MARQUETTE - A thunderstorm that ripped its way through the central Upper Peninsula Wednesday night wreaked havoc on the International Food Fest in Mattson Lower Harbor Park.
The storm pulled tents from their posts and toppled garbage cans, causing trash to be strewn across the grass and tents and banners to lie haphazardly across the ground.
Bob Vidlund, a member of the Marquette County Exchange Club, which hosts the event, said the club was hoping to open Food Fest at noon today, as previously scheduled.
Tents set up in the Mattson Lower Harbor Park for the International Food Fest are shown toppled after a storm passed through Wednesday night. (Journal photo by Jackie Stark)
"We're going to do our best to do it, because it's our biggest fundraiser and with all the nonprofit groups we support, we might get less," Vidlund said.
A small group of volunteers and people from different vendors were on site this morning, helping to raise the tents and clean the trash.
Vidlund said it was difficult to estimate the full impact of the storm, since the group had yet to see under each collapsed tent.
"We don't know the extent of the damage yet," Vidlund said. "We've tried to contact all the vendors.
"The grounds look a lot cleaner (than earlier)," Vidlund added, saying the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program helped clean the grounds each day of the Food Fest. "They clean up here every morning. They just had a little more to clean this morning."
According to Jason Alumbaugh, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service out of Negaunee, the thunderstorm created winds of 42 mph at the NWS office, though he said they reached higher in other areas.
"We had peak wind gusts at the office of 42 mph, Au Train station around 50 mph," Alumbaugh said. "Both of those places weren't even in the core where the strongest winds occurred. They were more off the beaten path."
Alumbaugh said the station was still collecting data on the storm as of this morning.
According to Alumbaugh, a warm front closing in on the area was one of the main causes of the storm, which became most intense in the Marquette area early this morning. Multiple lightning strikes in a row lit up the night sky while thunder continued to roll with hardly a break between claps.
"Heavy rain and lightning were the main calling cards of the storm," Alumbaugh said.
The storm, though much less intense early in the evening, also interfered with Marquette's fireworks display from the Lower Harbor. At times, spectators watched the fireworks through a haze of smoke and storm clouds and rain fell heavily throughout much of the display.
Jorma Lankinen, vice president of the Marquette Area 4th of July Committee - which hosts the annual fireworks event - said the committee was paying close attention to the weather and decided to move forward with the show, believing the storm would hold out.
Lankinen said he was pleased with the outcome of the fireworks display.
"Everything worked out fine," Lankinen said. "People were happy. People were happy on the cruise. The fireworks were spectacular ... The people who stayed loved it."
Marquette City Mayor John Kivela said the City of Marquette is not involved in the fireworks display, as it is completely under the control of the 4th of July Committee. He said the city can only intervene to stop the fireworks if setting them off could pose a danger, such as a fire hazard, inside the city.
"Our (the city's) only responsibility is, we have to make sure there isn't a danger, if they're shot off," Kivela said. "There was not a potential fire hazard so we could not stop them, although we did urge them not to shoot them because of the rain and lack of participation."
The Isle Royale Queen III was scheduled to head out on Lake Superior, offering its passengers a unique view of the fireworks display, but it instead stayed in the harbor due to unsafe weather conditions.
People were still allowed to board the docked vessel to view the fireworks.
The storm caused several other July 4th fireworks shows to be postponed until today, including in Munising and Ishpeming.
Munising will light its fireworks off in Bayshore park this evening and its fireworks cruise will also take place, pending good weather.
Ishpeming's fireworks will take place this evening at the Al Quaal Recreation Area at dusk.
Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.