Pride swells during ‘Michigan Week’

By: Jennie Miller | C&G Newspapers | Published May 18, 2011

Yes, Michigan.

This week is for celebrating, for embracing all the state has to offer. It’s Michigan Week, held annually since 1954. So raise your hand, point to your favorite spots in the state, and reflect. Whether it’s taking a fall color tour, hitting the links, lounging on the beach, crossing the Mackinac Bridge or heading downtown to catch a Red Wings game, there’s much to love about Michigan.

For many, it’s the lakes that cause residents to swell with pride.

“The statistic is you’re never more than something like 80 miles away from one of the Great Lakes, and you’re never more than five miles away from a major stream or lake,” said Dave Lorenz, spokesman for Travel Michigan. “We are a state that was born of water, and we are truly blessed to be so rich with fresh water, especially those freshwater seas. I think that there’s something within our DNA, if we’re born here, I think there’s that call to either stay here or come back here. People feel drawn by the Great Lakes.”

It’s also the changing seasons, Lorenz said.

“What I personally like most about Michigan is that we have such diversity, especially with our weather,” Lorenz said. “With having four seasons — sometimes all of them on the same day, and that is the truth, never a day is the same, and we get to experience all of these seasons without having to travel too far. Whether you’re a winter enthusiast like me or a summer fan like most people, there is something for everyone.”

There’s many ways to enjoy those seasons, as Michigan boasts more state parks than any other state in the country, Lorenz said. That’s not even counting municipal parks and pocket parks, he said.

“We are very blessed with outdoor amenities,” he said.

Travel destinations are aplenty. Whether it’s Caseville or Traverse City, an array of vacation opportunities await Michiganders.

“Everybody likes to get away from everything in life when they go on vacation, and Mackinac Island has remained very unique in that way,” said Mary McGuire, executive director of the Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau, a popular vacation spot in the state. “Because of how beautiful it is and the rich history it has and the fact that it has remained relatively unspoiled. It’s romantic, it’s historic, it’s charming, we have a great nightlife — there’s many layers. There’s so much here in a tiny little place, but we’ve preserved it well. The state park, it’s gorgeous — there’s hiking, biking, horseback riding. We have Fort Mackinac, one of the only two remaining Revolutionary War forts.

“There’s something romantic about getting on a boat and leaving the whole world behind and going to a place that’s different, but still familiar,” McGuire continued. “We have a really mass appeal to a lot of different travelers, and I think that’s why you have people from all walks of life who have fond memories of Mackinac Island.”

Michiganders are also passionate about their sports teams, and with hot competition on the field, the ice or the court comes new visitors to the state of Michigan and to the Detroit area.

“The thing about the teams like the Tigers and the Red Wings is they can be the impetus for introducing a traveler to the city,” Lorenz said. “The sports — the teams — provide an introduction to the city like a front window would to a downtown shopping store. If people can be lured to the city by the Tigers or the Red Wings, it gives the opportunity for people to see everything that Detroit has to offer, and the whole area, not just downtown.”

But even with all the greatness Michigan offers, there’s always a few negatives residents have to suffer. Winter is often a brutal time, and drivers are preparing to battle road construction projects that crop up in warmer months.

Michigan Department of Transportation spokesman Rob Morosi wasn’t surprised that residents have negative vibes toward road construction. But it’s necessary, he said.

“Every year we receive numerous complaints about roadwork; however, every year we also receive the same number of complaints about road conditions,” Morosi said. “Our roads are not much different than the cars that drive on them. You can’t buy a brand-new car and not expect to change the oil, flush the radiator. … It’s maintenance. When you build roads and resurface roads, you have to do maintenance.”

MDOT has been working on improving communication with the general public, as technology changes, to try to alleviate the stress drivers go through and help them avoid encountering backups.

“Over the past 10 years, we have utilized many different mechanisms to alert the motoring public of potential backups,” Morosi said. “We have electric message boards that are operated through our downtown traffic center. We have portable message boards. … Furthermore, looking at the modern technology, just the 21st century way of communicating, we utilize the internet; we have a Facebook page; we have Twitter; we have email alerts (for people) in and around the Detroit area to obtain information. Roadwork is not going to go away, but if we can alert people, if we can give people the heads up that this is going to occur, it’s not going to make them happy, but it gives them the heads up. The most angry (drivers) I’ve encountered are those that are caught (off-guard) by it.”

For more information about MDOT projects, visit www.michigan.gov/mdot.

For more information about traveling Michigan, including information about seasonal events and festivals, visit www.puremichigan.org.