On the road with a bus of honorary Yoopers

ESCANABA — Did you know that the Chamber of Commerce offers step-on guide services year round for bus tours coming through Delta County? It’s true! We are often asked to jump on a bus and acquaint guests with the many attributes of our waterfront community. The most recent was a 10-Day Lake Michigan motorcoach tour arranged by Prudent Tours, which originated in Kansas.

On day six of the tour, the focus was on Delta County when we met the travelers at the rest stop in Garden. This was their first stop after leaving Mackinac Island. When we welcomed our guests to the Upper Peninsula, we proclaimed them to be honorary Yoopers and let them know that they were considered ambassadors for the 378,000 residents who call the U.P. home. Not only did they receive honorary Yooper status, but knowing that they probably had their fill of fudge on the Island, they also received the best chocolate around in the form of a Yooper Bar. The story they heard about a young Lebanese immigrant named Joseph Sayklly, who pursued the American dream in 1906 by opening his own candy shop in Escanaba in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, made the chocolate even sweeter.

As the bus traveled from Garden to its Escanaba destination, guests saw first hand that nature abounds in our year round playground where people live, work and play. They heard that we consider the U.P. the Purest of Pure Michigan because of our pristine waters with more freshwater shoreline than any county in the United States, miles and miles of sandy beaches, hundreds of inland lakes, streams and rivers, stately forests and lush green playgrounds that provide all the fun and excitement anyone could ask for naturally.

We did challenge our visitors with a few trivia questions as we traveled along the Lake Michigan shoreline while presenting them with a few facts about Delta County; that it was plotted in 1843 and that the territory then resembled a triangle or the Greek letter Delta; our population according to the 2010 census is 38,520; we have 514 miles of rivers, 144 miles of lake frontage, 148 inland lakes, 885 miles of road and 748,160 acres of hunting land in the Hiawatha National Forest. This quickly lead to a discussion about hunting season ~ just about the same moment a white-tailed deer bounded out of the woods. The timing was perfect! The group did find it somewhat amusing that schools close on the opening day of the firearm deer season.

Sharing information about the establishment and early years of Garden, Fayette, Nahma, Ensign, Stonington, Rapid River, Gladstone, Wells and Escanaba as we passed by the communities made for a very quick trip. We talked about how farming, commercial fishing, logging, and tourism are all part of our heritage. They are the economic backbone of the area and have produced a population of hard-working, enterprising, interdependent people who are proud to call Delta County their home.

As we traveled along North Lincoln Road and passed the fairgrounds, we took the opportunity to talk about the entrepreneurial spirit and generosity of our community, about how all the communities of the U.P. worked together to save Michigan’s Only State Fair and how the facility will be enhanced thanks to a gift from the John and Melissa Besse Foundation. A gift that will allow for the construction of a multi-purpose community center with the Webster Marble “Creating the Outdoors” and U.P. Veterans Museums, Welcome Center and the Commerce Center organizations.

We left our new friends in the caring, capable hands of the team at the Delta County Historical Museum where I’m certain they heard more about the history and culture of our waterfront community. I hope that when they think about day six of their 10-day Lake Michigan tour, our honorary Yoopers smile and make the decision to visit us again.

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Vickie Micheau is the executive director of the Delta County Chamber of Commerce