Letters

Letters 10-20-2014

Doctor Dan? After several email conversations with Rep. Benishek, he has confirmed that he doesn’t have a clue of what he does. Here’s why...

In Favor Of Our Parks [Traverse] City Proposal 1 is a creative way to improve our city parks without using our tax dollars. By using a small portion of our oil and gas royalties from the Brown Bridge Trust Fund, our parks can be improved for our children and grandchildren.

From January 1970 Popular Mechanics: “Drastic climate changes will occur within the next 50 years if the use of fossil fuels keeps rising at current rates.” That warning comes from Eugene K. Peterson of the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management.

Newcomers Might Leave: Recently we had guests from India who came over as students with the plan to stay in America. He has a master’s degree in engineering and she is doing her residency in Chicago and plans to specialize in oncology. They talked very candidly about American politics and said that after observing...

Someone Is You: On Sept 21, I joined the 400,000 who took to the streets of New York in the People’s Climate March, followed by a UN Climate Summit and many speeches. On October 13, the Pentagon issued a report calling climate change a significant threat to national security requiring immediate action. How do we move from marches, speeches and reports to meaningful work on this problem? In NYC I read a sign with a simple answer...

Necessary To Pay: Last fall, Grand Traverse voters authorized a new tax to fix roads. It is good, it is necessary.

The Real Reasons for Wolf Hunt: I have really been surprised that no one has been commenting on the true reason for the wolf hunt. All this effort has not been expended so 23 wolves can be killed each year. Instead this manufactured controversy about the wolf hunt has been very carefully crafted to get Proposal 14-2 passed.

Home · Articles · News · Features · Ironworkers Festival Stays...
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Ironworkers Festival Stays Strong

A drive over the Mackinac Bridge is enough to give anyone the heebie-jeebies.

Kristi Kates - August 4th, 2014  

But in the days before safety harnesses and aerial lifts, hundreds of men climbed to the top of the towering iron columns to piece the iconic structure together.

The grueling and dangerous tasks – which continue today – unite the ironworkers as a real band of brothers. So it’s no surprise that they celebrate their achievements at an annual festival each year.

HOOKED ON IRON

Tim Roman, the current president of the Ironworkers’ volunteer committee, was drawn to the Mackinaw City area as a 20-year-old.

“I was impressionable,” said Roman, who attended his first festival in 2000. “I was fortunate to be on a crew doing a major project on the Mackinac Bridge … I was immediately hooked on what was happening.”

Roman made the effort to return to the festival for years to follow, and in 2007 he accepted a job representing ironworkers in the U.P.

“It was pretty natural from that point forward to be involved with the festival and keep the fire burning,” said Roman, who is now president of the fest.

It’s a job that has its own share of highs and lows.

“Coordinating the volunteers, along with the skilled events, are the most rewarding part of all the efforts,” he said. “In the off-time, fundraising and seeking vendors is the big task.”

CLIMBING UP

This year’s Ironworkers Festival marks the 31st consecutive year for the event.

“It all started with some iron workers hanging out a couple climbs up a column, and a race evolved out of it,” Roman said. “The competition and camaraderie that took place was compelling enough to draw those ironworkers back a second year, and so on it goes growing.”

The column climb showcases the physical demands and perils in iron working, Roman said. It is both the competitor and crowd favorite.

“In days prior to safety harnesses and aerial lifts, climbing a column or riding the headache ball [a steel ballast on a crane] were the only ways to access the steel being erected,” he said. “If you wanted to be an ironworker, you had to be able to get to where the work was at.”

BUILDING AMERICA

In addition to the column climb, there’s the spud throw (long, pointed-end wrenches called “spud wrenches”), rod tying (in which pliers are used to tie specific knots around steel rods), and the rivet toss, an homage to the time when structural beams were secured into place using hot steel rivets (the ones at the fest are kept cold for safety reasons.)

Other activities include a parade, live music, and of course refreshments. While Roman says it’s impossible for him to choose a favorite event, one of his favorite festival elements is the strong sense of fraternity among the ironworkers.

“Both the competitors and the crowds cheer on everyone who participates,” he said. “The sportsmanship is great to be around.”

In Roman’s estimation, the festival has been growing so much in popularity that it’s pretty close to outgrowing its grounds in Mackinaw City.

“This event brings together the men and women who do these tasks on a daily basis,” he said. “It gives us an opportunity to showcase our craft, and to showcase what it takes physically and mentally to ‘build America.’”

This year’s International Ironworkers Festival will be held Aug. 8-10 in Mackinaw City. For more information, visit them on Facebook.

 
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