Mackinac Island Winter Update – Vol. 4 12/13/2011

Hello everyone!  I’m hoping you’re all a lot more prepared for Christmas than I am, but today I’m going to stop fretting about everything I haven’t done and talk about what’s happening on Mackinac Island . . . you know – the little island in Lake Huron that should at this time of year be covered in snow, all sparkling and white.  Not!

Heather May captured what little bit of snow fell a few days ago - not even enough to think about cranking up the snowmobiles. The Christmas decorations sure look festive though!

The annual Christmas Bazaar was a great success last weekend.  According to Jeannette Doud’s column in The Town Crier (our Christmas edition arrived on Monday), “the doors to the Community Hall opened on Friday, and at 1 p.m. sirens could be heard in the distance as Santa arrived on the new Fire Department ladder truck.  He came into the hall and wished everyone a Merry Christmas.  Santa then went over to the fire hall, where he heard the wishes of the little children, who were so excited.  Santa told them all to be good and then left for the North Pole.  He will return Christmas Eve.”

Santa didn't let a little rain stop his arrival! (Photo: Jennifer King)

I’ve received so many great photographs from island friends – and blog readers who have been to the island in the last couple of weeks.  I couldn’t wait to share them today!

Rainy weather didn't stop shoppers either when the doors to the Community Hall opened for Christmas Bazaar. (Photo: The Island Bookstore)

The entire Community Hall was filled with items like these. Some could be purchased outright, some went at silent auctions, and there was also a spirited auction for some major items, led by friend Mike Carley as auctioneer. (Photo: The Island Bookstore)

Wow! I would have loved to have been there to Christmas shop! (Photo: The Island Bookstore)

A little Christmas magic from the good folks at the Chippewa Hotel. And . . . .

. . . not to be outdone, right across the street from the Chip, Doud's windows and flowerboxes are aglow with twinkling lights.

The Lilac Tree has garlands of lights, and they'll be open for New Year's Eve! And did you notice the window in the lower right-hand corner? That's Nicole Doud's Little Luxuries of Mackinac Island.

Since Nicole lives year-round on the island, she can open the store anytime she wants during the winter season! (Photo: Nicole Doud)

Shepler's Christmas tree on their St. Ignace dock.

Sue and Andrew (blog readers we met last summer on the Island) from Vicksburg, MI were on the Island for Christmas Bazaar and emailed some great shots to me last week.

Andrew thought I might want to see what Anne's Tablet looks like without leaves on the trees. I've never seen it in the winter. Sure looks cold though!

They pretended to be locals and attended a basketball game at the Island school.

Andrew and Sue loved this "wreathed" horse at Chambers Corner (the corner of Market and Cadotte). I love him too - in fact, at the very first Festival of the Horse, Jill took a photo of me sitting on him (he was wearing a saddle then).

Oh my gosh! They've come a long way on the new Grand Stable being built up near our place! It's supposed to be ready by the time the Grand opens in April.

The brightly lit Christmas tree in the middle of Main Street. The beautiful tree is very tall and very well-shaped. It came from the yard of Rosie Charnes, a neighbor of ours up in the Village. I love the Manger scene that is always there at the entrance to the Arnold dock. Thanks so much Andrew and Sue for these great shots.

More Christmas Tree Photos

Even on a rainy day, that tree is pretty darn majestic. (Photo: Mackinac Mommy, who also has a Mackinac Island blog at http://mackinacmommy.blogspot.com)

A view of the tree from the Chippewa Hotel web site.

The gathering for Christmas carols, just after the lighting of the tree - quite a crowd!

Before I close for this week, I just wanted to remind everyone – if you still need to order books for someone on your Christmas list – or anytime AFTER Christmas – please consider supporting an independent bookseller – The Island Bookstore.   They offer discounts too – just like the big guys!  Check them out at http://www.islandbookstore.com.

Michael Forrester shared this great painting of Round Island Light on his Facebook page this week, and I just had to share it with you.  It was painted by Virginia Souza and was featured on the cover of the December, 2010 issue of Lighthouse Digest.  I love it!  The picture is available for purchase (Mike has one) at http://www.shop.foghornpublishing.com/product.sc?productId=217&categoryId=27.

See you back here next Wednesday when it will almost be Christmas!!  Have a wonderful week, and let’s all hope up some snow for Mackinac Island.  God bless.


