ALPENA - Great weather and lots of activities brought in lots of visitors to this year's Great Lakes Lighthouse Festival.
The 18th annual festival wrapped up Sunday after four days of celebrating and working to preserve these iconic maritime structures. Local lighthouses had tours, vendors sold food and others had pictures of ships and lights from all around the Great Lakes. There were even helicopter rides to enjoy the fall colors, or to fly over some of the more inaccessible lighthouses in the area.
The Mina family stopped by a table where Estella Frantz talked about Middle Island Lighthouse. Parents Alvin and Eleanor brought Sophia and Gabe to see what the festival was all about.
News Photos by Jordan Travis
The turnout at the Great Lakes Lighthouse Festival was good this year, as can be seen by Saturday afernoon’s crowd browsing the exhibitors’ tables.
"We just came from upstairs and won some stuff from the auction," Eleanor said.
Eleanor said she and her and family moved to the area a few years ago after coming from the Philippines, so they wanted to learn more about the area, including its lighthouses. They've been to a few, including both Old and New Presque Isle lighthouses and Forty Mile Point, as well as passing Round Island Lighthouse on their way to Mackinac Island.
"Here in America, you have all these programs going on to protect lighthouses, and preserve and restore them," she said. "We'd really like to get involved."
There were ample opportunities. While some of the tables in the APlex had things to sell, others had information about lighthouse preservation groups both near and far. Plus, the festival itself raises money for preservation efforts through various means.
Annette Maurer came with Lace Eaton and her sons (and Maurer's grandsons), Dave and John. They were also first-timers, and the two boys were excited to find out about the different kinds of lighthouses.
"I think it's pretty interesting, I would like to come back next year," Maurer said.
One repeat visitor and vendor was Tim Harrison, Lighthouse Digest editor. His magazine has sponsored the festival from the very beginning, and he's seen it grow immensely over the years. Its numbers took a hit, as did many festivals, during the economic downturn of the 2000s. Judging by his sales Friday and Saturday, this year's attendance was very good.
The festival is well-known among lighthouse fans, and while they do their share to help these historic structures, the general public needs to be drawn in as well, Harrison said. They were built to save mariners as they helped grow the nation to what it is today, and now it's time to save them and the memories of those who worked in them.
"I always tell people, you can learn more about our county's early history by studying lighthouses than any other single source," he said.
Festival organizer Melanie Kirn echoed Harrison's positive assessment of this year's turnout. The warm, sunny weather helped, as did having more than 20 exhibitors from across the country.
Along with the weather, the festival also had help from The Sanctuary Inn, which handled festival dinners, APlex staff and festival volunteers, Kirn said.
"All the workers were absolutely great," she said.
Next year's is set to be even better, with a bigger family day and a trip on a Great Lakes Freighter as an auction item, festival President Joyce Brilinski said.