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Latest news and features about Traverse City

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What’s Up North…
News and Information from Traverse City, Michigan 
October-December  2012

A free news tip service from the Traverse City Convention & Visitors Bureau
1-800-TRAVERSE or

5,000 Expected for February Snocross Event
Traverse City’s Turtle Creek Casino and Hotel will host the U.S. 27 Motorsports Snocross National on Feb. 8-9, an event that is expected to bring 5,000 snowmobile riders and spectators to the area.

The event is part of the AMSOIL Championship Snocross Series, which begins in Duluth in late November and includes eight stops. (Traverse City is the fifth, and one of only two sites on the tour that will feature freestyle competition.) The ACSS, which will be aired on the CBS Sports Network, is considered the world’s premier snocross tour. Among those riders expected to attend: Levi LaVallee, the X Games gold medalist and snowmobile distance jumping record holder; Tucker Hibbert, the all-time winningest snocross racer and a five-time gold medalist at Winter X Snocross; and Canada’s Tim Tremblay, the defending ACSS overall Pro Open class champion.

It’ll be a big weekend in Traverse City, since the race coincides with a major national ski race – the North American Vasa Festival of Races – as well as the Traverse City Winter Microbrew and Music Festival.

Turtle Creek hosted Michigan snocross races in 2010 and 2011, but the event had to be canceled in 2012 for lack of snow.

Traverse City Begins “Revitalization” of its Bayfront Parks 
Traverse City’s popular Clinch Park beachfront on West Grand Traverse Bay is being redesigned this winter as part of a massive revitalization project for its bayshore park system. When it reopens in May, the landmark beach and marina area will include an interactive “waterscape,” new playground equipment, a small boat access/launch, a terraced lawn area with stone sitting walls, an artesian water sculpture and new park benches, tables, lighting and landscaping.

Slated for construction next year will be a new bathhouse/concession building, which will be completed by Memorial Day 2013.

New Winery Opens on Old Mission
Bruce and Cathleen Hawthorne are opening the Hawthorne Vineyard, a new winery along the west shore of the Old Mission Peninsula, with help from their neighbor, Chateau Chantal. The new winery, on a bluff overlooking West Bay, stands on one of the peninsula’s largest vineyards, with 26 planted acres – mostly Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Gamay, and Lemberger (Blaufränkisch).

And Yes, There Are New Restaurants, Too
Ambrosia Artisan Gelato has opened at 124 W. Pine St. between State and Union. Boasting gelato that’s made fresh every day – in such flavors as rum raisin, pear, tiramisu, cantaloupe and kiwi – the shop also offers handmade waffle cones in regular, orange honey and coconut flavors.

Guillaume Hazael-Massieux, chef and owner of Leelanau’s La Becasse, has opened the FouFou Bistro at 118 Cass St. (formerly the home of Hanna Bistro) offering authentic French bistro fare like traditional bouillabaisse and bisteck et frites, as well as locally raised chevron (goat). At the helm: head chef Adam McMarlin and sous chef Stephanie Kenyon, both from the much-lauded kitchen of The Bay Leaf, which closed last spring.

Chef Keil Moshier of Patisserie Amie and his wife, Kristina Weidenfeller, have opened MI Grille – “think 50s retro diner with a little industrial vibe tossed into the mix” — at 420 Munson Ave. — the former location of The Cottage Café, which moved a few doors down to 472 Munson. The menu is “basic diner style, with an upscale twist” and a heavy focus on Michigan products.

Heather and William Bradley have closed their downtown chocolate shop, The Chocolate Den, but are opening a new confectionary – the Cacao Café — in the village of Interlochen. In addition to chocolates (both with sugar and without) the café at 2602 Depot Rd. will offer breakfast and lunch items like chocolate chili and pumpkin chocolate soup, along with sandwiches, pastries and desserts. Hours will be Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

New Faces:
Karen McDaniels has joined the group sales team at Shanty Creek Resorts, providing services to the SMERF markets for meetings, conferences and retreats. Most recently she carried out similar group sales work for the Otsego Club Resort, and had been the head of her own entertainment and event service company, Best of Times, Inc., later known as Starlight Stage Productions, Inc.

Kelly Jo Bowman has been hired as national sales manager at the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa, representing the Resort to the state/national association, corporate, government, and SMERF markets within Michigan’s 517 area code and the states of the Southeastern U.S. A graduate of Ferris State University, she has held sales positions at several Illinois properties, as well as the Baton Rouge Marriott in Louisiana. An avid sailor, she is certified by the Coast Guard as a Master Captain 50-Ton.

