On our way back from Florida, we received word that our friend Mike’s father had passed away on Easter night. So, we spent one night in Byron Center before heading to the east side of the state. Mike and his wife Cindy both grew up in Essexville, at the base of Michigan’s thumb. Mike’s dad was a hard working farmer and was well loved, as was evident by the packed funeral home the night of the viewing. His red Farmall tractor was parked out front with a beautiful bouquet of flowers in the seat. What a great send off.
Our go-to campground in that area is the Jellystone Park in Frankenmuth, which is about 1/2 hour south of Essexville. At first glance, this park appears to be high priced, somewhat tight and geared towards kids…all of which is true. But, there is so much more to this story, especially for us.
Yogi has taken care of us over the years. When Diana’s dad was suffering with terminal cancer in Flushing (just to the south), we parked our travel trailer here and Diana used it as a retreat to come back to and regroup. The staff was as good as gold to her. They also have one of the best indoor pools you will ever find at a campground.
It comes complete with an excellent climate controlled environment, huge whirlpool, and an evening adults only hour. Nice.
Frankenmuth is known as Michigan’s Little Bavaria. Settled in the mid 1800’s by Immigrants from what was Germany’s Franconia region, Frankenmuth has become one of Michigan’s prime tourist destinations.
Most folks come for the family style chicken dinners at either the Bavarian Inn…
…or at Zehnder’s. Both are great, but our favorite is Zehnder’s. We both have a lifetime of experiences in this restaurant, from our early childhoods until now. :). There also is a brewery/restaurant in town, along with other popular food destinations.
If shopping is your thing, Frankenmuth has an array of quaint stores with plenty of offerings. Perhaps the grandest shopping experience in Frankenmuth is Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland. (Wally Bronner wanted to make sure people remembered the holiday was Christ’s birthday, hence the case-sensitive spelling.)
Bronner’s bills itself as the world’s largest Christmas store. It is open 361 days a year and is loaded with every kind of ornament imaginable. They also have outdoor displays that are lit year-round.
And even though the focus is Christ, Santa Claus is also well represented. But perhaps one of the most compelling features of Bronner’s is the Silent Night Chapel.
The chapel is a 1:1 replica of the chapel in Oberndorf, Austria. The hymn ‘Silent Night’ was first played on Christmas Eve in St. Nicholas church in 1818. After the church was razed, the chapel was built on the altar site. Wally Bronner travelled to Austria in the 1980’s and obtained permission to construct a replica in Frankenmuth.
Surrounding the chapel are these signs displaying the lyrics in over 300 languages. The speakers in the surrounding landscaping continually play different versions of the hymn. Pretty nice tribute for a simple but powerful tune.
So if you are ever driving up I-75 in lower Michigan, be sure to check out Frankenmuth. It is definitely different than what you would expect from the area. The people of Frankenmuth should be no suprise though, as they are as hard working as most of the rest of area’s residents…people like Mike’s dad. You will feel very welcomed here.
15 thoughts on “Frankenmuth”
Sounds like a pretty town. Sorry to hear about your friends passing.
Thanks, Debbie. At 92, Mike’s dad had lived a full lifetime. It was touching to see the outpouring of love for his family from the community of Essexville.
Frankenmuth really is a neat place to check out. The glockenspiel at Bavarian Inn is fun, as it goes through it’s cycle every hour. The entire town really shines at Christmas, but Bronner’s does all year. That place is huge!
Ahhhh…. wonderful memories of Frankenmuth, Zehnders and Bronners, and others. When Peg’s dad was alive we used to make an almost yearly trip from Toledo. Great fun was had by all, and lots of time en route to spin yarns and tell tall tales. 🙂
Peggy’s big ‘thing’ used to be Christmas decorations; she’s still adjusting to the necessary change.
Love it! That’s a nice drive up from Toledo, for sure. I’ll bet Peg loves Bronner’s. I have to believe the freight division of the Polar Express has a direct route into their loading dock.
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I bet you’re right!
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Robin and I spent a night in Frankenmuth on our MI trip two years ago, Bronners and Zehnders are special places for sure. Thanks for bringing back the memories.
Glad you had a chance to experience Frankenmuth, Mike!
Frankenmuth sounds like a very interesting place rich with history. When reading it I found myself wondering about your friend’s 92 year old father with the Farmall tractor parked outside the funeral home.
I continued to be in awe by the closeness of communities like this and even more so by the lives of some of the oldest members. Think about what he had seen in his 92 years as a farmer…… working the fields with his little Farmall with 3-4 bottom plows…..comparing this to today when we can do in a day what would have taken him weeks. Simply amazing!
You and me both, Jim, on being in awe of that generation.
Michigan’s Little Bavaria, awesome ! There are a lot of immigrants settlements from Europe in that part of the US. Is it only a feeling I have or is it actually true ?
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Yes it is, Gin. In most cases, European immigrants settled in larger cities in the eastern U.S., but there were colonies settled elsewhere in the 1800’s. Frankenmuth is one example in Michigan, as is Holland, which was settled by the Dutch. There usually was a driving factor that led to the immigration. In the case of Holland, it was a poor economy in the Netherlands, and a freedom from religious persecution being sought by the Calvin separatists. In Sheboygan, Wisconsin, a group of Germans came after a political revolution. The potato famine in Ireland was a big one, but most Irish settled into neighborhoods in the cities. Most were seeking ‘a better life’, only to find the hardships of having to start over, and prejudices of other ethnic groups. They would settle in towns or neighborhoods, so as to be with people they were familiar with. That is an entire history lesson unto itself. 🙂
My father’s family (originally Vassar dit Bellisle) came to Canada from France in the late 1600’s and worked their way down the St Lawrence to what is now Ontario and Michigan. Birth records show a lot of back and forth across the Detroit River in the 1700’s and 1800’s…but there weren’t any official countries at first. My mom’s family came from Germany to the U.S. directly and settled in Detroit.
The U.S. is called ‘the melting pot’, as so many folks came from so many places. A lot of cross-heritage marriages didn’t occur until the postwar generation (mine), so a lot of folks are easily identified by their appearance as to the origin of their ancestry. As time goes on, that is changing. Many people my age still can tell where our peers came from in the world, but the children born to us are far less attuned to that. It is all very fascinating to step back from and look at. Thanks for piquing my interest in reopening this history book! 🙂
It is extremely fascinating, especially how far in the past you managed to track down your ancestors. Did you use genealogy websites to do that ? What a rich history you have 🙂 Mine is far less interesting. We had a friend who was really interested by genealogy and he did some research on our family a few years ago. Apparently, we have roots in Germany and he managed to go back to the 17th century. But that’s it. the name will end with me, the other cousins are also girls.
There are some family records to go by, in my case. I want to delve deeper into the history, though. One really interesting family member was Rosalie Droulliard Laforest. She was my great-great grandmother. Google “The Curse of Peche Island”. It is a story about her and the island in the Detroit River. Great reading, indeed!
I’ve read this full story here http://www.walkervilletimes.com/curse-peche-island.html and it was indeed fascinating ! Have you ever been to this island ?
There is still nothing there. The curse must still be in effect. :). I’ve never been there, but I have looked across at it from Belle Isle (no relation).
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