Lunch with Comedian Stu Stuart 8/22/09

Stu Stuart, a comedian who performs on Mackinac Island throughout the season,IMG_5100 invited me to lunch on Friday.  Please understand, this was a brand new happening – it’s usually me doing the asking – something like, “Would you please, please, please let me talk to you and follow you around all day and take pictures of you?” 

But on a recent blog, I asked for ideas of people on the island you might like to hear about, and Stu, out of the blue,  invited me to interview him.  I said to myself, “Oh wow!”  Stu Stuart is very well known on the island AND in Los Angeles as a serious comedian – I don’t mean he’s serious, he’s funny – you know what I mean. 

He asked me to send him 20 questions that he could answer ahead of time.  Pressure!  I replied something cute back to him like, “Hey, I’m not Katic Couric, I’m just a south Georgia girl doing a blog for fun!”  He nicely replied, “No problem – but it would make the interview easier.”  So I sent him probably 20 of the lamest questions he had ever seen.

We met at the Murray Hotel Burrito Bar.  I was so excited!  You know how much I love Mexican food, and how much Ted does not like it – so I never get to eat it.  I didn’t even know the Murray had a burrito bar, but believe me, I will be back – it was wonderful!  Stu said it was one of the best-kept secrets on the island. 

I arrived a little early, and I confess to not recognizing Stu when he came in.  When Ted and I went to his comedy show a few years ago, he had been clean-shaven.  Today he had a beard.  He recognized me right away – I think being the only woman seated in the waiting area with a notebook and camera might have tipped him off.

We went through the burrito bar line and had a seat at a small table by the window.  He apologized for not having sent me the answers to my questions until just before leaving for the interview (I had not received them before leaving the condo).  I didn’t really care – I just like to talk to someone and go from there, but I confess that I was delighted when I got home and found that he seemed to have really put some thought into my 20 lame questions.

When Ted and I had seen his show, I remembered that Stu was a very “comfortable to listen to” comedian.  There was none of that crazy, zany, over the top frenzy that it seems a lot of comedians use now.  And his show was clean – there were children in the audience, and parents did not have to worry what they were going to hear.  Watching Stu perform is more like having a great conversation with a very funny friend, and that is what lunch was like.  After the initial uneasiness of being with someone you don’t know, it quickly turned into a relaxed chat – with humor!

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Stu was born in Michigan and came to Mackinac Island often as a child.  When his dad retired and Stu was 16, his family moved to Montana.  He finished high school there, and graduated with a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Montana Missoula.  Jobs following college included leadership consultant for a national fraternity, commercial real estate in Seattle, and Director of Public Relations for the Unlimited Racing Commission in Seattle. 

While these jobs were paying the bills, Stu was beginning to make a reputation for himself in stand-up comedy, performing on stage for the first time in 1987.  Comedy gradually became a second income for him, but was still just a hobby until it became his full time job in 1991.  That was the same year he visited Mackinac Island for the first time in years.  He’s done the comedy show circuit, which he says used to be great in some ways.  You would be booked into a club out of town, your travel would be paid for, you were put up in a really nice hotel, and the pay was good. ” All of that,” Stu said, “has gone by the wayside”.  And by then, the adventure that life on the road offered had lost some of its appeal.

Stu came to Mackinac Island 15 summers ago, and the appeal of performing in one place for that long has not been tarnished at all.  Starting his act at Mission Point Resort in 1995, he supplemented his income by working at different times as a dock porter, a substitute teacher, and as the airport attendant.  From Mission Point, he moved to the Island House, then Sarducci’s, and has been at the Lilac Tree Hotel for the last nine summers.  The show is now his full-time summer job.  He says, “Instead of traveling from town to town and club to club, I get to go home and sleep in my own bed every night after a show.  The people come to you instead of you going to them.  And what’s not to like about Mackinac Island, with its natural beauty, fresh air, and getting to ride your bicycle everywhere!” 

Stu divides his time between  Mackinac Island in the summer and Mendocino, California, in the winter. In the winter, he bases out of California, does stand-up, and teaches a beginning stand-up comedy class at the Experimental College at the University of Washington in Seattle.  His comedy class was featured on KING TV’s Evening Magazine this past spring.  Visit stustuart.com for a schedule of shows, classes, and for a link to Evening Magazine’s segment on Stu’s class.

Another venture Stu is involved in is Belgian Beer Me!  A beer enthusiast, and brewer and lover of Belgian beers, Stu plans beer tours through, where else, Belgium!  Geered for 6-14 people, the tour cost covers everything except air transportation and promises to give you the best food, scenery, history, architecture, shopping and, of course, beer that Belgium has to offer http://www.belgianbeerme.com.

