Tag Archives: National Cherry Festival

The Blue Angels from a Different Perspective

As stated in our last post, the Blue Angels were in Traverse City to kick off the National Cherry Festival.  This was their first appearance since they lost one of their pilots in a crash back in April.  We’ve been catching occasional glimpses of them over the campground recently. Earlier in the week, they screamed up behind us while we were biking the Leelanau Trail with Diana’s cousin Nancy and her husband David, causing me to duck out of instinct!

Parallel to all of this, our friends Rod and Mary were in the process of settling into their new-to-them Ericson 30 plus sailing sloop.  After navigating it from its previous home port of Boyne City and getting a feel for what-went-where, they invited us out for a day of sailing, along with our mutual friends Lane and Patti.  Our plan was to journey from their slip in Suttons Bay to the south end of the West Arm of Grand Traverse Bay to view the Blue Angels air show.  Diana’s and my actual sailing experience at the helm has consisted of piloting a Sunfish around Fife Lake, so we knew the concept of tacking and jibing.  I’ve helped raise the sails on large schooners before in Maine, but that’s about it with a multi-sail vessel.  No doubt, this was going to be a treat!

For perspective, our trip was going to take us from Suttons Bay (denoted with the green bubble), around Stony Point and south to Traverse City (red bubble) and back.  Round trip distance was around 40 miles.

Mary pulled the bow line, jumped on board and we were off!

Rod motored us out of the harbor and out across Suttons Bay.  A former career captain for a major airline, he has the calm demeanor needed to handle a larger craft like this.  He has had other smaller sailboats in his youth, but this is new territory for him.  Lane and I crewed for him, with both of us being newbies.  Rod provided clear instruction to his mates and we learned quickly.  The only casualty of the day came early on, as a wind gust caught the bill of the captain’s favorite Gulfstream hat and sent it over the stern.  Davey Jones is sporting a new cap.  😦

There wasn’t much wind to be found in Suttons Bay, so we motored out around Stony Point.  Rod commented that his two cylinder 16 horsepower diesel sounded like the African Queen.  It definitely chugged right along!

Here’s Lane scanning the shoreline behind us after tending to the forward sail, known as a jib.

Before too long, we had wind in the sails and we were cruising south.

Diana, being the Girl Scout she is, came prepared with an additional hat.  Rod gladly made use of it.

Patti and Lane were drinking in the view also.  🙂   We started out with a fickle wind, but the breeze picked up as the day progressed.

As we passed Bowers Harbor, we saw several planes and jets doing acrobatics over Traverse City.  Following that, the Blue Angels’ C-130 transport nicknamed Fat Albert took to the stage.

This giant plane made several tight turns and climbs, passing just above the water in several cases.  On its last pass southward across the water, it made a steep climb over Traverse City and the five Blue Angels jets came screaming northward underneath it.  One had to temporarily drop out of formation with an unknown issue, but the other four continued on.  They looped off to the west and headed up to the top of Grand Traverse Bay, then blazed southward past us!

They were really moving!

Here’s what a 20 mile long smoke trail looks like at water level.  🙂

It’s amazing to see them fly so close together!

Before long, the fifth plane rejoined them and they were really putting on a show!

This is one of my favorites.  Nothing like a supersonic game of chicken.  🙂

As the show wound down, a wave of watercraft headed northward past us, kicking up an unpredictable chop.  Patti had headed below deck to retrieve a bottle of dry reisling to toast the day and christen the vessel. She stood in the hatchway with an open bottle as we came about and didn’t spill a drop…a testament to her sea legs and the craft’s stability!

On our way back north, we passed the topsail schooner Manitou, which was also under full sail.  The wind had swung around to the north, so we had to tack and jibe all the way back.  Fortunately, the bay is wide and over 300 feet deep, so we were able to complete the trip with just a couple of manuvers. 

We pulled back into Suttons Bay just before sunset, all of us a bit tuckered out.  🙂

We helped Rod and Mary stow the main sail, then headed back to the campground to let their dog out for them.  We all had a marvelous time and really learned a lot!  Thank you for the wonderful day, Rod and Mary!

It’s Festival Season!

The weather has warmed in Northwest Michigan, the tourists are rolling in and the cherry trees are taking on a definite red hue.  That can only mean one thing: festival season is upon us!  With the relatively short season at the 45th parallel, the next few months are going to be jammed full of activities.

