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Pure Michigan VP talks snow, sled dogs, slashed funding

The four seasons of experiences Michiganders can enjoy in both peninsulas of their home state, like this lantern-lit snowshoeing event at Van Riper State Park during a recent winter, were the focus of Pure Michigan, a national ad campaign created to represent all things that are good about this state. During a recent visit to the area, Dave Lorenz, vice president of Travel Michigan, said the Pure Michigan program is inactive at present due to its funding being vetoed but that it may return once a budget deal is made in Lansing. (Journal file photo by Justin Marietti)

MARQUETTE — Seeing the stars on a dark spring night, feeling the sun shining on a hot summer day, watching leaves reflecting in a puddle on a crisp autumn day or enjoying the snowflakes floating down on a chilly winter day can be breathtaking experiences.

These experiences are just a few examples of what Michiganders can enjoy in both peninsulas of their home state.

Some people may take these opportunities for granted, but for those who happen to see the northern lights, shooting stars or snow for the first time, it can make for a lasting memory.

However, not everyone lives in a place where they can experience the beauty of each season in the north woods, so helping tourists learn about these opportunities is the goal of Pure Michigan, Dave Lorenz, vice president of Travel Michigan, told The Mining Journal in an interview.

“When you have a four-season environment like we do, you understand why tourism is so huge,” Lorenz said.

Pure Michigan was developed as a brand to represent all things that are good about this state, Lorenz said. In past years, it has even sponsored and promoted the UP200, Midnight Run and Jack Pine 30 sled dog races.

“Our role is to try and differentiate Michigan as we market the state as a place to come for leisure,” he said.

However, those who have listened to the radio or watched television in the last couple of months may have noticed a lack of Tim Allen’s familiar voice in commercials put on by Pure Michigan as part of its tourism campaign.

These commercials stopped running as of Jan. 1, as Pure Michigan is currently operating without funding from the state budget, with around $37 million in funding vetoed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer late last year in the state’s fiscal year 2020 budget.

As for the future of Pure Michigan, it will not be able to provide these services until it has a budget, Lorenz said.

However, Lorenz said the administration and the Legislature “expect they will be able to come to some agreement for some budget in the next couple of weeks.”

Once that does happen and there is a budget, the national campaign will be able to start up again.

“If people are out there and they want to show support for Pure Michigan. I urge them to contact their legislators and the administration and let them know: ‘Hey, I know there are a lot of big issues but this is an issue we should be able to agree on, because it’s good for everyone,'” Lorenz said.

With the big three consumer industries in Michigan being manufacturing, agriculture and tourism, the role of Pure Michigan is to promote leisure and business travel for the benefit of the people of Michigan, he said.

Every time people come to Michigan for a leisure visit, there is a chance for them to see it as a potential place to live, bring their business, invest, or get an education, Lorenz noted.

Lorenz said U.P. residents don’t just suffer winter, they celebrate winter, which is one reason why he came up to visit last weekend.

For example, this past weekend, sled dog races, a Polar Roll bike race, ski jumps, pond hockey and ice climbing could be found in the U.P.

“It’s just awesome to think that people here are advocates for winter. And they know we’re not meant to hibernate. They get out and instead of complaining and waiting for spring fever they are part of the winter and winter is part of them,” Lorenz said. “That is why the U.P. is so important, because of the place and the people. They really both are ambassadors for the brand. They represent all that great nature, friendliness, uniqueness and authenticity that people are just begging for around the world.”

Pure Michigan has worked to promote the sled dog races and other events because they are so unique and representative of the U.P., he said.

These events show how proud Yoopers are to live here as they celebrate and come together as a community, Lorenz added.

“I know of no other place where people will come together on a weekday evening in the middle of winter,” he said. “It’s dark and you see hundreds and hundreds of people lined up — two and three deep all along the downtown corridor — to watch these sled dog teams take off. I mean how crazy is that? Often times it’s bitterly cold, sometimes storms come in. It’s a communal celebration for the sled dog races where everyone takes part.”

Throughout the years, Michigan has been known to cater to everybody.

“Pure Michigan offers something … in some season for everybody. We have everything except for saltwater and sharks,” Lorenz said.

To learn more about Pure Michigan, find it on Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram or its website, michigan.org.

Amy Grigas can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 243.