Festivals of Yesterday

Make time to turn time back at bygone-era celebrations this summer.
Partner Jugglers at the Fair
Photography by Johnny Quirin

When was the last time you threw a tomahawk? 

If it’s been a while, turn to Michigan’s historical organizations: Each summer they inspire entire communities to celebrate the past by re-creating bygone days and dramatic moments along their historic waterfronts.

Wood Working at the Historical FairGrand Haven’s 12th annual Feast of the Strawberry Moon, June 9-10, revives the Tri-Cities’ 18th-century fur trade with 250 re-enactors.  The city’s Harbor Island hosts 5,000 visitors for military skirmishes, “theater in-the-round” and hands-on demos near the Grand River. Tri-Cities Historical Museum helps participants:  Boy Scouts swap trash duty for camping privileges, and festival volunteers meet re-enactors at a special dinner.

Kids pretending to get a barber razor shave
Houghton Lake – Courtesy Houghton Lake Resorter

The Houghton Lake Area Historical Village springs to life Aug. 3-5 for the 40th Village Days Festival in Prudenville. Tour a replica of a late 1800s’ logging town teeming with costumed craftsmen, storytellers, musicians and guides. Highlights include a pig roast and free carriage rides.  And while historical society members share generational ties to their village, former visitors return to reminisce (houghtonlakehistory.com).

Violin player at the FairMeanwhile, past and present merge at the 4th annual Sault Ste. Marie History Fest, Aug.3-4. The Chippewa County Historical Society will join a city-wide celebration featuring sailing excursions on the tall ship Inland Seas and opportunities to explore the U.S. Coast Guard base. Historical attractions include strolling interpreters, artists, Native dancers, tradesmen, Fish Camp, music and an encampment (saultstemarie.com or cchsmi.com).

Knife throwing at the fair
Photography by Johnny Quirin

On Aug. 4, enjoy the Historic Festival’s carnival-like atmosphere at 43-acre Heritage Village, west of Mackinaw City.  In its seventh year, the Mackinaw Area Historical Society’s summer event depicts the 1880-1917 “Era of Great Change.” Be sure to cheer  the vintage Mackinaw Boys to home plate (mackinawhistory.org).

Guy cleaning a historic gunThe Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is home to the Port Oneida Fair, now in its 11th year. The Aug. 10-11 event takes place at preserved turn-of-the-century farmsteads. Fair presenters demonstrate skills and attendees try crafts that recall Leelanau County pioneer life (phsb.org).  

Port Oneida Fair
Port Oneida Fair – Photography by Pat Stinson

“The pace is easy,” noted director Susan Pocklington,

“but as any fair-goer will tell you, the work of the settlers of the time definitely was not.”

— Pat Stinson, Michigan BLUE Magazine. 


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