Several thousand enthusiastic people attended this year's Great Lakes Lighthouse Festival that was held in Alpena, Michigan, this past October.
The four day event included many activities at area's lighthouse, most of which were open for tower climbs. Those included Tawas Point Lighthouse, Sturgeon Point Lighthouse, Old Presque Isle Lighthouse, New Presque Isle Lighthouse, 40 Mile Point Lighthouse, Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse, McGulpin Point Lighthouse and others. Boat tours were also offered to Middle Island Lighthouse and Thunder Bay Island Lighthouse. There were even helicopter tours that offered people opportunities for close-up aerial views of the area's beacons.
Many of northeastern Michigan's museums were also available for visits including the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary's Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center and the Great Lakes Lighthouse Festival Museum.
Attendees were treated to nearly 100 vendors who represented many different lighthouse groups, the United States Coast Guard, Boy Scouts and numerous merchants selling lighthouse related products at the Thunder Bay Recreation Center in Alpena. There were a large number of authors signing books and artists and photographers promoting their work. A special guest was Harry Hine, who designs and sculpts Harbour Lights lighthouse collectibles. Harry autographed a record number of replicas at the Huron Lights Gift Store as well as at the festival exhibition area, in the Thunder Bay Recreation Center.
A number of great presentations were given including one by Bruce H. Johanson of the Ontonagon Lighthouse, which was the Featured Lighthouse of this year's festival. Johanson gave a lively and informative PowerPoint presentation on the restoration of the lighthouse and the obstacles they had to overcome. Tim Harrison of Lighthouse Digest gave presentation on lighthouses and their role in American history.
Throughout the weekend there was plenty of food, evening dinners, lighthouse keeper's breakfast, lots of fund raising events and some really wonderful live entertainment by Carl Behrend and the Blue Water Ramblers.
An unplanned and surprise challenge was raised by Tim Harrison at the Friday evening dinner when Harrison, in his capacity as Master of Ceremonies said, "If we collect $1,000 tonight, then we will toss Marv Theut, cofounder of the festival, into the swimming pool with his clothes on." With a look of surprise on his face, Theut agreed and the audience enthusiastically jumped at the challenge. By the end of Saturday night's dinner, with only $105 more to go, Melanie Kirn, executive director of the GLLF enthusiastically wrote a personal check for the remaining amount needed to toss Marv into the pool. Soon the crowd flocked to the Holiday Inn's indoor pool, and with cheers and applause witnessed the event, as Theut went into the pool. Theut later said, "The money all goes to a good cause," and to the applause and laughter of everyone, he continued by asking, "Now, what are you going to do to top this at next year's festival?"
Although the downturn in the economy played a role in a lower attendance at this year's festival, many of the vendors reported brisk sales and lighthouse groups were able to accomplish lots of networking. Most of the area's lighthouses, getting ready to close for the season, received an end-of-season boost in attendance. This was especially evident at 40 Mile Point Lighthouse, where over 500 people, just on Friday, signed the guest book. Many people said they came because of the Great Lakes Lighthouse Festival. Forty Mile Point Lighthouse also had a great attendance for their Friday night Christmas at the lighthouse.
Crisp Point Lighthouse was well represented at the Annual Great Lakes Lighthouse Festival, as they have been since the first year the event was held 14 years ago. However, their president, Donald Ross, was not able to attend. Shortly after the conclusion of the festival, the group received word of Don's passing. Don and his late wife, Nellie, were the founders and a driving force behind saving the Crisp Point Lighthouse near Paradise, Michigan. The lighthouse was once considered the most endangered lighthouse in the United States. Don will be missed by many.
The Great Lakes Lighthouse Festival was created to help draw public attention to the lighthouse preservation efforts being accomplished by volunteers and to highlight the help still needed by many of them to restore and maintain their respective lighthouses.
Next year's Great Lakes Lighthouse Festival will celebrate its 15th year, and organizers are planning for a big celebration. So, mark your calendars with the dates - October 7-10, 2010 and plan on attending. You won't be disappointed. Plus, you will be doing your part in helping to draw public attention to our historic lighthouses and the history associated with them that helped in the development of our nation.
This story appeared in the
December 2009 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
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