New building has many functions

ESCANABA — It’s always an exciting time when our community hosts the largest annual event in the Upper Peninsula, the U.P. State Fair. This year will be even more exciting with the opening of the dynamic multi-use complex under construction on the fairgrounds. It will be the new home of the Welcome Center, offices of the Delta County Commerce Center and U.P. State Fair, Webster Marble Inventing the Outdoors and the U.P. Veterans Museums.

From the beginning, the vision for the building has been a place to tell important stories about the history and entrepreneurial spirit of Delta County and the Upper Peninsula. Several significant exhibit spaces will be dedicated to this effort.

Inventing the Outdoors will explore the life and impact of one of the U.P.’s greatest inventor, entrepreneur and industrialist – Delta County’s own Webster Marble. This exhibit was developed in 2015 as a special exhibit at the Michigan Historical Museum in Lansing and then travelled to the Iron Industry Museum in Negaunee. The exhibit has been updated with new information and artifacts, together with activities for youngsters to explore life in the outdoors and their own inventive spirits.

A second exhibit space will be home to the U.P. Veterans Museum. This will be the first time that a space will be dedicated to recounting stories of veterans from across the entire Upper Peninsula. For nearly two centuries, U.P. men and women have served our nation. They have made sacrifices to ensure our freedom and have shaped communities throughout the U.P. This museum will help visitors understand the military experience. It will tell stories of uncommon valor displayed by U.P. soldiers. And through artifacts, honors, letters home, diaries and other materials, will help us all remember and understand the enduring contribution of our veterans.

The museum will be designed to provide a rewarding experience for many visitors – tourists, U.P. residents, veterans and their families, and school groups. It will provide interactive opportunities to learn as well as quiet places to reflect. It will acknowledge the many memorials across the U.P. that have been erected to honor our veterans. And finally, it will look at the ways that we continue to recognize and thank those that have served and continue to serve.

This is a major undertaking, which started with the generous donation from the John and Melissa Besse Foundation for $1 million. It cannot be completed without the help of individuals, families, business and organizations here in Delta County and across the U.P. We are looking for donations of time, dollars and artifacts to help complete this important work. Specifically, we need:

Financial contributions to help construct exhibits.

Assistance with research, interviews and writing.

Design and fabrication expertise.

Artifacts, including diaries and letters home.

We are grateful for the support and encouragement that’s been received as this long-time vision of the community becomes reality. If you are interested in learning more about ways you can be involved, contact the Commerce Center at 906-786-2192.

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

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