Two Mackinac Island must-dos for June
By Kristi Kates | May 20, 2017
TITANIC AT THE GRAND
The Mackinac Straits might be a world away from the icy North Atlantic waters that swallowed up the famed “unsinkable” passenger liner RMS Titanic in 1912, but distance doesn’t make the Grand Hotel’s annual Titanic at the Grand weekend any less popular.
Conceived as a spring counterpart to the hotel’s much beloved fall Somewhere in Time weekend dedicated to the film of the same name shot on Mackinac Island, the Titanic at the Grand weekend is much like its 46-ton inspiration was intended to be: an historic and luxurious experience for travelers.
Two receptions anchor the Titanic weekend at the Grand. Friday launches the Bon Voyage reception, which guests attend after they collect their boarding passes, actual reproductions of passenger tickets used by those onboard the Titanic. The hotel provides appetizers and cocktails on the Grand Hotel porch as guests mingle; guests are encouraged dress in period Edwardian attire (and most do).
Saturday evening brings a second reception, also on the front porch, with actors portraying some of the famous people who were on board for that fateful journey: the unsinkable Molly Brown, honeymooners Madeleine Force and John Jacob Astor, Bruce Ismay, and Titanic Captain E. J. Smith. After the reception, attendees will be escorted up to the theater for the interactive live dinner-theater event “Last Night on the Titanic.”
The dinner features menu items that were served on the last meal on the Titanic, said Ken Hayward, executive vice president and managing director of the Grand Hotel, who works closely with dinner-theatre company Double Exposure, Inc., to create the weekend event.
Hayward said that the Titanic meal was quite extensive, so the Grand Hotel version will highlight five dishes: oysters a la Russe, consommé Olga (soup), poached salmon with dill sauce and cucumbers, sliced sirloin beef, and chocolate-painted eclairs.
“We also get the guests involved at the dinner theater,” said Double Exposure’s Ed Krajewski. “When the guests check in on Friday night and get their boarding passes, we look for people who have an outgoing personality and ask them if they want to participate on Saturday night. Over the years we have found that many people love doing this, so we give them a few lines. This keeps the interactive theater very lively.”
After the dinner theater, guests view a tribute to the passengers who didn’t survive the Titanic’s sinking.
Other events that take place over Titanic weekend include the First Class Fashion Show featuring men’s and women’s clothing from the 1912 era, both reproductions and authentic vintage pieces; special dance instruction classes in the Terrace Room, so guests can enjoy dancing the waltz and foxtrot in between courses at the dinner; and a presentation by David Kaplan, a popular Titanic historian and lecturer.
The weekend’s activities — during which many guests remain clothed in various Edwardian ensembles — lend a real air of immersion to the event, bringing guests back to another time and place.
“It all adds to the ambiance,” Hayward said. “I think when you stand on the porch and look out on the Straits of Mackinac, you certainly can have the feeling of being on the deck of a ship.”
Titanic at the Grand happens at The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island June 2–4. grandhotel.com.
MACKINAC ISLAND LILAC FESTIVAL
Rest easy, the lilacs of Mackinac Island are on track to bloom beautifully for this year’s Lilac Festival, said Tim Hygh, executive director of Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau.
There are over 100 varieties of lilac on the island, the most recognizable being the common lilac or the French lilac, which ranges in color from white and pink to blue and several shades of purple. Many of the island’s lilacs were planted in the Victorian age, and some have lived for over 150 years, thanks to the island’s nurturing microclimate.
“Mackinac Island has some of the largest specimens of the common lilac in the country,” said Hygh. “Also found here, but more rare, are the Himalayan lilac, which are lavender, and the Japanese tree lilac, which are typically white.”
The island’s Lilac Festival, which began as “Lilac Day” in the 60s, has blossomed over the years into a ten-day event packed with activities. The three biggest: the Lilac Festival 10K on Saturday, June 10, at 9:30am; the Taste of Mackinac, happening Thursday, June 15, at 11:30am), and the Grand Parade, which kicks off Sunday, June 18, at 4pm.
The 10K race starts at Windermere Point and welcomes over 700 runners each year on a race course that wends past many of the island’s most beautiful sights.
Taste of Mackinac, a Tapas-style event, features offerings from island restaurants, as well as local beer and wine, for just $20. Live music and entertainment will be provided by Grand Rapids-based Ardan Academy of Irish Dance and regional singer-songwriter Michelle Chenard.
The spectacle that is the Grand Parade (pictured above) showcases horse-drawn flloats, many of which are crafted by locals. The famous Scottville Clown Band will be a part of the Grand Parade again this year, along with the Glen Erin Pipe Band, Superior Pipe and Drum, and Greenfield High School Marching Band. The parade is such an important part of the Lilac Festival that it’s been recognized as a local legacy event by the American Folklife Center of the U.S. Library of Congress.
“As always, there will be a slew of large Percheron horse teams and their carriages as well,” Hygh said. “I'm most looking forward to the Grand Parade – it’s my favorite part every year. There's nothing like a parade with all horses!”
The 2017 Mackinac Island Lilac Festival takes place June 9–18 2017. www.mackinacisland.org