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Petoskey Stone Festival

Kristi Kates - May 23rd, 2011
Long ago during one or more of North America’s glacial intervals, sheets
of slowly-moving ice pulled fossilized coral pebbles from the bedrock and
deposited them in what is now Northern Michigan.
Today, those same fossilized coral pebbles, a mottled gray color with
 distinctive repeating hexagon patterns, are Michigan’s state stone, and
have been dubbed Petoskey stones. “They’re the stuff of local legend, the
collectible of many a summer, the region’s rockhound claim to fame, and
also the honoree of a dedicated springtime festival, taking place this
Saturday at Barnes Park in Eastport.
Christy Roman of the Antrim Conservation District is one of those now
running that fest, for which part of the appeal, she says, is the fact
that the Petoskey Stone is memorabilia as much as it is a collectible.
“I think that when you find a Petoskey Stone, you use it as a way to
identify back to the time or place when you found that particular stone,”
Roman says, “I also think they are captivating because they are unique,
and they represent a time in the history of our state.”

FESTIVAL TEAMWORK
As far as the history of the Petoskey Stone Festival itself is concerned,
the idea for the event, Roman explains, was proposed by locals Linda
Gallagher and Eileen Wallick of Barnes Park as an opportunity to bring new
visitors to both the park and to Antrim County.
“Barnes Park is known as a great place to find Petoskey stones,” Roman
says, “so it seemed like a perfect fit to have a festival celebrating our
state stone.”
Now a program of the Antrim County’s Parks and Recreation Advisory
Commission, the fest takes place on a full day late in May, and is still
overseen by Wallick in addition to Roman’s contributions. It takes a
village - or, in this case, a committee - to put the event together.
“The festival is overseen by a committee of volunteers, with the festival
chair being Linda Gallagher, editor of the Antrim Review,” Roman explains,
“the committee meets on a monthly basis most of the year, but we go to
every other week between April and May, as there are many parts of the
festival to put together - that is why we take a team approach to
coordinating the event.”

STONY SCHEDULE
Plenty of interesting activities make up this year’s festivities. Some of
the best-attended recurring events, according to Roman, involve fishing,
live entertainment, circus-worthy crafts, and, of course, plenty of
Petoskey Stones.
“Our popular festival events include the Commissioner’s Stone Skipping
contest, the Petoskey Stone hunt on the shores of East Grand Traverse Bay,
the trout fishing pond, the music of local entertainer Danny Bellenbaum,
and the balloon creations of Albo the Clown of East Jordan,” Roman says.
New to the festival this year is the inclusion of SEE-North’s North Wings
raptor rehabilitation program, which will bring in several of the large
birds from their nonprofit center in Harbor Springs.
“Among the raptors will be Chilli the Eastern Screech Owl and Lucy the
Red-Shouldered Hawk as well as other birds of prey that inhabit Northern
Michigan, including one of our largest raptors, the Golden Eagle,” Roman
says.

REWARDING MOMENTS
While Roman enjoys all of the festival’s unique happenings, the best part
for her involves interacting with those who attend it.
“My favorite part is connecting with the people who attend the festival
and those who participate as vendors,” she says, “every year I learn more
about the Petoskey Stone, and because of my role with the festival, I am
able to take that knowledge back and share it with others.
“The other thing I enjoy is seeing all of the happy people. Our festival
is about creating moments, and there is nothing more rewarding than to see
people enjoy the day - it makes all of the work worth the effort.”

The 6th Annual Antrim County Petoskey Stone Festival will take place on
Saturday, May 28 from 10 a.m. to 4 pm at Barnes Park in Eastport. For more
information, contact Christy Roman at the Antrim Conservation District,
telephone 231-533-8363, or visit the fest’s website,
petoskeystonefestival.com.

 
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