The 66th annual Mackinac Island Lilac Festival starts tomorrow and runs through June 14th. It celebrates the Island’s historic varieties of lilacs (many from the Colonial era) and equestrian culture and is one of the Island’s biggest attractions.
Apparently it’s “Lissa Edwards Goes to Mackinac Week” on Michigan in Pictures as I turn again to one of my favorite writers for her take on the Lilac Festival.
Metaphors for islanders and their favorite shrubs are easy pickings. Lilacs are tough as native islanders (or native islanders are hearty as these flowers?). Like their human counterparts, lilacs thrive in the cold Straits of Mackinac winters; neither lilacs nor island folk shrink from sinking their roots into the island’s craggy limestone bedrock. In fact, they crave that acidy terra firma. And last but best, lilacs prefer their soil the way these islanders like their beer: well drained.
When the long, cold winter and cool spring finally ends, Mackinac lilacs show their joy by transforming the island into a fairyland of blossoms. Cotton candy–colored tinkerbelles tempt from behind white picket fences. Big bold creamy Madame Lemoine lilacs strut next to a fluttery pink and white Beauty of Moscow in Ste. Anne’s churchyard. Down at the marina, where voyageurs working the Great Lakes fur trade once pulled their canoes, blue President Lincolns wave next to white Betsy Rosses. A froth that includes double pink Elizabeths and dark purple Monge spills out over the rolling green lawn at Marquette Park. And the gauzy backdrop to them all: the anything-but-bourgeois, lilac-colored common lilac.
The island is home to all 23 lilac species, some 400 varieties and thousands of individual plants. In June—and even into July in the case of late-blooming varieties—these flowers radiate their perfume into the windy Straits, where it melts into the aroma of warm fudge wafting from Main Street’s famous fudge shops and fresh horse apples (cars are banned on Mackinac Island) to create a signature Mackinac Island scent.
Read on for lots more.
May 29, 2015
I’m going to declare that the statute of limitations on posting another photo from David Marvin expired at 7:38 AM today.
More spring wallpaper on Michigan in Pictures … and then let’s bring on the summer!
May 16, 2015
Dan Austin of Historic Detroit has an excellent article on the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory on Belle Isle that begins:
If Belle Isle is Detroit’s crown, then the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory is its brightest emerald, full of brilliant green ferns, palms and cacti and plant life from all over the world.
The conservatory, opened in the center of the island on Aug. 18, 1904, the same day as its next door neighbor, the Belle Isle Aquarium. Both were designed by Albert Kahn, who for the conservatory turned to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello for inspiration. It sits on 13 acres and features a lily pond on its north side and is fronted by formal perennial gardens on the west. These gardens are home to theLevi L. Barbour Memorial Fountain. For the first 51 years of its existence, the building was known as simply the Conservatory or the Horticulture Building. Today, the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory is the oldest, continually operating conservatory in the United States.
The building covers about an acre and has five areas, each housing a different climate, and features a north wing and a south wing and a 100,600 cubic feet dome 85 feet high to accommodate soaring palms and other tropical plants. The north wing houses hundreds of cacti and desert plants, and just beyond that is a room packed with ferns from floor to ceiling. The south is home to hundreds of tropical plants and the Children’s Christian Temperance Fountain. The collection also includes perennial gardens and displays of annuals. The show house, remodeled in 1980, features a continuous display of blooming plants.
Definitely read on at Historic Detroit on for how the Conservatory got its name and became home to the largest municipally owned orchid collection in the country. There’s also a great historic photo gallery.
Here’s the official site for Belle Isle Conservatory. The hours are Wednesday-Sunday, 10 AM – 5 PM and the Belle Isle Aquarium is open Saturdays and Sundays as well.
More spring wallpaper on Michigan in Pictures.
April 30, 2015
Holland’s annual Tulip Time starts this Saturday (May 2) and continues through May 9th. The annual celebration features parades, music, displays of Dutch Heritage and of course tulips, 4.5 million of them!
April 22, 2015
Today is the 45th Earth Day, and many many not be aware of Michigan’s role in this holiday. The Ann Arbor Chronicle has an excellent feature titled Turbulent Origins of Ann Arbor’s First Earth Day that looks at the national movement in the late 60s to call attention to environmental degradation:
One of the first tasks facing the national organization was to choose a date for the proposed mass teach-ins. They settled on April 22 – “Earth Day,” as it would eventually be named – largely because that date fell optimally between spring break and final exams for most American colleges. (The fact that it is also Lenin’s birthday is apparently a complete coincidence.) But the University of Michigan operated then as now on a trimester system, with April 22 falling right in the middle of finals. As a result, the U-M environmental teach-in was scheduled for mid-March 1970.
The fact that it took place more than a month prior to national Earth Day has led to the misconception that the ENACT teach-in launched Earth Day, or that U-M was host to the first Earth Day celebration. In fact there were environmental events on other campuses as early as December 1969. But that does not in any way diminish the importance of the Ann Arbor event, which was to have a huge influence on the course of what has been called the largest mass demonstration in American history – Earth Day 1970, in which an estimated 20 million people participated.
“The University of Michigan teach-in was not the first or even the second or third – a few small liberal arts colleges had environmental teach-ins in January and February 1970,” says Adam Rome, a professor of history at Penn State who is working on a book about Earth Day. ”But the Michigan event was by far the biggest, best, and most influential of the pre-Earth Day teach-ins. The media gave it tremendous coverage. It was the first sign that Earth Day would be a big deal.”
…Events ran from the early morning until well after midnight, on topics such as overpopulation – “Sock It to Motherhood: Make Love, Not Babies” – the future of the Great Lakes, the root causes of the ecological crisis, and the effect of war on the environment. More than sixty major media outlets covered the action, including all three American television networks and a film crew from Japan. It was the biggest such event that had yet been seen in Ann Arbor – and coming as it did at the tail end of the sixties, it would be one of the last.
At the kickoff rally around 14,000 people paid fifty cents to crowd into Crisler Arena and listen to speeches by Senator Gaylord Nelson, Michigan governor William Milliken, radio personality Arthur Godfrey, and ecologist Barry Commoner, and groove to the music of Hair and Gordon Lightfoot. Another 3,000 who couldn’t get in listened on loudspeakers that were hastily set up in the parking lot.
The photographer shared a nice lyric too from Carol Johnson:
The Earth is my mother / She good to me / she gives me everything that I ever need
food on the table/ the clothes I wear/ the sun and the water and the cool, fresh air