Festifools Ann Arbor

FestiFools: puppet painting, photo by Myra Klarman

The annual Festifools returns to Ann Arbor next Sunday, April 12 at 4 PM. The event is in its 9th year, and they explain:

A new local tradition, kicking off Ann Arbor’s outdoor festival season, FestiFools is a gigantic public art spectacular, created by members of the community and U of M students. Magnificent, huge, bizarre, politically incorrect, human-powered papier-mâché puppets join thousands of Foolish friends frolicking about downtown for one fun-filled hour. Don’t miss out on this eight annual celebration of foolishness!

Myra took this photo back in 2007 as she documented the very first year of what has become an Ann Arbor tradition. View her photo on Flickr and definitely check out her 2007 FestiFools April 1st Parade slideshow.

Pure-Frozen-Michigan-April-1-2015

Pure Michigan announced an exciting new tourism initiative called Winter 360 today. Spokeswoman April Phule explained:

“We all know that ice cave tourism has been really a big deal for Michigan these past few winters, but of course as soon as it melts all those ice loving tourists head to places like Siberia, the Yukon and Pellston. Pure Michigan is focused on bringing as many people as possible to the state, so our staff decided to think outside the box.

We talked with the folks at Boeing and they are loaning us a fleet of six 757s that will be outfitted with 167 specially modified Frigidaire freezers. Each will generate approximately -87,000 BTUs, enough to blanket shorelines in ice while keeping the air at Michigan’s usual balmy summer temperatures. The planes will fly designated stretches of shoreline in Grand Haven, South Haven, Muskegon, Leelanau County, Saginaw Bay, Lake St. Clair and along Grand Island in the Upper Peninsula.

We’re calling it “Winter 360″ and we expect it to add $37 million to Michigan’s economy this summer!

More as we learn it.

Houghtons Heikki Lunta

Hancock’s Heikki Lunta, photo by Mark Riutta / Defined Visuals

I know that many folks in southern Michigan are wondering where the heck all this snow came from. Last night I realized that a friend of mine was actually responsible!

Yooper Steez tells the Legend of Finnish snow god Heikki Lunta:

The name is now often associated with an annual winter festival in Negaunee, but it’s creation is linked to an annual snowmobile race held in Atlantic Mine. In 1970, the U.P. was having one of those winters where it doesn’t snow as much as we might like, which was threatening the success of the race. To increase support, radio salesman David Riutta wrote the “Heikki Lunta Snow Dance Song.” This song created the fictional Heikki Lunta as a creature that lived in the backwoods of Tapiola, twenty miles south of Houghton, and would perform a dance to make it snow. The song went on U.P. airwaves and was a success, and incidentally it did snow that year, causing the snowmobile race to be postponed on account of too much snow.

The song gained popularity enough to be mentioned on “The Today Show” and “The Tonight Show,” and the radio salesman was even invited to sing the song for winter events in California.

As anyone who has been through an Upper Peninsula winter knows, the snow can become relentless, and by the end of that winter, Riutta wrote “Heikki Lunta Go Away,” which is now often paired with the initial song.

The name Heikki Lunta comes from the Finnish translation of the name Hank Snow, like the popular country and western singer.

Read on for more including videos of the Heikki Lunta Song by Da Yoopers and also see Heikki Lunta – A Modern Copper Country Folk Hero at Pasty.com. If you want to go in depth, Hilary Virtanen presents a detailed and fascinating history of this distinctly Yooper phenomenon from 1970 to the present day with press clippings and more in Not Just Talking About the Weather: Tradition, Social Change and Heikki Lunta (use the dates on the left to navigate).

View Mark’s photo bigger and see his work at Defined Visuals on Facebook.

PS: When he’s not making it snow, Adam is also a fantastic photographer. See his work, some of which is potentially NSFW depending on where you work, at brockit.com.

Michigan Groundhog
Young Groundhog, photo by John E Heintz Jr

Happy Groundhog Day everyone! We’re hoping that folks in the southern part of the state are digging out all right!

Michigan has native groundhogs, also known as woodchucks, whistle-pigs, or land-beavers. You can learn all about them from the University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web under Marmota monax (woodchuck) which says (in part):

Woodchucks have numerous common names, including ground hog, and whistle pig. The word “woodchuck” is a misinterpretation of their Native American name “wuchak”, which roughly translates as “the digger”. Groundhog Day occurs when Punxsutawney Phil, a captive woodchuck held in rural Pennsylvania, is awakened from hibernation in order to determine if he will see his shadow. According to the legend, if he sees his shadow there will be 6 additional weeks of winter. If he does not see his shadow, legend predicts an early spring.

The legend of Groundhog Day is likely due to the fact that woodchucks often re-enter hibernation after emerging from their dens prematurely.

We all know about Punxsutawney Phil, but have you heard of Michigan’s Official Groundhog? Her name is Woody, and she lives at the Howell Conference & Nature Center and unfortunately is battling a severe respiratory infection so her alternate Murray will stand in if she’s unable to perform her official duties at 8:15 today.

Woody correctly forecast six more weeks of winter weather on February 2, 2014, much to the chagrin of close to two hundred shivering attendees of that Sunday morning’s Groundhog Day festivities.

Last year’s prognostication, her sixteenth, was made crystal clear by her outright refusal to even leave her home. With temperatures at the Nature Center hovering in the low 20′s and several inches of snow on the ground, the clairvoyant chuck’s behavior was interpreted as just another sign of her wisdom.

Read on for more.

View John’s photo bigger and see lots more backyard wildlife in his ANIMAL PHOTOGRAPHY slideshow.

When in Doubt Jump off a Cliff

When in Doubt, Jump off a Cliff, photo by shaleewanders

Through the magic of Twitter, I came across the website Shalee Wanders the other day. Created by Shalee Blackmer, it’s a really engaging site she created to inspire people (especially young people) to get out and enjoy traveling on a budget.

The post that drew me in was her Michigan Bucket List, a compilation with some photos of a lot of very fun things to do from to hiking the Porcupine Mountains to exploring the Detroit Packard Plant. Even better, there’s 250+ comments from people with more ideas for getting the most out of Michigan.

View Shalee’s photo from last summer near Marquette bigger and see more on her Instagram.

PS: I do feel that I need to point out that last summer Lake Superior was ice cold, making this leap especially impressive!

Pacman

Pacman, photo by Tom Syrba

It’s some indication of the importance of Election Day to me that one of the biggest stories of the century went unreported on Michigan in Pictures yesterday. I’m speaking of course of the fact that on Monday the Internet Archive launched a web-based library of classic arcade video games from the 1970s through to the 1990s called The Internet Arcade.

The Arcade contains hundreds of games from early “bronze-age” videogames with black and white screens and simple sounds, to large-scale games containing digitized voices, images and music.

Many of these are playable in a browser. Click to start losing productivity before it’s too late!

View Tom’s photo background big and see more in his slideshow.

More fun stuff on Michigan in Pictures.

Swimming All Summer Long

All Summer Long in Northern Michigan, photo by Craig’s Obsession

CBS Chicago reports that after today, it’s illegal to swim in Lake Michigan until next May, and violations are subject to a $500 fine!

According to Chapter 7 of the Chicago Park District code: “Entering or remaining in the water at [Chicago Park District] beaches shall be permitted only during the bathing season.” The part district does have the authority to extend the season.

As most folks who live along the Great Lakes know, September typically offers warmer water and better swimming than June, so on behalf of the State of Michigan, let me extend an invitation to our oppressed Windy City brethren to enjoy the beaches of Michigan this fall!

View Craig’s photo bigger and see more in his slideshow.

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