Improvements, expansions, etc.
The new owners of the 179-room Holiday Inn West Bay say they intend to “immediately” undertake a multi-million-dollar renovation that should be completed before the start of  the 2013 vacation season. Interstate Hotels & Resorts, which manages 372 hotels across North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific and has agreements to manage 45 hotels under construction or development throughout the world, has assumed management of the hotel.

The Grand Traverse Resort and Spa has completed renovation of all 237 guest rooms in its original six-story Hotel (with new carpet, bedding, furniture, 37-inch flat screen HD TVs, new phones, iPod docking stations, and digital in-room HVAC controls). In addition, the Resort has finished several multi-year infrastructure projects, including repaving of its parking lots and landscaping, and extensive technology and power upgrades.

Thanks to $806,000 in grants, donations and funding from the Michigan Department of Transportation, TART Trails, Inc., finally saw a long-time dream realized this July: the paving of the last 6.2 miles of the 15.5-mileLeelanau Trail, which runs from Traverse City to downtown Suttons Bay.

Awards and Honors
Food & Wine Magazine has named Traverse City’s Pleasanton Brick Oven Bakery one of the Top Ten Bakeries in the U.S. “Gerard Grabowski and Jan Shireman take a locavore approach to bread baking, using organic Michigan grains (spelt, kamut, barley and rye) and fruit (cherries and cranberries) for their beloved wood-fired loaves,” wrote author Anna Watson Carl. The bakery is located in the Village at Grand Traverse Commons.

National Cherry Festival: A Week Earlier in 2013  
The 87th National Cherry Festival will kick off on Saturday, June 29th with a Festival Air Show, Bay Side entertainment, and lots of cherry delights. Usually the festival takes place a week later, but city officials asked that organizers change their schedule to include the Fourth of July holiday, since residents and visitors usually expect the two holidays to coincide.

The Festival Foundation and National Cherry Festival will again work closely with the non-profit ‘Traverse City Boom Boom Club,” which raises funds for the community’s Independence Day fireworks display.

The eight-day festival offers over 130 events, including free opening-weekend air shows, concerts and performances, two parades, daily kids events, the Festival of Races — and of course, cherry pie eating and pit spitting competitions for every age. For more Festival news visit

Sept. 29 – Nov. 3 Brys Estate Harvest Celebration
Every Saturday through Nov. 3 the Brys Estate winery on Old Mission Peninsula celebrates the 2012 harvest. For $5 per person, guests are given a large souvenir wine glass to use as they visit four different wine and food pairing stations throughout the tasting room.

Oct. 5-6 Fiber Festival
The 12th Annual Fiber Festival features artists with original fiber art: paper, wearable art, tapestry & woven handbags, weaving, quilts, knits, yarns, piecework and fiber sculpture at the Old Art Building in the village of Leland.

Oct. 6 Chateau Chantal’s Early Harvest & Festival
The Northern Michigan wine grape harvest has begun early this year, and the Chateau Chantal winery will hold their 13th annual Harvest Day a little earlier, too. There’ll be  lots of free tastings, lessons, and activities (including grape stomping), as well as 20% case discounts.

Oct. 6 Elk Rapids Art Beat/Color Tour
Elk Rapids kicks off the peak of fall color with this open house gallery walk featuring four of the village’s award winning galleries. Guest artists will demonstrate their disciplines, there’ll be mimosas, wine, hors d’oeuvres, and other tasty treats as well as drawings for prizes.

Oct. 6 Fall Festival Sale & Happy Apple Days
Downtown Traverse City’s annual Fall Festival! Participating shops feature live mannequin displays, store specials, children’s activities, storytelling and other  entertainment. The streets are decked with cornstalks and festive mums, and merchants will have bushels of apples to share.

Oct. 7 6th Annual Harvest Festivus
Traverse City’s Left Foot Charley Winery hosts this harvest festival at the Grand Traverse Commons, with kids’ activities, winemakers in lederhosen, German oom-pah music, fresh cider, federweisser, wine and free horse-drawn carriage rides.

Oct. 7 Sleeping Bear Marathon
This inaugural marathon starts and finishes at Empire’s Johnson Park, and will take athletes by the Sleeping Bear Dune Climb, past Little Glen Lake, and through the village of Glen Arbor, with breathtaking views of the Manitou Islands and Sleeping Bear Dunes along the way.

Oct. 12 GT Commons October Festival
This foodie festival features a “food truck rally,” beer, wine, cider, and bluegrass music from Greensky Bluegrass and guests, plus a silent disco and glow in the dark LED disc golf, bonfires & heated tents. Free shuttle.