With all this going on, you’d think Stu would have little time for anything else.  But he considers himself the ultimate tourist.  He travels around the UP of Michigan regularly, taking side trips to little towns and villages around the Great Lakes.  He also travels extensively in Europe.  He understands fully how blessed he is to be at this stage of his life and to be able to do what he is doing.

I asked Stu some of the usual questions for an interview.  His favorite book – anything by Jim Harrison (of Legends of the Fall fame).  His favorite movie – An Officer and a Gentleman.  His favorite fudge – the Murray Hotel’s Chocolate Tiger (peanut butter fudge).

When asked how often he changes his comedy routine, he said, “I would never completely change the entire routine at one time.  I have a conversational style of comedy, with lots of improv with the audience, which keeps it fresh for my regulars who come back year after year.” 

What’s his favorite spot on the island?  “I love to go out in the meadow behind the Stonecliffe Mansion and hit tennis balls to my poodle, Chloe.  Then I sit back in an adironack chair, drink a nice Belgian beer, and watch Chloe arrange all the balls in a pile.”

My final question to Stu is one that I ask anyone who has lived on the island for several years – if someone was coming to the island for the first time, and only had one day to visit, what would be the top five things you would tell them they must see or do”?   I don’t think I have ever gotten the same five answers  from anyone, and Stu was no different.  His five:  Cannonball (the restaurant  at British Landing), the Murray Hotel for the fudge, the fort (this one is on everyone’s list), a tandem bike ride around the island, and, of course, his comedy show!

Stu is currently working on a book tentatively titled, “Mackinac Island: The Last Best Summer Job.”  He promises it will be an insider’s view of the island for both tourists and island summer workers. 

We closed out lunch by walking down to The Lilac Tree Hotel and going downstairs where Stu does his comedy show.  He had invited Ted and I to come tonight as his guests, but I knew I would be working on this story, so I took a raincheck for another night soon.  I did get some pics of him up on stage, where you can see him for the rest of August and September.  His final show for the season is Oct. 11.  So, if you’re on the island now, or will be before the 11th of October, you definitely need to add Stu’s show to your visit itinerary.  I can’t think of a better way to burn off those extra fudge calories than shaking with laughter!

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Thanks so much, Stu, for the interview.  See you soon at your show!

I MISS YA’LL! 8/12/09

Hello Friends!

I am checking email at a neighbor’s house, so I will take a few minutes to say hello.  Her computer is teeny tiny and does not have a port for a camera card, so this will be very short and sweet.

I just wanted to let you know that I haven’t heard a word from my computer since I left it in Cheboygan on Monday.  I do know that they are closed on Wednesdays, so I will call them first thing Thursday morning for an update.

I MISS TALKING TO YA’LL!!!  I walked in the condo on Monday afternoon and looked at that empty space on my desk where my laptop is supposed to be sitting  and ’bout cried!  It’s amazing what writing Bree’s blog every day has come to mean to me.  The worse part is the feeling that I am letting you down.  I hope you understand that I am doing everything I can to be back up and going as soon as possible.

In the meantime, here’s a few snippets about things to come (see, I’ve still been busy).

1)  Ted and I are going to a cookout Wednesday afternoon for all the park service folks that he works with at the Welcome Center – should be great fun, and I will take the camera so I can show you the whole thing.

2)  I”m setting up a time with Don and Bonnie to do “A Day in the Life of a Mackinac Island Cottage Caretaker”.  That one is going to be such a “grand” project, with hopefully some peeks inside one of those cottages on the bluff.

3)  The wedding I’m blogging has been confirmed for Sept. 12, with the rehearsal on the 11th.  I’ll be there for both events and give you all the inside scoop.

4)  Here’s a BIG surprise.  I had a comment the day my computer died from Stu Stuart, a comedian here on the island who does a nightly show at the Lilac Tree Hotel.  He asked me to interview him for my blog!  Ted and I have been to his show, and he is hilarious.  So I will be setting that up as soon as I am back in business.

I guess that is it for now.  This little keyboard is about half the size of a piece of notebook paper, so I am continually typo-ing.  Have no idea how this is going to look when it is published, so please bear with me.

I’m going to ask Lana (my special, special friend in Atlanta – who let you know the other day what happened) if she has an old picture that I have sent her in the past that she can pop in at the top of this blog.  If she doesn’t, it will be Ted and I and Linda Lou again.

Again, I miss all of you and hope to be back VERY soon!  God bless.

Bree