Throw Back Thursday – The Islanders Get Their Home Back 10/26 17

Personal Note:  I loved reading back over this blog, first published October 31, 2009.  Some of the businesses listed in this post are no longer open, and restaurants open all winter have changed since 2009.  So please remember, if you’re planning a winter trip to Mackinac THIS (2017-18) winter, you need to check what’s open and what’s not!

Header Photo by Jill Sawatzki. 

The Islanders Get Their Home Back

In Amy McVeigh’s book, Mackinac Connection, she quotes Jessie Doud, owner of Jesse’s Chuck Wagon Restaurant until this past year, who was asked about winter on Mackinac Island.  Ms. Doud said, “The words I would use about winter are ‘quiet’ and ‘peaceful’.  We get our home back. I don’t mean that as a slur on the tourists, because come spring we are ready for everyone to come back and for all the activity to begin again.  I guess you’d say I can’t wait for it (the summer season) to end and can’t wait for it to begin.”

Today I want to share with you some pictures I’ve been taking this week as the “town” of Mackinac Island slowly closes its doors to all but the winter residents (around 500) and the few hundred tourists who come over during the winter to snowmobile and cross-country ski.

Yes, there are a few businesses still open.  The city offices are here and working all year – the island still has to have lights and water and garbage pickup.  The public school is open year-round, as is Doud’s Market and Alford’s Drug Store.  The Village Inn will be open all winter, except for two weeks at the end of November (hunting season!).  The Mustang never closes, nor does Sinclair’s Irish Pub.  St. Anne’s Catholic Church becomes the social hub of the entire community now, regardless of church affiliation.

I noticed, even before the last Grand employee had left the island, businesses had begun maintenance work for next spring.  One of the fudge shops was getting a new tile floor, another was getting new paint.  The islanders stay as busy as possible with outdoor work right up until that first heavy snowfall stops all the activity in its tracks.  Maintenance will continue indoors on some businesses until the cost of heating shuts everything down until spring.


La Galerie’s display windows, completely bare. The doors have special slanted mats in front of them to prevent melting snow from getting into the shop.


The sign on Goodfellow’s door.


Two empty shops on Main Street.


Shepler’s Ferry Dock – no boats, no people.


These workers were carrying the awnings from the Mackinac Island Bike Shop somewhere to put in storage. All the stores with awnings do the same thing. That’s easier that having to replace all those awnings that heavy snow would have broken during the winter.


Luggage carts from the ferry docks going to storage.


Decked Out, a very nice clothing store, empty and locked.


Murdick’s Fudge, getting a new coat of paint before the snow falls.


The lobby of the Chippewa Hotel.


The Pink Pony – two nights before this photo was taken, it was full of costume-clad goblins.


Sweet Anna. I finally got to photograph her somewhere besides in front of the Grand shoveling up horse poop. She was leaving the island, on her way back to college.


Jill took this shot early one morning this week, before she left. It’s boxes and boxes of empty beer bottles, waiting to be picked up for recycling.


Empty Main Street – Wednesday morning.


The other end of Main Street.


A new shop – opening in the spring!

It’s now Friday night – around 10:45 p.m.  Ted and I have just gotten back from our date night.  About an hour before we started to town, the rain started again.  There are no taxis running after five o’clock now unless you have reserved one in advance.  We didn’t.  So we put on all our rain gear and started down the hill.  We laughted as we walked, saying that back home in Georgia, we probably wouldn’t even venture out in our car on a night like tonight – we certainly wouldn’t think of putting on rain gear and walking somewhere.  Yet, here we were, splashing through puddles with rain blowing in our face- and laughing about it!

We ate dinner at the Village Inn, and about 10 minutes before we were leaving, the wind started blowing like crazy.  We walked up the hill with Ted holding on to me so I wouldn’t be blown away.  That stretch of Cadotte behind the school where there are no trees to block the winds off Lake Huron is the worst, but we got home ok.  So the last Friday in the month played itself out as the other Fridays in October did – with crazy weather.


Downtown tonight – just as we got into town, the rain stopped.


The Village Inn tonight. They have placed a pool table in the middle of the floor where about 10 dinner tables were this summer.


On the way up the hill tonight, we stepped into the little entrance gazebo of the Jockey Club to get a little protection from the wind for a minute. Behind Ted you can see a snow fence. It has been placed all along Cadotte bordering the Grand’s property. It will prevent snowmobiles from crossing onto the golf course.

Time to go to bed.  We got a lot of packing done today – tomorrow we clean.  Sunday we leave.  Sometime tomorrow I will sit down and write the last blog of the season.  I can’t believe that day is finally here.  I   just   can’t   believe   it.


Mackinac Island Welcomes the Harlem Globetrotters! 8/2/2012

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: