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Archive for the ‘Culture Bluffs’ Category

Book Review: “Horse Soldiers,” by Doug Stanton

In Book Review, Culture Bluffs on February 21, 2017 at 6:27 pm

Book Review of Horse Soldiers by Doug StantonBy Charles W. Buck

No—this is not a review of the old John Wayne cavalry movie of a similar name. This is about a book by a writer from northern Michigan—Elberta country. It is a war story. It is a story of exceptionally brave people. It is not all about men, although some very tough men are core characters. The events in this book are now more than 15 years old, yet it will provide any reader with a better understanding of a place still struggling with a daily reality and way of life shaped by those events, in ways almost unimaginable here in our bucolic existence.

Read the rest of this entry »

Elberta Mercantile Closes First Season with Yummies

In Community Alert, Culture Bluffs, On and off the Apron on October 5, 2016 at 3:40 pm

After a successful season, Mark and Carol would like to show their gratitude with a Fall Closing House Celebration. EMC will be providing delicious cider and snacks to thank their patrons for helping them make their dream a reality.

Stop in this final weekend and say howdy. Elberta Mercantile will open up again in early May 2017.

Ham from EN64VP

In Culture Bluffs, E Beach, Open Season, Tech on September 18, 2016 at 3:37 pm


September 18, 2016

A group of ham radio operators are up on the overlook today attempting to “work” some of their colleagues over in Wisconsin. It’s part of a microwave contest. Some plan to stick around all day and some are heading down to Chicago later, sending signals down the coast as they go. Their homemade gear is supercool looking! A bit of fun trivia: Elberta’s call location is in EN64VP. One of the operators I spoke to, Gary, is a veteran of the telecommunications industry from back when the government was trying to break up Ma Bell. He showed the Alert some of his equipment and explained how a bit of rain, not overhead but in the signal’s path, could push his call distance much farther. Read the rest of this entry »

In Memoriam: Lawrence W. Crane

In Culture Bluffs, Historic Elberta, On and off the Apron, Sunset on September 18, 2015 at 2:33 pm

The man was one of the most important figures in the history of Elberta, and Andrew Bolander was unable to find an obit for him aside from a half paragraph in the Free Press and a mention of his passing in the Benzie Banner. So, on the anniversary of his death, Bolander thought it would be nice to give Lawrence W. Crane an obituary fitting his influence on the area. 

Lawrence W. Crane died on the 18th of September, 1899. Mr. Crane was a strong and occasionally abrasive presence in the early development of Benzie County. He was an impressive lumberman who came from modest beginnings—a poor youth in Chicago. The stories of his fights and supposed acts of arson strengthen the lore of the lumbermen of Northern Michigan. Mr. Crane could look at the exterior of a log and discern its interior arrangement.

He was born in County Wexford, Ireland, in 1841. He immigrated to the United States when he was 12 years old and settled in Chicago. Mr. Crane then crossed paths with Harrison Averill, of Herring Creek, and went to work in Mr. Averill’s mill in 1855. He then moved to Muskegon and Manistee where he honed his skills as a sawyer. Mr. Crane then moved to Frankfort under the employ of George S. Frost and the Frankfort Land Co. in 1868. Mr. Crane cleared the Betsie River of logs and obstructions and straightened sections of the river to make drives more manageable. He also was the head sawyer at the Land Company’s mill.

In 1870 Mr. Crane entered the lumber business on his own account and in partnership with Ramiro Evans built his first mill on the south side of Lake Betsie in 1873. Mr. Crane bought out Mr. Evans’s interests in 1881 and built a shingle mill and a planing mill in addition to his original sawmill. Lawrence W. Crane married Miss Annette Rawlinson on November 21, 1886. Mr. Crane was survived by his widow and eight children. It is said that Lawrence W. Crane’s knowledge of the woods of Benzie County was second only to that of Joseph Oliver. Mr. Crane was 62 years of age.

Crane's Island Mill, 1900. Allen Blacklock Collection

Crane’s Island Mill, 1900. Allen Blacklock Collection

Crane Lumber Crew 1895

Crane Lumber Crew 1895


A New Era for the Elberta Solstice Festival

In Community Alert, Culture Bluffs, Elberta Solstice Festival, Gov't Watch, Village Money Situation on May 4, 2015 at 11:08 am


By Emily Votruba

In the space of a couple of weeks straddling April and May, Solstice Fest 2015 went from being on, to off, to back on again.

