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News From the Greater Munising Area

Ice Fest, U.P. 200 get started

With two of the largest winter festivals in the central Upper Peninsula kicking off this week, we anticipate an exciting time here in Alger County.

Michigan Ice Fest — which runs from Wednesday through Sunday — is expected to have more participants and spectators than last year. Over 1,000 people from 30 states and 7 countries visited the city of Munising in 2019 to engage in ice climbing activities for the country’s longest running festival of its kind.

The festival includes classes, demos, slideshows, films and a variety of ice climbing-related activities. The ice climbing itself takes place at several areas in the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

They do, when conditions allow, climb the Grand Island ice formations as well. However, since ice hasn’t fully formed yet on Lake Superior in Munising Bay, that’s not an option this year.

The festival caters to every skill level, from those who’ve never been ice climbing to advanced climbers. The growth of the festival and “ice tourism” in general has been significant over the years. Some of that stems from exposure of the area in films such as “National Parks Adventure” — which is narrated by Robert Redford and was shown in IMAX theaters all over the country — and Aaron Peterson’s well-received “Michigan Ice Film.”

The economic impact from the festival in 2018 was estimated to be around $870,000, with visitors spending money on lodging, restaurants, bars and so on. Michigan Ice Fest will once again be headquartered at the Community Center, also known as the Alger Parks and Recreation Department building in Munising. For more information about the festival, visit www.michiganicefest.com.

The U.P. 200 and the Midnight Run is also upon us this weekend. I took the Mush Bus last year when I was staff writer for The Mining Journal from Marquette’s Holiday Inn to Grand Marais to see the U.P. 200 sled dog teams at one of their mandatory check points.

The bus picked up passengers in Munising as well, filling each seat. Several passengers said it was a no brainer signing up for the experience since it allowed them to visit Grand Marais without having to drive in the wintry weather. While the Mush Bus is already sold out this year, it’s still worth checking out the activities Saturday afternoon in Grand Marais.

The local Community Center is the checkpoint headquarters where visitors can have lunch, bid on items at a silent auction, and see the teams up close. Visit up200.org for more information about the races.

Editor’s note: Jaymie Depew is the communications and special project assistant for the Alger County Chamber of Commerce/Greater Munising Bay Partnership for Commerce Development, Munising Downtown Development Authority and Munising Visitors Bureau.