Still time to enjoy National Family Fun Month!

Summertime may be winding down, but that doesn’t mean an end to the fun. Michigan offers families a wide variety of outstanding late summer and early fall outdoor activities, such as boating, fishing and attending local festivals.

August is National Family Fun Month and there is still time for residents to take advantage of our state’s numerous outdoor activities like taking in a round at one of our world-class golf courses or kayaking on 36,000 miles of rivers.

Family fun does not necessarily mean extravagant vacations. There is plenty to do here in Michigan that is not only budget-friendly, but often within an hour or two of your home.

We are blessed to have natural and cultural resources in Michigan that make our state such a great place to live and raise a family. A good way to have fun and support your local community is to get out and enjoy all the activities available right here in our own backyard.

There is plenty of time left to visit one of more than 40 Michigan water parks or aquatic centers, spend a day in the sand at one of Michigan’s beautiful beaches or take a family bike ride along miles of bike trails throughout our state. Michigan is also home to thousands of inland lakes, where families can go to swim, hike, water ski or just enjoy a picnic.

It is not just about fun and games. Children with involved parents tend to fare better in school and are less likely to engage in risky behaviors. Spending more time together as a family strengthens your family bonds, improves academic performance in children and helps kids develop positive parenting skills.

No matter what the activity is, make sure that the entire family is involved and that you cherish the time spent together. For ideas for your late summer family outing, visit www.michigan.org/outdoors.

National Blueberry Festival in South Haven

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.

For a list of events, directions, parking and other information for this year’s festival, visit www.blueberryfestival.com.

National Lighthouse Day: Michigan Lighthouses

Michigan’s lighthouses helped guide our state’s history and growth. Today, they stand as beacons of our rich maritime heritage.

Our state is home to abundant parks and yearlong recreational opportunities, yet few people know that Michigan is home to the most lighthouses in the nation.

These coastal icons offer residents and visitors a rare chance to experience history firsthand, have fun with the family and enjoy amazing wildlife and coastal habitats – all at the same time.

Michigan’s history of lighthouses began prior to statehood, when the Fort Gratiot Light was built in 1825. The first lighthouse in this area was located approximately where the first Blue Water Bridge stands today. However, due to poor design and location choice, it collapsed into the river during a bad storm only three years later. In 1829, a new lighthouse was built north of the military fort.

After renovations in 2012, visitors can now see this oldest operating lighthouse in the state and take in a view of Lake Huron from its balcony.

Many Michigan lighthouses are now hotels, bed and breakfasts and museums. Visitors can enjoy bed and breakfast services at six different lighthouses, and 12 lighthouses offer programs that allow you to assume the role of a keeper for a night.

Sunday is National Lighthouse Day, and we encourage you to check out one of the 120 lighthouses along our state’s spectacular coastline. You can climb the 130 stairs of the tallest lighthouse in the Great Lakes by visiting the New Presque Isle lighthouse, which was built in 1870, or take your time trekking 112 feet into the sky at the Big Sable Point Lighthouse in Ludington.

While the advent of advanced navigational systems have greatly reduced the working role of our lighthouses, they stand strong today as reminders of the heights we reached to help ships avoid crashing in the darkness.

For more information our spectacular lighthouses, visit www.Michigan.org/lighthouses.

Check out the Grand Haven Coast Guard Festival!

Grand Haven is known as “Coast Guard City U.S.A.” in recognition of its tremendous support to Coast Guard personnel over the years.

Every summer, the community demonstrates its special relationship by hosting one of the largest festivals in West Michigan — the Grand Haven Coast Guard Festival.

In this video, Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof highlights the festival’s activities, details how it has grown over the years and encourages families to come out and enjoy it.

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.

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Stamas completes 2016 Heritage Route 23 Legislative Tour

Sen. Jim Stamas and several state and local officials recently completed a two-day legislative tour of Heritage Route 23.

“My goal in leading this successful tour was to bring attention to Michigan’s sunrise side and to better engage state leaders with the community on local issues critical to the region,” said Stamas, R-Midland. “This hands-on tour offered us a unique chance to bring together multiple state department directors, tourism officials and economic development leaders to see what northeastern Michigan has to offer, promote tourism in the region and help improve the area economy.”

Beginning at Wheeler’s Restaurant in Standish, the tour traveled 200 miles along the U.S. 23 Heritage Route from Standish to Mackinaw City — finishing with a stop at the Icebreaker Mackinaw Maritime Museum.

In addition to seeing the museum in Mackinaw City with Sen. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City, and Travel Michigan Vice President Dave Lorenz, some of the tour highlights included:

  • Visiting a Standish grain elevator and Alpena dairy farm with MDARD Director Jamie Clover Adams;
  • Checking out the 40 Mile Point Lighthouse in Rogers City with DNR Director Bill Moritz;
  • Seeing the MidMichigan Medical Center in Alpena with Michigan DHHS Director Nick Lyon;
  • Attending the “Good Morning Alpena” breakfast at the Brown Trout Festival; and
  • Touring a veterans office in Rogers City with Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage, chair of the Senate Veterans, Military Affairs and Homeland Security Committee.