On April 15, Bill Soper, chair of the Solstice Committee, and Diane Jenks, village council president, had a discussion, based on advice from State Treasury officials, that led to them canceling Solstice. I posted this to the Alert Facebook page that day: “BREAKING: According to chief Solstice organizer and Parks & Recreation Commission member (and council member) Bill Soper, Solstice Fest is canceled this year. Soper spoke with Diane Jenks, who spoke with State officials. It is illegal for a municipality to hold a revenue-generating festival. Were an outside organization to step up and run the festival, it could be held in the Village. Elberta is under intense state scrutiny because of its deficit situation, and village officials are learning all kinds of things they didn’t know before about state regulations.”

A flurry of discussion followed in comments.

Within a few days, Bill Soper, Joshua Herren (longtime Solstice volunteer), Betsy Mas, and Frederik Stig-Nielsen had registered with the State as a nonprofit corporation: Elberta Solstice Foundation (ESF). Jenks asked me (I am currently the main Village web page updater) to replace an announcement I had been asked to post saying the fest was canceled with a note that it would go on under ESF’s auspices.

As of the end of April, ESF did not yet have 501(c)3 status, but that is their intention. In an April 29 email reply to me, Stig-Nielsen, who received his Michigan attorney’s license this year, wrote: “Elberta Solstice Foundation is registered with the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs as a ‘domestic nonprofit corporation.’ We decided to incorporate as a nonprofit because we want donors, sponsors, volunteers, participants and the community at large to feel secure that we are not doing this for our own personal gain, and that none of the benefits or profits will inure to any board members or shareholders. Any money that is raised is therefore secure from any impropriety, as our articles of incorporation specifically prohibit (in accordance with IRS standards) such a trickle down of economic or other benefit to the members of the corporation. As far as 501c3 federal tax exempt status goes, we have not yet applied, but are in the process of preparing our application.”

The Village’s contacts at State Treasury had advised Jenks and Council that it is illegal for a municipality to hold a festival such as Solstice. Such events must be run by outside organizations. Solstice was initially run by the Elberta Economic Development Corporation, of which Diane Jenks was a member. After council decided to dissolve the EDC, the Parks and Recreation Commission started running the festival. Several members of Parks and Rec, including Bill Soper, had been active in making the festival possible since the very beginning, and having the Commission run it seemed perfectly natural. No one had any idea that there was a law we were breaking. Under the leadership of Jen Wilkins, a P&R member, Solstice had three successful years, during which it raised revenue rather than just breaking even. The Parks and Recreation Commission currently has about $20,000 in its bank account that is Solstice revenue, some of which, up until early spring, the Commission had intended for use funding Solstice.

Early on this year there had been concerns about how Solstice would come together, after the departure of Jen Wilkins from council, Solstice Committee, and Parks & Rec in September. I personally had decided to pull back from involvement in the festival because of increased work obligations. Bill Soper was confident that he could pull it off, but as of the April Parks and Recreation meeting, it seemed clear to me that much work remained to be done. Cathy Anderson, a member of Solstice Committee and Parks and Rec treasurer, and a member of the Budget Finance and Audit Committee, had expressed concerns about there not being a detailed proposal in place for this year’s festival or any kind of organizational time line. She was unable to make it to the April meeting, but had asked that we hold a vote on whether or not to hold Solstice Festival for real. We did not hold that vote.

The Village is still in a crisis-level budget deficit situation—about $600,000 short in its General Fund Balance. And the Deficit Elimination Plan the Village submitted to the State last year has been rejected. The newly elected (2014) council is saddled with the responsibility of coming up with an acceptable DEP plan and developing and maintaining policies and procedures to cure past improprieties. If the Village fails to produce an acceptable plan and level of progress toward tightening the ship, the possibility of Emergency Manager takeover is real.

In all this, transparency and avoiding the appearance of conflict of interest is crucial. But in a tiny community like ours, inevitably, people wear many hats. I, for example, am currently the secretary of the Parks and Recreation Commission. Bill Soper is a council member and a member of the Parks and Recreation Commission. ESF is legally a separate entity from the Village, but Soper is a member of ESF. This means that Soper may want to recuse himself from voting on ESF related Solstice matters both at council and at Parks and Recreation meetings.

