How cool is that? There aren‘t many places in the country where you find wildlife coexisting with a boom in urban growth.
A big part of the fun of putting together our annual tribute to the “Best of Northern Michigan“ is driving around the region, collecting the photos and stories it takes to put one of our most popular issues together. It‘s a team effort that involves everyone at the Express, including the ad reps, office manager and delivery staff, as well as the writers. It‘s our biggest and best chance of the year to get out and circulate with those of you who make Northern Michigan such a superb place to live.
I was reminded of how great we have it here during a trip to Chicago over St. Patrick‘s Day weekend.
Downtown Chicago has gotten ridiculously expensive with most of the hotels in the $200-and-up range, so my wife and I stayed far out of town, making the 45-minute ride downtown on the “El“ train. With a sharp wind blowing down the concrete canyon of Michigan Avenue, we checked out the stores and pricey restaurants along the “Miracle Mile.“
But it wasn‘t long before I started wishing that we‘d just stayed home and had gone to the Crazy Daze celebration at Boyne instead -- a huge party at the ski resort that pulls in thousands. And, watching an Irish band called Gaelic Storm at the House of Blues, I couldn‘t help thinking that our own local Celtic outfit, Song of the Lakes, is much better.
We did see some wildlife in Chicago though, or at least my wife did: When Jeannette tried to use the lady‘s restroom at a restaurant, she found that some woman had gotten so dead drunk that she‘d fallen asleep on the toilet. The staff had to break down the door of the stall.
So, I was glad to get home and celebrate a rousing St. Patrick‘s Day with my homies at the annual pub crawl in downtown Traverse City. For once, Northern Michigan trumped Chicago as the fun place to be.
All of this is a roundabout way of saying what we already know: Northern Michigan is the “best“ place to live, and the amazing thing is that it keeps getting better.
This being a paper with a strong commitment to music and entertainment, we‘ve been cheered to learn of the many new concert opportunities by casinos throughout the region, bringing in major acts that once required traveling hundreds of miles to see.
Then too, the local music scene is revving up to new heights with bands such as Egon, Nancy‘s Fury, Three Thumbs Up and Twisted Finster putting the “roll“ back in the rock across the north.
And anyone who‘s visited downtown Traverse City in the past few months can‘t help but notice the glory of the new State Theatre, which has made hearts soar with its blend of intelligent, thought-provoking films.
And let‘s not forget those bears. Thanks to the selfless efforts and hard work of activists committed to the environment and preservation, Northern Michigan has retained the pristine quality of its forests, rivers and lakes, along with the “small town“ feel of where we live.
Think of what Northern Michigan would be without the Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore, or with golf courses planted on every scenic view. Think of what we‘d be with our skies darkened by coal and tire-burning plants. Think of the many generous citizens who‘ve donated forest tracts to our land conservancies. And of the people who‘ve built our bike paths and are seeking ‘greener‘ transportation alternatives.
Most of the people who‘ve stood up and said “no“ to exploitive, crackpot development schemes through the years have been unpaid citizen-volunteers. That‘s also true of the many who‘ve worked on our bike paths, hiking trails and conservation projects.
Because of these caring, daring and audacious champions of the good life, we‘ve got the best of both worlds here -- a home which is increasingly more cosmopolitan and stimulating, while retaining the call of the wild and the beauty of nature.
So, in this issue, we try to honor some of you who‘ve made the difference in making Northern Michigan the “Best Place to Live.“ You rock -- and we‘re proud to be able to share the good news.