When Wellness and Fun Mix

Gwinn High School hosts fourth annual fair

Mike Sorensen of Gwinn and his daughter, Brooklyn, 8, check out medical emergency equipment at the recent Wellness Fair and Chili CookOff. The event took place recently at Gwinn High School. (Journal photo by Christie Bleck)

GWINN — Six-year-old Levi Monarch, a student at Gilbert Elementary School, came away from the Feb. 19 Wellness Fair and Chili CookOff with at least one interesting memory: a tailless dog.

The boy visited the SuperiorLand Pet Partners booth at the fourth annual event, which took place at Gwinn High School. The group takes certified therapy dogs around the area to give comfort and affection to people who need it — and those who just want it.

Its visit to the wellness fair gave Levi and other fairgoers a chance to meet Morzy, an Australian shepherd/Shetland sheepdog mix.

The dog came with her own business card, which came with a tagline — “It was so great to meet you!” — as well as the fact her favorite game is tug-o-war.

What made an impression on Levi, though, was that Morzy had no tail.

Although he had thought the tail might have been chopped off, Morzy’s owner, Rick Custard, laid that theory to rest, saying the animal was born without a tail.

He also noted the dogs enjoy their therapeutic status.

“They love it,” Custard said. “She loves it.”

In fact, Morzy’s favorite thing to do, he said, is to have kids read to him during special programs at the Peter White Public Library in Marquette.

Morzy’s business card also read: “I love being snuggled and pet. I really love being read to. I may appear to be napping but I’m definitely listening.”

It’s that sort of thing that the wellness fair was designed to do: teach kids and the local community how to be healthy.

“This is my first time here,” Levi said. “It’s good, because I have a lot of fun in the gym.”

The high school gym, in fact, was set up with games for youths to play.

In another part of the school, however, were vendors like the K.I. Sawyer Community Center, Forsyth Senior Center, the Marquette Food Co-op and the Upper Great Lakes Family Health Center.

The event also allowed people to vote for their favorite chili made by various restaurants, with the Up North Lodge in Forsyth Township named the winner.

Barbie Ward-Thomas, food service director with Gwinn Area Community Schools, spearheaded the fair, which included the mini-carnival in the gym.

“It’s my way of giving back to the community,” Ward-Thomas said. “We have a huge variety of vendors this year.”

About 50 vendors participated, an increase from the 40 who came in 2016. The Up North Lodge; the Throttle Bar and Grill in Little Lake; the Yooper Goddess, a cooking school in Ishpeming; Produce with Amy, a food blogger from Skandia; and a mystery business that’s coming to Gwinn also took part in the chili cook-off, up from three last year, she said.

The high school health class also brought in seven amateur chili-makers.

“We have people from all over Marquette County with ideas and ways to help with wellness,” Ward-Thomas said.

Baked goods like banana bread were on sale, plus people could pick up health-related information from a variety of regional agencies.

“Everybody’s just been amazing and wonderful today,” Ward-Thomas said.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.