On Wednesday night, after dinner, I planted myself in front of the laptop and sifted through – are you ready? – 838 photos I snapped on Monday. After 3 1/2 hours, I had pared those down to 104. Sometime between now and the end of this post I’ve got to cut those 104 down to some rational number you readers will take the time to look through. Too many, and you’re bored. Too few, and I won’t have conveyed the outrageously good time the Globetrotters had touring Mackinac Island. How good was it, you ask? So good they have requested that their agents put the Island down as an annual visit! Did this Island work its magic or what!!!
So, grab an extra cup of coffee (you might better make that expresso to keep up with these guys), and here we go . . . .
When I received an email from Mary McGuire, Director of the Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau, inviting me to tag along for the Media Day with the Harlem Globetrotters, my excitement went ballistic, and the whistled version of “Sweet Georgia Brown” began to loop continually through my mind. I’d heard of the Globetrotters all my life but had never seen them play in person. Now I was going to meet them!
The Globetrotters arrive in St. Ignace at Bridgeview Park. First off the bus were “Cheese” Chisholm and “Hacksaw” Hall.
This group of teens just happened to be visiting the park. They got the surprise of a lifetime when the Globetrotter bus arrived – then they got to meet them and have photos made . . .
. . . . and you can tell my friend Chris Ann was “slightly” excited also!
Louis “Sweet Lou” Dunbar, a 6’9″ 27-year veteran former player of the Harlem Globetrotters. Dunbar is now the Globetrotters’ Director of Player Personnel.
One of the first things I learned on Monday is that the Globetrotters are always “on”. You NEVER see them idle, and you never see them not smiling or grinning or laughing. They are always either acting like clowns (like “Hacksaw” here), doing some serious ball-handling, or trying to get an important point across to a group of kids.
My camera didn’t capture it, but this ball was spinning rapidly on “Buckets” Blakes’ thumb.
From the park, Shepler’s delivered us to their Mackinaw City dock, where a fan-filled Sacre Bleu awaited the team. On hand in St. Ignace for the Globetrotter welcome were Mary McGuire, photographer Andrejka Hirsch, Chris Shepler and Misty Martinchek from Shepler’s Ferry, and myself. Holly Shay, a friend of Mary’s, also traveled with us for the day, and we were met at various stops by other media folks – including 9 & 10 News reporters and Kelsey Schnell, PR & Marketing Officer for Mackinac Historic State Parks. Please forgive me if I’ve not mentioned someone who I should have.
Shepler’s set up a basketball court on the deck of the Sacre Bleu . . .
. . . and “Bull” Bullard used the hoop to show off his shooting skills.
“Slick” Willie Shaw. These guys can balance and spin a ball anywhere!
The Globetrotters involve children in just about everything they do. Here Mason Martinchek goes through a series of “tricks” the guys coached him on. That’s “Handles” Franklin looking on.
The Sacre Bleu took its time getting from Mackinaw City to the Island. During the almost-hour long ride over, there was a LOT going on. I think every child on board must have interacted with the guys . . .
. . . and interviews were given to two television stations.
Globie, the official mascot for the team since 1993, gave autographs . . .
. . . . as did all the players.
Every Shepler ferry that left Mackinaw City and St. Ignace during our hour-long crossing caught up with us, and as they’d pass, hundreds of yelling fans would snap photos and wave.
Everyone on board had plenty of time to meet the players. It was really a fun ride!
When we pulled up to the dock on the Island, one of the players shouted, “Paparazzi!”. I looked up to see Jill in her Island Bookstore apron snapping away. I cracked up.
After shaking hands with everyone waiting to get on the ferry, the team walked down Main Street – it sort of turned into a parade, as folks realized who they were seeing.
If you saw me on Monday anywhere, this is probably how I looked.
