Lilac Island: Mackinac Island’s Lilacs & Lilac Festival

Mackinac Island Lilacs and Lilac Festival

Fort Mackinac & Lilacs, photo by Steven Blair

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.

View Steven’s photo background bigtacular on the Mackinac Island Lilac Festival’s Facebook and see a bunch more lilac photos from Mackinac Island on his Photography by Blair Facebook.

More lilacs and more Mackinac on Michigan in Pictures.

Sunrise Flight

Sunrise Flight

Sunrise Flight, photo by ptpomber

Safe & quick flights … and travels of any kind this weekend. Speaking of flight, if anyone can identify the bird from yesterday, that would be great!

View ptpomber’s photo bigger and see more from Mackinac Island including some very cool winter shots in his slideshow.

Fall at Sugar Loaf Rock on Mackinac Island

Sugar Loaf Rock Mackinac Island

The Rock, photo by Sandy Hansen Photography

Here’s a color check-in from last week on Mackinac Island. The Mackinac Island State Park Commission says the following about Sugar Loaf rock romation:

Sugar Loaf, a 75 foot tall limestone stack, is the largest rock formation on Mackinac Island. When glacial Lake Algonquin covered much of the Island 11,000 years ago, Sugar Loaf was connected to the nearby bluff face (today called Point Lookout). Wave action slowly washed away the softer limestone between the stack and the bluff, leaving Sugar Loaf as a stand-alone feature. High water levels during the Lake Algonquin period left only the top of Sugar Loaf exposed, as evidenced by the small cave cut into the north face of the formation by wave action. This cave was originally on the shoreline of the lake.

As with other geological features on the Island, numerous Native American legends have been passed down relating to the origin of Sugar Loaf. One story relates that a young man asked the spirits for eternal life. In response, they turned him to stone, creating Sugar Loaf.

View Sandy’s photo bigger and see more of her Mackinac Island photos.

Also check out Arch Rock and the Devil’s Kitchen on Michigan in Pictures.

Mackinac’s Round Island Passage Light is for sale

Somewhere in Light

Somewhere in Light, photo by Kristina Austin Scarcelli

mLive reports that the Government Services Administration is taking bids from nonprofit or community groups to take stewardship of the Round Island Passage Light before auctioning it off. Click through for all the details.

Lighthouse Friends has a page on the Round Island Passage Lighthouse that includes the entry from the 1948 Coast Guard Bulletin on this light that replaced the Round Island Lighthouse (in the background on the left):

The substructure of the new lighthouse, 56 feet square up to the 1 foot line below mean low water, is a timber crib with cells at the perimeter filled with concrete and internal cells filled with 5-inch to 14-inch rock. The superstructure is concrete with a reinforced concrete deck. It has four vertical and four sloping sides, giving the lighthouse a new and unusually trim appearance. The tower is appropriately ornamented on each side with a 4- or 5-foot Indian Head plaque, symbolic of the area.

But the most interesting thing about Round Island Passage Light Station is its main light. Located in the top section of the 41 ½-foot tower, it is indeed a departure from the “single light source” arrangement that has been in use for centuries. This new light apparatus is a solid bank of sealed beam lamps of 3,000 candlepower which produce a characteristic of occulting green every 10 seconds. It is visible 16 miles. (These sealed beam lamps are similar to your present day automobile headlights.)

The fog signal consists of two air operated diaphragm horns, sounding simultaneously with 3 seconds blast and 27 seconds silence. The radiobeacon is class B. Distance finding is also provided.

The passage between Mackinac Island and Round Island has long been regarded as extremely hazardous. It is now adequately guarded by Round Island Passage Light Station. This will result in a saving of time on trips and will relieve the congestion of Poe Reef Channel. This, in turn, will increase Great Lakes’ tonnage.

View Kristina’s photo bigger and see more in her Michigan Lighthouses slideshow.

Birthday Butterfly for the Grand Hotel

Grand Hotel Birthday Butterfly

Grand Hotel Butterfly, photo by Alicia Bock

Today is the 127th birthday of the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. You can check out the Hotel’s historic photo gallery or if you want to roll with the times, the Grand Hotel Instagram.

View Alicia’s photo bigger, see more in her Mackinac slideshow and view and purchase more in the Mackinac Magic photo gallery on her photography website.

More about the Grand Hotel on Michigan in Pictures.

Lilacs on Mackinac … and lilacs in your garden

Lilacs on Mackinac Island

Lilacs on Mackinac Island, photo by Steven Blair

While lilacs are starting to wind down around the state, they’re just getting going on Mackinac Island. The annual Mackinac Island Lilac Festival started last weekend and continues through Sunday, June 15th. Here’s a few tips courtesy the Lilac Festival and Jeff Young, Lilac Curator at the University of Vermont Horticultural Research Center, Master Gardener and presenter of the “Walk and Talk with Lilacs” program during the Lilac Festival.

  • Common Lilacs need to have 9-12 canes for each 6 feet
  • Leave at least 2 feet between mature Lilacs.
  • Plant new shrubs 16 feet apart (circular shape)
  • Allow for a few more canes if you are planting as a hedge with less depth.
  • If you have too many canes, consider the oldest canes for removal first, leaving good spacing between canes.
  • If not enough canes, pick one or two of the best suckers each year until there are enough.
  • Once the Lilac is established, consider adding one new cane and removing the oldest cane each year to create a vigorous, healthy full flowering plant.

More at the Lilac Festival website.

