgiving, Bree. Does it feel like half of you stays on the island while the other half of you lives down in Georgia? It feels like your spirit is always connected to the island.

  9. Bree:

    I just wanted to thank you for your great Blog. My wife Jennifer and I live in Michigan and love Mackinac Island. She is a Doctor and I am a Consumer Events promoter. She found an ad in the Traverse City, Michigan paper that they were looking for a new “Doc” for the Island. Jen decided to apply, since I can run my business from anywhere. We didn’t know if much would come of it at first but then Jennifer was asked to interview for the job.

    At that point we started to wonder what it would be like to live on the Island and we turned to the Internet. “Yours” was the first blog we found and it was very informative.

    We went and met the people who live there. What a group of sterling individuals! Jen and I, along with our young sons, Declan, Brendan, and Colin, will be moving to the island this December and Jennifer will be the new Island Doctor starting in January.

    Thank you very much for your informative, creative and personal website. Your hard work on the Mackinac Island Blog made our decision to look into living on the Island an easier one.

    We look forward to meeting you this spring!


    Michael R. Shockley

  10. The Tomato and Zuccini Guy wishes Jill a Happy Holiday season!! Hope you’re warm. I’m on the Isaland part time for the winter. Good thing I Love snow and skiing ‘eh.?
    Thanks for the blog Bri! I need to talk to you about posting a blog. Thanks!

  11. Hi Bree! Congratulations to Bear!! YEAH!! Thats aswesome! And thanks to Greg for the update and that boat ride sure sounded scary! I love the christmas pictures also! How beautiful! Thanks so mych Bree for your awesome blog! Michelle

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