Michigan Lighthouse Festival Aug. 4-6 in Alpena, Presque Isle

News Photo by Darby Hinkley The New Presque Isle Lighthouse, pictured above, is the featured lighthouse in this year’s Michigan Lighthouse Festival, set for Aug. 4 through 6, with events at the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center in Alpena on Friday evening, and more festivities planned Saturday at the lighthouse, and an evening cruise on The Lady Michigan.

ALPENA — The Michigan Lighthouse Festival will be held in Alpena and Presque Isle this year, Aug. 4 through 6, featuring historical presentations, a maritime market, and a lighthouse cruise on the Lady Michigan.

The Michigan Lighthouse Festival features a different lighthouse each year. The New Presque Isle Lighthouse is this year’s gem, out of the 129 lighthouses in Michigan, the state with the most lighthouses.

“Lighthouse enthusiasts will come,” said Marge Ellenberger, Michigan Lighthouse Festival director. “And there are so many that do not know about lighthouses in Michigan, so we certainly would encourage them to come so they can see the history of what the lighthouse has done in the past, and what it will continue to do.”

Located at 4500 E. Grand Lake Road in Presque Isle, The New Presque Isle Lighthouse Park complex includes the lighthouse itself, attached to the original keeper’s quarters, and a museum that was the 1905 Keeper’s House.

“The New Presque Isle Light is the tallest lighthouse tower accessible by the public on the Great Lakes,” the Pure Michigan website (michigan.org) explains. “Built in 1870, it replaced the 1840 harbor light. ”

News Photo by Darby Hinkley The Old Presque Isle Lighthouse, pictured above, is one of of the oldest surviving lighthouses on the Great Lakes. Built in 1840 by Jeremiah Moors of Detroit, the harbor light operated until 1871 when the keeper transferred to a new, taller, coastal lighthouse a mile to the north, called The New Presque Isle Lighthouse.

Orlando M. Poe built the New Presque Isle Lighthouse, which replaced the smaller 1840 Old Presque Isle Lighthouse. The new lighthouse’s Third Order Fresnel lens was crafted by Henri Le Paute of Paris, according to the Michigan Historic Site sign located on the grounds.

“The 1905 Keeper’s House has been painstakingly restored,” a description on michigan.org states. “Operated by the Presque Isle Township Museum Society, it is now a museum that provides visitors with an opportunity to learn about local maritime history, as well as how keepers and their families lived.”

Admission to the museum is free. For $5, visitors may climb the 130 steps to the top of the tower for a breathtaking view overlooking Lake Huron. That fee also covers a hike up the stairs of the Old Presque Isle Lighthouse, located a mile down the road.

The lighthouse buildings and grounds are open to the public daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. through mid-October. The 1905 Keeper’s House Museum is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m, Thursday through Monday, through Labor Day.

“The fist residents of the home were head lightkeeper Thomas Garrity and his sister Kathryn,” a Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Trail sign reads in front of the 1905 Keeper’s House. “The house served as the head keeper’s residence and later as the home of U.S. Coast Guard personnel until 1970, when the Presque Isle Light was automated and an on-site keeper was no longer needed. For the next 25 years, the house was occupied by several families who served as caretakers.”

News Photo by Darby Hinkley Michigan Lighthouse Festival Director Marge Ellenberger holds a map of Michigan lighthouses, called the Michigan Lighthouse Guide, in front of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center in Alpena.

To learn more about both Presque Isle lighthouses and the Presque Isle Township Museum Society, visit presqueislelighthouses.org.

“We’re partnering with the Michigan Lighthouse Festival to have some of the events here,” Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary Resource Protection Coordinator Stephanie Gandulla said, referring to the GLMHC. “The sanctuary is excited to partner with the Michigan Lighthouse Festival to further promote the rich maritime history of the Great Lakes, and what better way than showcasing and highlighting the 129 lighthouses of Michigan?”

Michigan Lighthouse Festival programs kick off at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 4 at Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center, 500 W. Fletcher St., Alpena, with drinks and appetizers, guest speaker Jeff Shook with “Lil Red” and maritime musician Dan Hall, and a presentation by Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

Then from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 5, head out to the New Presque Isle Lighthouse for a Maritime Market with various vendors, as well as several presentations. Bryan Lijewski of the State Historic Preservation Office will give a 10 a.m. presentation about grants for lighthouses and historical places. Then at 11:15 a.m., Ginger Schultz, manager of Mission Point Lighthouse, will talk about How to be a Lighthouse Keeper.

From 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 5, an actor portraying Augustin Fresnel will lead a presentation about inventing the Fresnel Lens for lighthouses.

“This man is going to come and put on a performance,” Ellenberger said, adding that he dresses in garb from the time period, and provides quite the entertaining and educational show.

At 5:45 p.m., cruisers will board the Lady Michigan on the Thunder Bay River behind the maritime center for a special lighthouse cruise.

A Fare Sailing Brunch will be held from 9 to 11 a.m. on Sunday to say farewell to your new and old lighthouse friends.

A Gold Pass is an all-inclusive VIP weekend pass, for $130. A Silver Pass, for $95, covers the Friday night programming at the GLMHC and the Saturday evening Lighthouse Cruise aboard the Lady Michigan. A Bronze Pass, for $45, gets you in to see the Saturday guest speakers at New Presque Isle Lighthouse. The Maritime Market is free to browse from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday at the New Presque Isle Lighthouse.

Reserve your Gold, Silver, or Brass Pass by the July 31 deadline and learn more about the festival at the Michigan Lighthouse Festival website at michiganlighthousefestival.com.

Ellenberger noted that 52 of the lighthouse keepers in Michigan were women.

Lighthouses are full of rich history, but they also serve scientific purposes.

“Our NOAA team puts instrumentation on the lighthouses for weather reporting,” Gandulla said, adding that they do it for some, including New Presque Isle Lighthouse and Sturgeon Point Lighthouse, five miles north of Harrisville.

Seven of the 129 lighthouses in Michigan are located along the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary shoreline on Lake Huron.

To view a map and short descriptions of all the lighthouses in Michigan, go to michiganlighthouseguide.com.


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