On Saturday, Diana and I went to the Traverse City Wine and Art Festival with our friends Patti and Lane.  Earlier this month, on the day I was having our frame welded, Diana worked at the Leelanau Vintners Association to help them get ready for the event.  Our friend Camilla works there and needed assistance on decorations.  Diana also was able to enlist Patti and Lane to help. In exchange, we received tickets for the festival!

Here is the trio with a sampling of their handiwork.  It took them a fair amount of time to wrap each bottle in twine. They did a really nice job!

Each ticket got us a stemless wine glass, eight tasting tokens and a food ticket.  Additional tasting tokens and food tickets were available for purchase.

Here Patti is showing off her food choice.  Looks yummy!  

Each winery from the Leelanau Vintner’s Association had their own booth set up on the perimeter of the grounds.  There were also several local artists, along with a stage featuring four music acts.  We tasted several different wines, skipping some of the wineries that are close to our campground, as we get to them often enough.  After that, we took a special Chardonnay tour.  This was led by Jay Briggs, winemaker at 45 North Winery.

Jay took us to several different booths to sample different Chardonnay offerings.  Along the way, each winemaker explained their process, the types of barrels used to age the wine and so on.  It’s amazing the work that goes into making wine, and no two batches are ever the same.  While Leelanau is prime real estate for growing grapes…that’s why there are 26 wineries here…the dynamic weather on the peninsula can make or break a crop.

Another thing that is evident is how these folks all work together.  They share their ideas and are all friends with each other.  There aren’t many industries who can boast that sort of business model. 🙂

Another thing they do is the saberage ceremony, led again this year by Lee Lutes, winemaker from Black Star Farms.  He opens a bottle of Champagne with a saber, striking it on the neck of the bottle.

I was lucky enough to photograph the top of the bottle as it came off the end of the saber.  🙂

After that, Camilla gathered us all for a selfie.  🙂

The day was a lot of fun, and darned if we didn’t close the place down!

As an added bonus, our tickets included free tastings for the next week at the wineries.  That’s quite a bonus!  So on Tuesday afternoon, we went with Patti and Lane to three wineries near us.

First up was French Valley.  They are located on Suttons Bay, which is on the eastern side of the Leelanau Peninsula.  We sampled five of their wines and decided that we would be back to enjoy a bottle along with one of their wood-fired pizzas.

They have an outstanding view from their lawn.

Next up was Leelanau Cellars.

Their tasting room is a few miles north on Omena Bay.  Again, we sampled five wines and ended up buying a bottle from them.

They are in the same building as one of our favorite restaurants called Knot Just a Bar.  We’ve often commented that Omena Bay looks like it could be along the coast of Maine…but this is part of the Great Lakes, so no salt and no sharks. 🙂

Our last stop was farther north in the middle of the peninsula at Green Bird Organic Cellars and Farm.

Patti took this photo of their vineyard.  One of the owners explained to us how they purchased the 67 acre organic farm from the previous owner, Good Neighbor Organic.  He and his business partner changed the name and are raising their families on the land with their wives.  There is also a distillery on the property, owned by another friend.  Quite a bit is happening with these ambitious folks.

Here we are with one of the owners Ben, on the right and Bill, the owner of the distillery.  These people are passionate about what they are doing.  We sampled several of their products, including some of Bill’s rum.  We purchased a bottle of Green Bird’s pear cider.  That visit capped off a really great afternoon with our friends Patti and Lane!

Our tasting tickets are good through this coming weekend, so we hope to get back out and sample a few more of the peninsula’s offerings.  This weekend starts the National Cherry Festival in Traverse City, so things will be extremely busy.

The Blue Angels are in town, putting on their first show since they lost one of their pilots in a crash earlier this year.  One of the planes was practicing over the campground yesterday doing barrel rolls and inside loops.  We are anticipating seeing more of them today.

It’s been a great start to a busy festival season in Leelanau, and we are really looking forward to the next few months.  If you are in the area, stop in and join the fun!


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Paddle for Pints

Sometimes an event presents itself that defies logic.  After all, what sane person would jump in their kayak and paddle from brewery to brewery along with 125 other kayakers?  Well, when Diana’s cousin Abby told us about Paddle for Pints in Traverse City, and proposed that the family join the Ale Trail, how could we refuse?  On Monday, we made our way down to Traverse and joined in the fun!

