MARQUETTE - The Marq-Tran bus slowly pulled into the driveway, then parked just a bit into the property to let some passengers out to take some photographs.
The passengers were a delegation from the Ishpeming Multi-Purpose Senior Center and the destination was Lakenenland, a sculpture park located along Michigan Highway 28 about 15 miles east of Marquette.
On a sunny July Tuesday morning, the seniors were exploring something new to most.
Irene Baldini gets a close look at the Snoopy the Flying Ace sculpture at Lakenenland, east of Marquette on Tuesday. Baldini and other seniors from the Ishpeming Multi-Purpose Senior Center toured the sculpture park as part of a day trip from the center. (Journal photo by Renee Prusi)
Karen Johnson looks at a giant spider. (Journal photo by Renee Prusi)
Center director Elyse Bertucci snaps a photo of Johnson, left, and Nancy Bell. (Journal photo by Renee Prusi)
"We're always looking for something local for us to do," said Elyse Bertucci, Ishpeming senior center director. "We look for places in Marquette County and we try to vary the trips from year to year. We do things like go around in December to look at the beautiful Christmas lights or head out to Michigamme to explore what's out there.
"The seniors seem to enjoy it," she said. "It's nice to see someplace different."
The Marq-Tran bus took a slow trip on the dusty trail around the sculpture park to allow the seniors a first look at the myriad works of art, made from scrap iron. There were "oohs" and "aahs" as the seniors viewed the animals and structures come to life in the wooded setting.
Then some of the more adventurous seniors took a walk around the trail to get a closer look at the art work and to take photos of what they were viewing: The handiwork of Tom Lakenen.
"I took my first (seniors) bus trip last month," said Karen Johnson. "I am turning into my mother. She loved to take bus trips."
For Irene Baldini, the trip offered the opportunity to fulfill a wish.
"I have always wanted to come out here," she said. "I have heard about (Lakenenland) for a long time, so I am happy to finally see it."
Lakenenland was started by Lakenen in December 2003. A sign at the park said he had been making the sculptures, but had run out of space to display them. So on his property in Chocolay Township he has set up a wonderland of creatures, big and small, and objects, whimsical and political.
Open 24 hours a day, Lakenenland has no admission charge, but accepts donations. It's open year round.
"This is absolutely fantastic. It's so artistic," said visitor Nancy Bell. "I didn't have any idea this was so creative. This is absolutely outstanding.
"I will have to come back with my husband," she said. "And my kids. And my grandkids."
From a sculpture in memory of Sept. 11 to one titled Phantom 506, about a union scandal, to a work that has a bevy of bowling balls - they grow on the north side, don't you know - Lakenenland offers something for everyone to enjoy.
Bertucci said the trips provide a chance for some seniors to see places in their home county they might not have access to otherwise.
"We're trying to do these trips more frequently," she said. "It depends on bus availability. Marq-Tran, this is a wonderful service they offer. Transportation can be such an issue for people, especially seniors, so this really is great. I am thankful to Marq-Tran."
Bertucci said the visit to Lakenenland was so well received by seniors, it probably will be on the trip schedule again in 2012.
"I took a lot of photos that I will post on the center's Facebook page," she said. "And I will print some out and put them up at the center so those who didn't get to go this time will see what it's about.
"I am sure that will generate some interest."
Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253.