Everyone is familiar with Traverse City cherries, but many people are unaware that Michigan is also the nation’s leading producer of cultivated blueberries — with the majority of production done on family farms in Southwest Michigan.
Most of these farms are located within Allegan, Berrien, Muskegon, Ottawa and Van Buren counties and contribute to the roughly 100 million pounds of blueberries produced each year.
Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, who represents Allegan and Van Buren counties in the state Senate, recently discussed how important blueberry production is to the economies of both Southwest Michigan and the entire state. Blueberry production alone injects nearly $122 million into the state’s economy.
The senator encouraged residents to help continue making these numbers grow by purchasing berries from a local farmer, a store that sells local produce or a bakery that uses blueberries from nearby farms.
Schuitmaker also noted the $122 million does not include tourism revenue generated from the state’s several blueberry festivals. Tourists from around the nation flock to Michigan to attend the National Blueberry Festival in South Haven.
The 48th consecutive National Blueberry Festival is underway and runs from Aug. 11 to Aug. 14.
The festival draws thousands of people to Grand Haven to celebrate the Coast Guard and to have fun with the family at its famous Lake Michigan beach or at a variety of activities — from parades to carnival rides to fireworks.
At the heart of the Coast Guard Festival is the National Memorial Service, which takes place in Escanaba Park at 4 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 5. It is open to the public and focuses on the brave members of the U.S. Coast Guard, especially those who have “passed over the bar” in the last year.
Visitors can also step on board a real Coast Guard ship for a tour through Saturday, Aug. 6. For a tour schedule, visit coastguardfest.org.
It’s summertime in Michigan. For many people, that means enjoying a wide variety of outdoor activities, such as attending a county fair or checking out a local festival.
The Michigan Senate Republicans encourage residents to have a great time with family and friends at one of the countless county fairs and local festivals happening this summer.
Numerous festivals celebrate the outstanding natural and cultural resources in Michigan that make our state such a great place to live and raise a family.
There are several popular festivals going on this weekend. For example, there’s the Brown Trout Festival in Alpena in the northeast Lower Peninsula; the Tall Ship Celebration in Bay City in mid-Michigan; and the Faster Horses country music festival at the Michigan International Speedway in southeast Michigan.
Want to go to a fair? There are several fairs opening this month throughout Michigan — including fairs in Oakland, Barry, Van Buren, Lenawee, Iosco, Schoolcraft, Ontonagon and Monroe counties.
Spending time together as a family at the fair or a festival is not just about fun and food. Children with involved parents tend to fare better in school and are less likely to engage in risky behaviors.
Visit www.michigan.org/fairs-festivals to discover upcoming Michigan festivals and county fairs. On the site, residents can also click on useful links that can help you plan a Michigan vacation, including details on places to eat and stay.
Back in 1929, the city of Holland welcomed visitors for its first Tulip Time Festival in celebration of the community’s Dutch heritage. The response was so great that they made it an annual event. This year, the festival marks 87 years of Dutch traditional costumes, wooden shoes, parades, Klompen dancing, and more than five million vibrant tulips.
In 2015, the Tulip Time Festival attracted an estimated 500,000 people who contributed $12.9 million to the West Michigan economy. Of the visitors surveyed last year, nearly 40 percent came from outside of Michigan and roughly two-thirds planned to return to the area for other recreational activities.
Readers Digest has named it the “Best Small Town Festival in America,” and USA Today readers recently voted Tulip Time as “America’s Best Flower Festival.”
One of the highlights of the festival each year is the Volksparade, in which thousands of locals in traditional Dutch costumes scrub the street. As has been the case for decades, several state officials — including Sen. Meekhof and Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker — donned traditional Dutch costumes and wooden shoes this year and joined in the street scrubbing festivities!