Paddle for Pints starts out on Boardman Lake on the south side of town, follows the Boardman River through the city, and ends at Clinch Park on Grand Traverse Bay.  On a normal summer day, it is a fairly easy paddle.  Monday was a bit different, and it offered up a couple challenges.  There was a stiff 20 mile-per-hour breeze coming from the south, out ahead of a cold front that was approaching from the northwest. On top of that, the National Cherry Festival was in full swing.  The cherry capital was packed with people!

As we were checking in, the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds streaked overhead as they were leaving town.  They had performed a series of air shows over the weekend for the cherry festival.  The power behind a squadron of F-16’s commands your attention!

The first leg of our paddle was from the north shore of Boardman Lake at Hull Park. A special note:  When we purchased Ketchup and Mustard (our kayaks) twenty years ago, Hull Park was the place that Eastern Mountain Sports allowed us to compare brands of boats. This was a homecoming of sorts.  🙂   On this day, we paddled to Right Brain Brewery, about 1/2 mile south along the lakeshore.  As previously mentioned, there was a strong southerly breeze, so my camera stayed safely packed away.  The above photo was from a previous event on a much calmer day.  We plowed straight into the whitecaps and did just fine.  

  At Right Brain, from left: Michael, Tim, Abby, Emily and Thomas.


From left: Marlana, David and myself.

The trip back to the river entrance on the north end of the lake was fairly easy, as the wind was at our backs. Once we were on the river, the wind was no longer a factor.

While this event was mixing boating with drinking, everyone was behaving responsibly on the water.  For us, we were enjoying seeing Traverse City from a perspective that we had never seen before.  As stated in previous posts, we have been coming here since the 1970’s, yet we have never paddled the river through town.

As evident by the smile on her face, Diana was having a great time!

Halfway through town, we had to portage around the dam.  It was at that point we visited our next two breweries.

Here is Nancy, Ben and Michael being photo bombed while we waited in line.  🙂

While at Rare Bird Brewery, we were able to grab something to eat to go with our beverages.  Diana managed to get us a couple of leather couches around a huge coffee…er…beer table while we waited for the food.

From left: Abby, Thomas (standing), Michael, Marlana, Josh, Ben, Diana and Tim.  Not pictured are Emily, Nancy, David and myself.

Back on the river, we had one last paddle to complete.  We had only hit three breweries over the course of three hours, so everyone was fine.

As seen in the photo above, there was a pedestrian bridge with several supports extending into the river.  Just as we approached it, two girls managed to get their kayaks sideways and block off most of the river. Diana backpaddled until a hole opened up and managed to shoot through.  I was tangled up with one of the girl’s kayaks, and as I pulled her bow around, my kayak got sideways.  I had to lean downriver to keep from swamping my boat, and I was able to get my bow around and through the bridge supports. Whew!

After paddling through downtown, the river emptied into Grand Traverse Bay.  Once in the bay, we had to paddle a half mile back west to the marina at Clinch Park.  Unfortunately, even though we were at the south end of the bay, the swimming area on the shore kept us a good 200 yards out.  That stiff southerly breeze was able to churn up the waves in that distance, so we had to work hard to get across.  We all eventually made it.  🙂

Once on shore, there were several more breweries within walking distance.  We chose to forego visiting them and instead rode back to retrieve our vehicles from Hull Park.  Diana’s cousins had to get back to Luzerne, Michigan…an hour and a half east…so they headed home, once they loaded up their kayaks.  Diana and I only had a 20 minute drive back to Wild Cherry Resort, so we decided to check out the National Cherry Festival, seeing the marina was smack dab in the middle of it.  While we were there, we saw some of the children’s portion of the cherry pit spitting contest.

We found it to be amusing to watch the kids.  We were amazed to find out the pit spitting record in Traverse City is 88 feet!  The official world record is 95 feet, but the unofficial record is 110 feet!  

Paddle for Pints proved to be a great time. Though we were apprehensive about the wind at the beginning of the event, we all made it through safe and sound.  Diana and I enjoyed seeing Traverse City from a vista we weren’t used to seeing it from, and breweries we hadn’t had a chance to experience.