By EDITH ZHOU
Capital News Service
LANSING – New businesses, new history exhibits and new members of the Mackinac Island State Park Commission kick off the island’s approaching tourism season.
Named as the 8th most-pristine destination island in the world by National Geographic, Mackinac Island attracts more than 1 million visitors each year, according to the Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau.
As the second-largest industry in the state, tourism brings in more than $17 billion annually, according to a report from Michigan State University.
Mary McGuire, executive director of the bureau, said several new businesses that offer recreational activities will open this season, including Great Turtle Kayaking, Green Planet Extreme Kayaking Tours and Spirit of the North Yoga.
“The businesses here do all they can to update each season. There are only a few communities in the world that open and close so many businesses each year,” McGuire said.
Kelsey Schnell, the public relations and marketing officer at Mackinac State Historic Parks, said the parks also have new things happening this season, including special exhibitions and anniversary activities.
“This June marks the 250th anniversary of the attack at Fort Michilimackinac by Native American warriors, so a newly reconstructed rowhouse and two new exhibits will help relay that story as part of the commemoration,” Schnell said.
According to Schnell, the new rowhouse, in Mackinaw City, was reconstructed after years of archaeological excavation and research. It features two exhibits, one of which includes an authentic stone fireplace ruin from the original structure. The other exhibit will showcase a short film depicting the attack and events leading up to it.
“And Fort Mackinac interpretive programs will continue to highlight the anniversary of the War of 1812, so daily demonstrations of military uniforms and musket firings will take place on the island throughout the summer months,” he said.
McGuire said the parks are working hard on different ways to attract more visitors.
“We are primarily a word-of-mouth place, so the social media has been wonderful,” she said.
Television shows feature the island such as the CBS Early Show, and the bureau is also a partner in the state’s Pure Michigan campaign.
“I will continue to work towards bringing television and film crews to Mackinac, as well as travel writers, because being featured and written about has always had longer- lasting results for us since the reader views the articles with more credibility,” McGuire said.
Recently, Gov. Rick Snyder announced the appointments of Mary Callewaert of Mackinac Islan, and William Deary of Jackson to the Mackinac Island State Park Commission.
The commission’s seven members oversee operations and maintenance of Mackinac State Historic Parks.
“I feel honored to be appointed. I have been up on the island all my life and I am familiar with the environment,” Callewaert said.
Callewaert’s family owns many Mackinac Island businesses, including Ryba’s Fudge Shops, Island House, Pancake House and Mary’s Bistro, and she also serves as a Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau board member.
“All the work I have been doing these years will help me to do my job for the commission,” Callerwaert said. “I have a lot to learn before I start my work. I will try my best to attract more people here and share the island’s beauty with the world.” s
The current chair of the commission, Dennis Cawthorne of Mackinac Island and Lansing, and secretary Barry Goodman of Southfield are leaving after their terms end this month.
Cawthorne has been the chair for more than 18 of his 22 years of service. He said his accomplishments include support of the refurbishment and reopening of Old Mackinac Point Light House, creation of Historic Mill Creek Discovery Park, opening of Manoogian Mackinac Art Museum, reconstruction of buildings at Colonial Michilimackinac and rebuilding the 220-year-old stone walls of Fort Mackinac.
Callewaert and Deary will serve six-year terms that expire April 12, 2019, and their appointments are subject to Senate approval.
By EDITH ZHOU