Colonial Michilimackinac is just one centerpiece this year during the 125th birthday party the state is holding for a collection of Straits-area stops that make up Michigan’s original state park. The 125-day celebration includes free concerts, fireworks, and stargazing and events that let people live out the past — and present — in storied forts and on shady trails. Here are five ways to join the party.
Art of the Park
This year’s special exhibit at the Richard and Jane Manoogian Mackinac Art Museum is “A Day at the Park,” artist interpretations of the park’s life, geology, past and fun. And there’s more. One of the many fascinating exhibits is a collection of island souvenirs over time, including etched imported German glass popular with the Victorian set.
Movie Under the Stars
For the first time, as part of the anniversary’s free family fun, you can gather on the island fort’s parade grounds several times this year to catch a movie under the stars or at Colonial Michilimackinac in Mackinaw City where the waves of the Straits and bridge are the backdrop. Find the lineup at mackinacparks.com.
Mackinac Island Botanical Trail
Lilacs are not the only bloom in town. Wildflowers like the yellow trout lily, jack-in-the-pulpit and trillium on shady inner island trails are so captivating that visiting botanists including the author Henry David Thoreau made records of their early exploration finds. Those are now fodder for interpretive panels that loop off the popular bicycle train that runs behind Fort Mackinac to Arch Rock.
Native American Museum, Biddle House
Agatha Biddle, the one-time resident of this still-standing island home, was an Odawa chief married to a fur trader and even better known for the way she invited the indigent in for needed food or medicine. She’s the lens for sharing the broader story of Native American island life through the ages in a new Mackinac Island museum. One highlight is the video of Native Americans from various Michigan tribes sharing why it has been — and still is — important in their lives and culture.
Soldier’s Life 201
Much of the interpretation about life at the fort is hands-on, and that is expanding in exhibits like one at Fort Mackinac that lets young people try on uniforms of soldiers past (now including uniforms from the 1880s, Revolutionary War and War of 1812). Special interpreters also will also lead bike rides across a War of 1812 battlefield and share interpretations of a one-time soldier mutiny and the lives of both soldiers’ wives and fort slaves. ≈
Kim Schneider is an award-winning travel writer who shares her travel-savvy in every issue of BLUE.
*Photography courtesy Mackinac State Park