Posted by: Kath Usitalo | October 6, 2010

Beacons Beckon At Great Lakes Lighthouse Festival

Tour the New Presque Isle Lighthouse during the annual festival celebrating the Great Lake's historic structures

Ahhh, the beauty, the history, the mystique of the sentinels of the inland seas. Tales of shipwrecks and the isolated lives of lighthouse keepers. Success stories of towers rescued from neglect, and the ongoing struggle to save these aids to navigation, most more than a century old.

Round Island Lighthouse, near Mackinac Island, is the festival's featured light for 2010

Romance and reality converge when light-minded folks gather to share their passion for the historic beacons at the 15th annual Great Lakes Lighthouse Festival October 7-10 in Alpena, near the tip of Michigan’s Mitten on the Lake Huron shore.

Surrounded by four Great Lakes, Michigan is home to 115 lights—more than any other state. So it’s an appropriate setting for this four-day program of lighthouse and museum visits, speakers, vendor exhibits, maritime music and auction of nautical-related items.

The festival is a chance for preservationists to network and the casual lighthouse admirer to tour nine area lights and, organizers hope, be bitten by the lighthouse bug. It happened to event coordinator Melanie Kirn, a history buff enamored with the lighthouse structures. She became involved as a Lighthouse Festival volunteer 15 years ago because, she says, “I love history, so I’m all about preserving it. Lighthouses just fit into my heart.”

Kirn says that over the years attendance has ranged between 5,000 and 10,000 lighthouse lovers and enthusiasts from across the U.S. and Canada. Events are individually ticketed and family-friendly, including Saturday’s showcase at the Thunder Bay Recreation Center withmore than 100 lighthouse and nautical-related vendors and exhibitors.

View of Lake Huron from the top of the Old Presque Isle Lighthouse

Saturday’s Round Table Networking forum is followed by a presentation by Terry Pepper, executive director of the Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association. Maritime tunes will be in the air at festival dinners and concerts Friday and Saturday evenings at the Holiday Inn of Alpena.

I think this festival tradition sounds like a very cool event: “Night at the Lighthouse” attracts capacity crowds for a free outdoor musical performance and acoustic jam session, refreshments and tour of the 40 Mile Point Lighthouse near Rogers City, from 7-9 p.m. Friday, October 8.

For a complete schedule check out the Great Lakes Lighthouse Festival site.

Visitor Info Clicks: Alpena

Travel Michigan: Pure Michigan

Holiday Inn of Alpena

NOTE: This post is an excerpt from a story that I wrote about the festival; see it at the Rochester, Minnesota Post-Bulletin. However, due to an unfortunate editing error, Alpena was relocated to the Tip of the Thumb in that version. I’ve tried to get it corrected to no avail. Alpena’s location is correct in the version that appears in the Kankakee Daily Journal.



  1. My mom and I love lighthouses! It’s long been her dream to see all the lights in Michigan and some day I hope to take her on that tour.

    Fresnel lenses fascinate me…..they’re beautiful! I even have a little one – supposed to be a Christmas tree ornament but I leave it out all the time.

    Have you ever been to the Maritime Museum in Marquette? Very neat place! They have a cool display of the Stannard Rock lighthouse and even have an old Fresnel lens from it there.

    • I was at that museum in Marquette years ago; tried recently and it was closed for renovation or???? cannot remember (maybe it wasn’t that recently). But I do like maritime museums. Your mom would probably love to stay overnight in one of the lighthouse B&Bs!

  2. How nice lighthouse. In my country we do have not so many lighthouses, but there are.

    I especially love the first photo, it is awesome.

    Happy blogging.

    • Come and visit Michigan and do a lighthouse tour; you can even stay at a few on Lake Superior that are Bed & Breakfast Inns.

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