Oct. 20-21 Haunted Grand Traverse Lighthouse
Chills and thrills at the Grand Traverse Lighthouse, in the Leelanau State Park near Northport, with kids’ games, a bike giveaway, and the Haunted Basement. Vehicles will also be charged an entry fee by the state park unless they already have a state park pass.

Oct. 26 Downtown Halloween Walk
October closes with a parade of little ghosts and goblins as downtown hosts costume clad children and their parents to trick or treat at participating stores throughout the downtown area.

Oct. 27 Zombie Run
The Zombie Run has become a T.C. favorite since its creation in 2009 and is well on its way to becoming a Halloween tradition. What’s not to like? Zombies and beer have always been a winning combination. The race begins and ends at Right Brain Brewery’s new location on 16th Street. Costumes are encouraged but never required.

Nov. 3 Iceman Cometh Challenge
A grueling 27-mile off-road bicycle race through the Pere Marquette State Forest between Traverse City and Kalkaska.  Rain, sunshine, sleet, snow or ice – nothing stops this race, which attracts 3,700 cyclists and 4,000 spectators from across the U.S. and Canada.

Nov. 3-11 Toast the Season
The Leelanau Peninsula Vintners Association hold this annual wine trail tour, with special wine pours accompanied by holiday themed gourmet food at each of its Leelanau Peninsula wineries. At your assigned starting winery, you will be given a souvenir glass, a holiday gift basket, and an ornament.

Nov. 22 Traverse City Turkey Trot
The Fifth Annual Downtown Turkey Trot combines families, fun and fitness, with 5K and 5M courses through downtown Traverse City. Donations of canned goods are accepted for local food pantries.  All proceeds go to local charities.

Nov. 24 Great Macaroni & Cheese Bake-Off
The Wineries of Old Mission Peninsula host local restaurants who have turned the classic comfort food, Mac &Cheese, into culinary marvels! This rich and creamy fare is paired with wines from Old Mission – Rieslings, Pinot Grigios, Chardonnays and more.

Nov. 30 Santa’s Arrival, Tree Lighting, Holiday Open House
Spend the evening with Santa and shop throughout downtown Traverse City. At 5 pm, shoppers are serenaded with holiday music and a community singalong of favorite carols with the Sweet Adelines. The excitement continues with Santa’s arrival in bright red antique fire engine!  Tree lighting at 6

Dec. 1 Merry Marketplace
Christmas arts and crafts show in the village of Leland featuring local artisans with holiday gift packages, fresh & dried holiday wreaths, jewelry, specialty foods, pottery, ornaments, cards and hand knit

Dec. 2 Christmas at the Lighthouse
The Grand Traverse Lighthouse Museum is decorated for a typical Christmas as it was celebrated by the McCormick family in the 1920s and 1930s.  Climb the tower, tour the lighthouse, enjoy holiday music and refreshments.

Dec 2 A Leahy Family Christmas
A Canadian powerhouse of eight musical brothers and sisters who entrance audiences whenever they play. Their music combines the influence of their Irish and Scottish roots with their inherent desire to widely travel the musical map.

Dec. 5 The Empire Brass: Sound of Christmas
The Empire Brass, known for its brilliant virtuosity and the unparalleled diversity of its repertoire, will be joined by the granddaughter of legendary Maria von Trapp. The evening’s highlight will be a medley from “The Sound of Music” in which the guitar solo Edelweiss flows into an extraordinary rendition of Stille Nacht.

Dec. 6 Ladies Night in Downtown Traverse City
Downtown Traverse City will be hosting ladies night.  This night is a salute to the ladies; enjoy food, refreshments, and specials for your shopping needs as well.

Dec. 13 Men’s Night in Downtown Traverse City
Gentlemen, the evening is yours for gifting and gabbing! Enjoy hors d’oeuvres and drink specials at Downtown eateries to begin the evening.  Downtown merchants will have in-store specials, gift wrapping, refreshments and prize drawings.

Dec. 15-Jan 1 Festival of Trains
Delightful and imaginative working model train layouts fill several rooms at the History Center of Traverse City at 322 6th St.

Dec, 18-20 A Christmas Cabaret
Award-winning director Greg Ganakas (Izzo Goes to Broadway) brings his incomparable talent to Traverse City with a celebration featuring Christmas standards, jazz, pop, Broadway and cabaret tunes with musical directions and arrangements by Jersey Boys conductor Keith Thompson, There’ll be Broadway talent, an onstage show band, a festive sing-a-long and special local celebrity guests.

Mike Norton, Media Relations 
Traverse City Convention & Visitors Bureau
P: (231) 995-3909
F: (231) 947-2621



Maralyn D. HillThe Epicurean Explorer

President, International Food Wine & Travel Writers Association

Editor-at-Large, CityRoom

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