Also joining Stamas on the tour were Rep. Peter Pettalia, R-Presque Isle; Rep. Joel Johnson, R-Clare; Rep. Brad Jacobsen, R-Oxford; DEQ Director Keith Creagh; and numerous other officials from state and local government.

Heritage Route 23 along Lake Huron is one of Michigan’s hidden gems. Families can experience spectacular lake views, check out numerous historical and cultural sites and enjoy a wide variety of recreational opportunities — from relaxing on miles of beaches to staying at one of more than 50 area campgrounds to visiting one of many historic lighthouses.

To discover more information on Heritage Route 23, visit www.us23heritageroute.org.

Summer in Michigan = Fairs and Festivals!

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.

Be safe, and have a wonderful time.

Revving up for Michigan International Speedway race weekend

The FireKeepers Casino 400 is this Sunday, June 12. It is the first of two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races that will take place this year at the Michigan International Speedway (MIS).

As we get ready for the race, the Michigan Senate Republicans would like to remind residents of the tremendous impact to the state economy and the local community that MIS makes every year.

The racing weekends are more than just about racing cars. They are about supporting Michigan jobs, attracting tourists, increasing the state’ visibility and giving a financial boost to the region and state.

MIS generates more than $414 million in economic activity each year. It also pays more than $10.5 million in state sales taxes, use taxes and local property taxes.

Roughly 385,000 people visit the track on an annual basis — with more than half of the attendees at NASCAR events coming from outside the state.

In addition to the FireKeepers Casino 400 on Sunday, the speedway will host the Pure Michigan 400 in August.

MIS has expanded beyond auto racing to become a year-round destination with the addition of automotive research and development programs and non-motorsports events, including a Tough Mudder obstacle course and the Faster Horses three-day-long country music festival.

MIS is also active in the community, such as hosting the state’s largest single-day blood drive. Recently, the track’s charitable arm MIS Cares, awarded scholarships to 14 local high school seniors and improvement grants to six area school districts.

As residents watch this weekend’s race at NASCAR’s fastest track, let’s remember that the cars revving up for a thrilling showdown are the latest of 48 years of racing action at MIS, which contributes a great amount to the state economy, its local community and our way of life.

For more information about MIS and its upcoming events, visit www.mispeedway.com.

Free winter fishing this weekend!

With more than 3,000 miles of Great Lakes shoreline, 36,000 miles of rivers and 11,000 inland lakes, Michigan is home to some of the world’s best fishing.

In an effort to increase awareness of Michigan’s great fishing, the state offers two weekends each year when residents and out-of-state visitors can get together and enjoy fishing — at no charge.

This weekend is the state’s Winter Free Fishing Weekend!

It’s an excellent opportunity to introduce the joy of fishing to children and help pass down the tradition of Michigan fishing to the next generation of anglers. It’s also a chance for even the most experienced angler to try winter fishing for the first time.

During the weekend, all fishing license fees will be waived and vehicles will be able to enter state parks and use boating sites without a recreation passport. Residents and visitors may enjoy fishing on both inland lakes and the Great Lakes for all species of fish, but all fishing regulations still apply.

To celebrate the free fishing weekend, organized activities have been scheduled across the state. These activities are coordinated by a variety of organizations, including local and state parks, constituent groups, schools, businesses and others.

Residents looking for more details on the Winter Free Fishing Weekend, including a list of activities across the state, may visit www.michigan.gov/freefishing. The website also has helpful information about ice fishing in an article titled “Fishing Technique: Ice Fishing, The Coolest Sport Around.”

Be safe! Recent warm temperatures have tragically resulted in some people falling through the ice. Check out “Ice Safety Tips” on what you need to know before going out on the ice.

We encourage Michigan anglers — and those who have never gone fishing — to get out and take part in one of our state’s premier outdoor activities.

Please remember that having fun starts with being safe.

Pure Michigan Winter Fun

Michigan winter tourism is an important part of our state economy and a way of life for millions of residents. Winter activities draw more than 110 million tourists to Michigan each year — generating more than $37 billion in business.

If you are looking for something to do in Michigan’s winter wonderland, there is no shortage of options. Michigan offers more than 6,500 miles of snowmobile trails, 3,000 miles of cross country skiing trails, and 51 downhill ski areas featuring 260 lifts and 1,000 runs.

A great place to start in planning a winter excursion is www.michigan.org/winter. The Pure Michigan site offers helpful information and useful links on everything from skiing to ice fishing and from dog sledding to snowshoeing.

One link on the page directs visitors to the Michigan Snowsports Industries Association website, www.goskimichigan.com. The site features information on money-saving programs, ski equipment and lodging. One especially useful link offers updated information for residents on ski and snow conditions at Michigan resorts, as well as details on amenities.

You can also download the latest Ski Michigan pamphlet, a full-color information guide to Michigan ski resorts.

To help plan your winter adventure, residents can also check out the Pure Michigan Winter Travel Guide. It is packed full of great ideas and information to make your family trip a memorable one.

Winter is a great chance to introduce young kids to new experiences and activities or help foster a new interest in the enjoyment of Michigan’s great outdoors.