Our first stop was Murdick’s Fudge, celebrating its 125th anniversary in business this summer. Bobby Benser (in the white polo shirt) owns Murdick’s, and after the guys washed up and donned aprons, Bobby and fudge-maker extraordinaire Malcolm explained the complicated process of turning several basic ingredients into the delicious fudge for which the Island is known.
Bobby gets help pouring the boiling “liquid” fudge out on the marble slab. which must be the exactly correct temperature for the fudge to “set-up” correctly. “Hacksaw” is pouring, watched closely by “Buckets”.
In the meantime, “Spider” Wilks was helping out behind the counter!
We left Murdick’s and loaded onto Carriage Tour wagons for a trip through town and up Cadotte to the Grand Hotel – also celebrating its 125th anniversary this summer!
These guys have traveled all over the world. Just a few days earlier they had returned from China. But still, when the Grand Hotel came into view, I heard quite a few “WOWS”!
A big welcome committee was waiting on the steps of the Grand, including Grand Hotel President Dan Musser III, who was a “pro” at ball-spinning!
As I said earlier, these guys never stop. “Scooter” Christensen shows off the art of balancing a ball on his head . . .
. . . then pulls this little girl out of the crowd to do some more ball-spinning.
The Globetrotters drew quite a crowd on the Grand’s long porch!
All of us carrying the cameras got a little down time as we lunched from the Grand Hotel buffet, but the Globetrotters spent nearly their entire lunch break signing autographs for folks who stopped by their tables. They were so gracious to everyone and always happy to chat and pose for pictures with their fans.
Our beautiful photographer Andrejka Hirsch.
Next stop – the Grand Hotel and Carriage Tour Museum and Stable, celebrating its opening this summer.
Mary, “Handles”, “Slick” – and Dan, one of the Grand Hotel’s big Percherons.
“Whoaaaaa . . . . we don’t see THAT everyday on the Island. Can I spin it on my nose?”
Loading back up for the short ride to Fort Mackinac, which is celebrating the 200th anniversary of the first battle of the War of 1812. I wonder what size shoes Globie wears!
Hellos to a really lucky Boy Scout troop!
One fan gave “Cheese” a good back-scratch with the vintage back-scratcher she’d just purchased in Sutler’s Store.
The fort interpreters always involve the crowds in activities, and the Globetrotters jumped right into everything.
Looking at the town and marina and the Straits of Mackinac from the level of the fort is quite a view. That’s Holly Shay, Mary’s friend, in the white,
Jill’s work day ended, and she joined us at the fort.
“Buckets” tries his hand at “Ball and Cup”.
We missed the scheduled cannon firing, but it was another great photo op.
I think here I was snapping photo # 776.
Kelsey shares some information with “Handles”, who was very interested in the history of Mackinac Island.
Drilling with the crowd. Attention!
Were people shorter in 1812? Certainly shorter than “Hacksaw”!
At 4:30 we took the carriages back into town, where we got off, and the guys went on to their hotel.
On Tuesday, the Globetrotters gave not one, but three preview shows at the Mackinac Island Public School – each of which included an 8-minute game against an international team brought in for that occasion. The best part for me though – again – was the way they involved the crowd – like Globie’s game of musical chairs.
There were more tricks . . .
. . . . and eight children tried to take the ball away from “Cheese”. It didn’t happen.
Globie performed (wearing a different costume) . . .
. . . and during the actual games, there were dunks . . .
. . . and more dunks.
One final photo – in front of the Island school sign.
Harlem Globetrotter exhibition basketball is equal parts athleticism, theater and comedy. After spending almost eight hours with them Monday and a couple of hours on Tuesday, I’d have to add patriotism, dedication, enthusiasm, compassion, love of children and all their fans, and a belief in promoting education to that list. These guys are awesome, and they use their celebrity to encourage young people to strive for excellence in all they do.
It was an honor to share some time with all these great young men. Hurry back next year . . . we’ll be waiting!
Click here for video of the visit from 9 & 10 News: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1I3rXLU_89s