This morning I received this message from Diane Jenks:

“The Elberta Solstice Festival Contract will be presented at a meeting at the community building at 401 First Street Elberta Mi. 5:30 Tuesday May 5,2015 It is not a special council meeting. Council, BFA [Budget Finance and Audit] Committee and Parks and Rec are invited to attend. The Contract with Elberta Solstice Foundation will go before Council at the May meeting and by previewing and input from the governing bodies we can make recommendations to council. This is the first time a private party will be renting the whole park and I hope it will be a positive experience for the village….”

On Thursday May 14 at 7, Parks and Rec holds its regular meeting (also in the Community Building), and we will review a proposal by ESF concerning use of Village Solstice materials/equipment/signage, etc., all of which is Village property, and much of it was created by volunteers who want assurance that their work will be used to help the Village. The Commission may well decide to use this as an opportunity to generate some revenue by selling or renting some of the equipment. With Solstice slated for the third weekend in June, it seems awfully late to be sorting this all out, and some feathers are ruffled, to say the least. But making this transition in as orderly a fashion as possible, with respect for the concerns of all the stakeholders, while making it clear to the State that is really is a complete transition, is vitally important. I have nothing against Solstice Fest, and deeply hope it can go on. But if the transition can’t be made smoothly and thoroughly and fairly, I’d rather see it wait till next year.

*Corrections/additions made after the initial posting are in bold type

Whoville in E-ville Contest

In Community Alert, Culture Bluffs, GOOD NEWS, Kid Stuff on November 21, 2014 at 11:08 am

Announcing! The first annual Whoville Holiday Decorating contest, sponsored by Shear Class Salon and Day Spa. Who in Elberta will come up with the greatest house and lawn decor to brighten up our midwinter? Submit your $10 entrance fee to Shear Class. The Overall Best Decor winner gets the whole kitty (and by kitty I mean money). The Best “Grinch/WhoVille” decoration gets a $50 gift certificate from Shear Class! Come on, everybody, and let’s give Ken and Lois Holmes a run for their money. I’m already voting for Fred McConnell.—Emily Votruba

Near Beer, Cont’d: Frankfort Beer Week

In Agriculture, Calendar, Community Alert, Culture Bluffs, GOOD NEWS, On and off the Apron, Open Season, The Mess Deck on September 18, 2014 at 3:16 pm

Frankfort holds its first-ever Beer Week the second week of Hoptober, Monday through Saturday, celebrating our new deeply local beer scene (thank you, Stormcloud Brewing Company). More than a dozen restaurants will be participating, creating unique items just for this event, made with Michigan beer. Stormcloud will tap their annual Harvest Tripel, a Belgian-style libation made from fresh Empire Hops Farm hops; then at Saturday’s wrapup they’ll debut a Belgian-German Oktoberfest batch. On Tuesday come feast at Coho Café’s Beer Dinner with New Holland Brewing Company brews. On Thursday the 9th, the Garden Theater hosts The Michigan Beer Film, a documentary about Michigan’s geysering craft beer industry. Paul Starr, of “I’m a Beer Hound” fame, will be in Frankfort to provide three nights of beer-tasting instruction; you’ll learn how to drink beer with Michigan-made Mindo Chocolate, Hilltop Ice Cream, and locally smoked bacon. And if you’re all, “I make my own beer,” enter the homebrew competition. The winner gets a chance to use the Stormcloud facility, and the knowledge of brewmaster Brian Confer, to brew their beer and have it there on tap. Don’t forget to check out the selection of beer-related books and novelties across the street at Frankfort Bookstore. If you’re not from here, sign on for the Frankfort Beer Week Package at Harbor Lights Resort, including a welcome basket with a growler fill at Stormcloud. With Fall Fest activities taking place every weekend, Frankfort Beer Week is just one more reason to stick around, or get here, this October. http://www.facebook/fbwEmily Votruba


Karl Manke’s Third Book: Secrets, Lies, and Dreams:

In Book Review, Culture Bluffs on August 29, 2014 at 11:37 pm

By Janet La Rue Buck

Karl Manke has written a third adventure story, and this one is set mainly in the Whitehorse region of Alaska.