View Steven’s photo background bigilicious on Facebook and see more at the Artistic Mackinac Gallery & Studio.

More lilacs and more summer wallpaper on Michigan in Pictures!

Mackinac Harbor Sunset


Sunset over Mackinac Island Harbor, photo by Stephanie Stevens Photography

Today’s photo is actually one frame of one of the coolest time-lapses I’ve seen, a time-lapse of Mackinac Island Harbor at the end of the day taken from Fort Mackinac that shows the end of the day boat traffic, the clouds playing across the harbor and even a little glow in the dark frisbee at Marquette Park! Click that link to check it out in HD glory on Flickr!

View more from Stephanie on her Flickr and at Stephanie Stevens Photography.

More Mackinac on Michigan in Pictures!

Fort Mackinac


Fort Mackinac, Mackinac Island, MI, photo by Wrong Main

Every once and a while I come across something about Michigan that I can’t believe I haven’t featured. Here’s the latest…

Wikipedia’s comprehensive entry on Fort Mackinac explains that the first fort on the Straits of Mackinac was Fort Du Buade. Built by the French around 1690 near the St. Ignace Mission, Du Bade was closed in 1697. In 1715 the French constructed Fort Michilimackinac on the south side of the Straits where Mackinaw City is today. Michilimackinac became the hub of the upper Great Lakes fur trade and a French outpost until 1761 when British soldiers took control after the French and Indian War.

The Mackinac State Historic Parks history of Fort Mackinac continues:

By 1776 the American Revolution was underway. With the successes of George Rogers Clark in capturing British posts in the south, and American forces moving northward, the British grew anxious that Fort Michilimackinac , a wooden fort built on the beach, was vulnerable. Consequently, British Commandant Patrick Sinclair chose to relocate the fort to Mackinac Island where the high limestone cliffs and good harbor provided a more defensible location. Between 1779 and 1781 many buildings were taken apart on the mainland and reassembled on the island. What was not moved was burned. The civilian community was built around the bay below the fort. One of the first new buildings to be built on the island was the Officers’ Stone Quarters, the oldest building in the State of Michigan today.

The fort and island became United States territory as a result of the American victory in the Revolution. However, it took thirteen years for American troops to arrive and finally take control of the fort from the British. The latter were reluctant to leave the island, as British merchants continued to dominate fur trading, even in American territory. After leaving Fort Mackinac in 1796, the British went to St. Joseph’s Island, at the mouth of the St. Mary’s River and established Fort St. Joseph .

War broke out between the United States and Great Britain in the summer of 1812. Under the cover of darkness, a 300-man force of British soldiers and Native American allies embarked from Fort St. Joseph and landed on the north shore of Mackinac Island . They dragged their cannon to the high ground behind the fort, took positions in the woods and prepared to attack. American soldiers, about 30, were completely surprised and outnumbered by the British invasion. They quickly surrendered without a fight following a single warning shot by the British. This was the first land engagement of the War of 1812 in the United States .

You can read on to learn how the Americans ultimately got the fort back and how became a center of the Great Lakes fishing industry, its time as a Civil War prison, and the hub of the second national park in the U.S., Mackinac National Park. If you want to visit – bear in mind they close for the season October 13th!

Bill took this shot October 1, 1982 on Plustek OpticFilm 7600. Check it out background big, see more in his slideshow and definitely click to view his photo of the Mackinac Bridge taken on the same day.

More Mackinac on Michigan in Pictures, and get a little bit more about Michigan’s role in the War of 1812 in The Battle of Lake Erie.

Sugar Loaf Rock on Mackinac Island


Untitled, photo by *Alysa*

I was surprised to learn that I haven’t posted anything about Sugar Loaf on Mackinac Island. Here’s a summary with help from Wikipedia’s entry for Sugar Loaf Rock, the Mackinac State Historic Parks geology page and some other sources I’ve linked to.

Located not far from the shoreline on the east side of Mackinac Island, Sugar Loaf is a 75′ breccia limestone stack. Thousands of years ago Lake Algonquin covered all but the center of Mackinac Island. When it receded, this tower of rock remained. The people of the region packed maple sugar into cone-shaped baskets of birchbark, and Sugar Loaf Rock was named for its resemblance to one of these cones.

Sugar Loaf was said by some to be the home of Gitchi Manitou, while another tale explains that the rock was the final form taken by a man who asked for immortality and received it, albiet not as he expected. A distinct profile remains in the limestone face of Sugar Loaf Rock. The rock was also used as a site of ritual burials. In 1831, Alexis de Tocqueville and his friend Gustave de Beaumont visited Mackinac Island. De Beaumont reported that the rock was filled with “crevices and faults where the Indians sometimes deposed the bones of the dead.” A natural cave passes through Sugar Loaf from side to side, but it’s too small for any but children.

Check out Anna Lysa’s photo out bigger and see more in her Mackinac Island slideshow.

More from Mackinac on Michigan in Pictures!

A birthday card from the Grand Hotel

View from West Bluff of The Grand Hotel

View from West Bluff of The Grand Hotel, photo by MI photographer

126 years ago today on July 10, 1887, The Grand Hotel opened for business on Mackinac Island. In honor of Michigan’s most famous hotel, here’s a seldom seen view.

Check it out bigger and see more in MI photographer’s Mackinac Island slideshow.

PS: The lighthouse you can see in the distance is Round Island Lighthouse – click the link to get closer with Michigan in Pictures.