It is the tale of a Mormon polygamist, Jacob Mueller, his two wives, who are sisters, and their six sons. (Lena, the elder wife, has four children and Rena, two.) Like most families, this one is far from perfect. Lena’s eldest son, Sam, overcome with envy, tries to murder his superintelligent younger half-brother, Joey, who is Rena’s eldest. He is also guilty of stealing gold from his family’s precious-metal smelting operation. Meanwhile, Rena has an adulterous encounter with another of her sister’s sons. Dark secrets abound between some of the brothers, and two also prove to be renegades when seeking revenge on the two men who kidnap Jacob and Sam, as this dark tale unfolds.

Joey survives Sam’s attack, unbeknownst to the family, and is stricken with amnesia. He wanders in the wilderness and, as he struggles to survive, not remembering anything of his past life, meets a black giant named Tiny. Soon these two suffer an undeserved incarceration in an Anchorage jail. Eventually, with Tiny’s help and through some unusual plot twists, Joey becomes a driving force in the firm of a successful Russian immigrant, Mr. Amzlov.

To learn how he finds the love of his life, becomes reunited with his family, regains his memory, and resolves the family’s differences, you have to read this entertaining book, which engages the imagination until the last page.

Karl Manke began writing only a few years ago, after he retired from his barbershop in Owosso. He certainly has a flair for storytelling. If he wishes to become a truly fine novelist, he must employ a good editor. As a former English teacher, I found myself, pencil in hand, correcting misspelled words, punctuation errors, and typos, all of which could have been easily eliminated.

Rough copy notwithstanding, I think readers will very much enjoy this story by an Elberta native son. It can be found at the Bookstore in Frankfort and on Ψ

A third-party interview with Karl Manke…

Elberta Summer Solstice Festival no. 12: Wilder Than Ever

In Calendar, Community Alert, Culture Bluffs, E Beach, GOOD NEWS, Kid Stuff, Open Season, Water on June 12, 2014 at 11:10 pm

Elberta Solstice Festival_Poster_2014WITHLOGOSmaller

The Elberta Solstice Festival is back for its 12th year, Saturday June 21! Join the teeming masses of music and food buffs descending on our magical Village amid the dune bluffs of Lake Michigan for live music, local food, beer, games, Michigan’s best beach, and other attractions to amaze and astound you, all capped off with one of the premier fireworks displays in the region.

Benzie County’s number one music festival is family friendly, quirky, cutting-edge, and eco-conscious, with some of the best bands, craft beverages and artisanal food around. Up until this year, admission to Solstice has been totally free, with guests paying as they go for food and beer. This year, because of the Village’s dire deficit situation, a fee of $5 will be charged for entrance to the beer tent, starting at 8 pm. It’s still possible to hear and even see the bands from outside the beer tent (but you can’t buy beer outside the beer tent). The Solstice Committee and P&R regret the change but hope everyone will still crowd the beer tent and help the Village get back on its feet.

Our Solstice Queen Jennifer Wilkins and other volunteers from Parks and Recreation and the Solstice Committee have prepared some special new treats this year. Coming all the way from Detroit are Magician Keith Stickley, Wood-E the Clown, and Animal Encounters with the infamous “Ghetto Gators”—large and scary scaly creatures recovering from shady servitude in the Motor City. While your reptile brain is turned on, stuff a bunch of food in you, from TuGo’s Egg Roll Co., Elberto’s Taqueria, Conundrum Café, The Lions, Cabbage Shed, Frankfort Takeout, Louie’s Burgers, Why Knot pretzels, and A.Papanos Pizza, plus bebidas from St. Ambrose, Acoustic Mead, and your favorite beers in the beer tent. You’ll be glad to know that this year, for the first time, you can catch a free Benzie Bus shuttle between our Waterfront Park Pavilion and the Antique Car Show and Art Fair in Frankfort. Call or text 231-930-8100 for pickup at one of the stops (see photo below).

Oh, you want to know about the *bands*? But of course: THE ACCIDENTALS, ALFREDO, MEDICINAL GROOVE, E MINOR, THE STANDING HAMPTONS, BLAKE ELLIOTT & THE ROBINSON AFFAIR, K. JONES & THE BENZIE PLAYBOYS, BLUE DIRT, SOUL PATCH, and late at night after Wolverine’s fireworks display, G SNACKS.

Don’t miss this northern Michigan hometown extravaganza on the wild side of Betsie Bay! 12 noon to 2 am, Saturday June 21st, at Elberta’s Historic Waterfront Park on old M-168.

(The Parks and Recreation Commission and the Solstice Committee would also like to us to mention that the Benzie County Sheriff Department is planning extra patrols the night of Solstice, including on the beach. They’d like to remind everyone that fireworks and camping on the beach are unlawful activities. Let’s all have a safe and hassle-free Solstice Fest.)




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Bayview Grille Celebrates 4 Years on the Bay

In Culture Bluffs, On and off the Apron, The Mess Deck on May 20, 2014 at 10:08 am

By Ann Sinclair

Located on beautiful Betsie Bay in Frankfort, Bayview Grille has earned its reputation as a popular destination for great made-from-scratch home-style food and Michigan-made beers and wine. Located in the building that once housed Celia’s by the Bay, Bayview Grille is the pride and joy of Dale Evans and Jill Weide, both Michigan natives who, after spending 20 years in the hustle and bustle of Washington, DC, returned to their home state to seek a more relaxed and friendly lifestyle.

Part of Bayview Grille’s staff, from left: co-owner Dale Evans, Matthew Evans, co-owner Jill Weide, and Kadie Smith. Photo by Ann Sinclair

Part of Bayview Grille’s staff, from left: co-owner Dale Evans, Matthew Evans, co-owner Jill Weide, and Kadie Smith. Photo by Ann Sinclair

Since opening Bayview Grille in 2010, Dale, Jill and their staff have been learning how to best deliver their creations to their increasingly loyal customers. Both great amateur cooks, Dale and Jill were new to the food business. “Our customers and staff were great, and helped us develop our signature service, which emphasizes customer comfort and great food. Everyone who dines with us enjoys the fruits of the lessons we’ve learned,” Dale says.

Bayview smokes its own meats and poultry in the smoker that sits in front of the restaurant during the summer season. It makes its own jams, sauces, salad dressings and soups, including its popular corn and clam chowders. In addition, locally grown ingredients are used in its recipes whenever possible. Dale and Jill cook in their kitchen alongside some of Benzie County’s top talent. “Our staff is so pleased to be able to really cook from scratch and get away from simply opening a package or deep frying something that came in frozen,” Dale says. “They work hard to prepare fresh and delicious foods for our customers.”

During its first three years in the community, Bayview offered breakfast, lunch and dinner year-round. Now both Dale and Jill have decided to scale back their work hours so they have more time to enjoy northern Michigan. Starting this May, Bayview is open 7am to 4pm, focusing on breakfast and lunch.

“It’s the best breakfast on the Bay,” says Marilyn Maslo, a frequent morning customer. “Bayview serves organic coffee from Higher Grounds [the Traverse City–based coffee roaster], and prepares its Eggs Benedict for me with avocado instead of ham, all with homemade hollandaise sauce on a gluten-free bun. I can’t get that service anywhere else, and I love it!”

In addition to great breakfast offerings, like the popular beignet, a light, fritter-like pastry dusted with powdered sugar, Bayview is bringing back some of its exclusive lunch items, like the smoked turkey club made with house-smoked turkey, the smoked-turkey Reuben, and its unique grilled tuna sandwich. “We take fresh grilled yellow fin tuna, chop it, and mix it with our homemade sauce,” says Dale, “then serve it on a very special bread. It’s one of our most popular lunch items.” Innovative menu additions are on deck for June, Dale says. “We are excited to offer new foods that aren’t available elsewhere in northern Michigan.”

Also getting a fresh look will be Bayview’s cocktail, beer, and wine menu. “It’s been a bit of a secret that we have a liquor license, but those who know are definitely enjoying our offerings,” says Jill. A variation of their popular Bayview Bloody Mary, the “Crabby Mary” will feature a full crab claw as a garnish. “The claw is full of sweet meat, and it goes deliciously with our Bloody Mary. We think it will be a hit!” Jill says. And not to worry, Bayview will continue to offer a range of craft beers, Michigan wines, Spanish Sangria, Bud Light, and traditional mixed drinks. “If you enjoy it, we will do our best to provide it,” says Jill.

With all the great changes coming, Bayview Grille will continue to be the place to enjoy a hearty, healthy breakfast or lunch, or linger over an afternoon cocktail on their porch overlooking the bay on a warm day. Dale and Jill always strive to deliver something special to their guests. As Dale says, “Sometimes it takes a little longer, but our success shows that it’s worth it.”

Bayview Grille, 727 Main Street, Frankfort, (231) 352-8050. Open 7 days, 7 am to 4 pm.