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Saying Goodbye to the Hackneys

Hackneys_VIt is that time of year once again, the 2014 season ends in just 19 days.  Where has the time gone?  It seems as though we were just figuring out creative ways to get all the things we needed to open the hotel for the season across a frozen Lake Huron.  Now here we are, it is October, and that means it is time to say goodbye to the horses for the winter.  During peak season there are several hundred horses on Mackinac. Over the winter only about 20 horses remain to pull drays and taxis for winter residents and businesses that stay open.

Some of the larger dray and carriage horses have left already to begin their winter vacation. Can’t you just imagine them, sitting around Hackneys_Igetting massages and hoof manicures, just chilling out for the winter.

Not that the horses are not pampered, and very well taken care of during the season. They work fewer hours than their human counterparts, and veterinarians out number human doctors on the island two to one. However, they do work very hard for the five to six months they are here, and they definitely deserve the winter break.

Hackneys_IIIHackneys are smaller, high stepping horses used to pull the private carriages owned by the hotel.  This week the Hackneys left the island to go to Hiawatha Hawk Ranch located in Mackinaw City.  They will spend the winter there and return to Mackinac Island next May.

A truck and trailer from Hiawatha Hawk Ranch is brought over to the island to transport the horses on a freight boat.  The truck backs off the boat on to theHackneys_IV dock, and the horses are loaded into the trailer.  Hackneys are a little high strung, and at first there was a bit of defiant “I’m not going in there” stomping, but that calmed down quickly with a simple “hey now, it’s ok” from stable manager Ben Mosley.  After that each horse walked right into the trailer, one-by-one, following a little goodbye nuzzle.

So, we say goodbye to these beautiful animals.  Until next spring, when they will return all refreshed, and a little fuzzy with their winter coats.

Vintage Base Ball Season Leaves Everybody as Winners

Vintage BBGrand Hotel has completed it’s vintage base ball season. Ball players came to Grand Hotel from five states this year to play 13 games. Scores were kept but forgotten. There wasn’t a trophy or a champion. Vintage base ball isn’t about that.

The players and spectators gathered at Woodfill Park to celebrate the early game of baseball on June 7, August 16, and September 20. They took to the field—bare-handed—to play the game simply for the passion within them. When a club was short on players they invited spectators to come onto the field to fill the spot—and they did. Children of all ages took their bats and made their plays regardless of what uniform or non-uniform they were wearing.Vintage BB Teams

When the weather didn’t cooperate the players didn’t take no for an answer. They took the field anyway. Wet, dirty, and smiling they continued to share the early game with anybody who would take an interest.

The umpire, separate from any of the clubs, traveled to Mackinac Island to call foul balls and share his knowledge of the early game with the passers by—sometimes forgetting to watch the game as he spoke with the fans. But it didn’t matter because the players treated the game with respect and played as gentlemen without argument, salary, or tantrum. Honesty came forth on a close call and clubs cheered their rivals on when a good play was made.

baseball1When the day was over and all were sun drenched and worn, the clubs came together for a meal and one more excuse to talk about the early game and spend time with their baseball family. Plans for future games were made and tales of past events remembered—all with reverence to the traditions of the early baseball clubs of 150 years ago.

These qualities of good sportsmanship, good manners and a family atmosphere are often hard to find at sporting events in modern times. Thank you to the ball players for continually reminding us that old times are not forgotten.

Thank you guest blogger Jason Kladiva.

International Week at Mackinac Island School

International Week GroupMackinac Island is home to people from many different countries each season, and this past week students at the Mackinac Island school celebrated International Week. Many Grand Hotel employees had the opportunity to share a little of their culture with the students and teachers. Countries represented included Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Jamaica, Mexico, Ecuador, Colombia, Serbia and Argentina. Each presenter provided a short video highlighting the individual country and their culture. It was interesting to watch the kid’s eyes get big when they saw something exciting; with many saying “I want to go there!”International Week II

After watching the video students would ask questions about various aspects of each culture including the language, popular foods, schools, religion, sports, animals found in the country and much more. Students ranged from kindergarten to high school seniors, and some questions from the younger students were very entertaining. One question asked by a young boy to Yumiko from Japan was especially entertaining; “Do you have leprechauns in International WeekJapan?” Everyone giggled quite a bit after that one.

Students learned one or two words from the different languages, as well as varied aspects of each country and its culture. They learned from Diana that Ecuador is believed to be at the center of the world by its people. Katie taught them that Jamaicans believe “if you don’t have dumplings on your International Week IVplate, you don’t have anything!” Ingrid said that in Colombia they have a festival for just about every day of the year. Serena from Hong Kong, China speaks Cantonese not Chinese, and Mary said that in the Philippines there are over 100 different dialects of their Tagalog language.

International Week IIIIt was a fun week, and everyone learned something new. A big thank you goes out to everyone who volunteered their time and especially to Ingrid Scognamiglio, who thought it would be wonderful to share the diverse cultures of Mackinac Island with its children.

Fall Wine Weekend Featured Michigan Wineries

Fall Wine Weekend was a great success featuring seven Michigan wineries.  Bel Lago (Leelanau), Fenn Valley (Fennville), Brys Estate (Traverse City), L. Mawby (Leelanau), Chateau Chantal (Old Mission Penisula), Wyncroft (Buchanan), and Chateau Grand Traverse (Traverse City) wineries all joined us for a weekend filled with good wine and good food.  

Saturday started with a Michigan Challenge after breakfast.  The challenge was laid out by Grand Hotel Master Sommelier, Elizabeth Schweitzer and Michigan wine enthusiast and Master Sommelier, Claudia Tyagi.  Guests were served two white and two red samples, and with a bit of information provided for each by Elizabeth and Claudia they were challenged to guess the Michigan made wine.

The afternoon tasting provided guests with a sampling of each individual winery.  Owners, Sommeliers and representatives from all seven wineries were on hand to answer questions and provide advice on choosing the appropriate wine for any situation.  With a grand selection varying from dry white, to sweet ice wines and bold reds, the afternoon was filled with flavor.  

The evening cocktail reception created the perfect opportunity for Elizabeth to show off her skills in Sabering a bottle of Veuve Cliquot. There are many stories about this tradition. One of the more spirited tales is that of Madame Clicquot herself, who had inherited her husband’s small Champagne house at the age of 27. She would entertain Napoleon’s officers in her vineyard, and as they rode off in the early morning with their bottle of champagne, they would open it with their saber to impress the rich young widow.

Saturday evening dinner was hosted by Brys Estate wines and featured a selection of wines chosen to highlight each course.  Guests were treated to a fabulous dinner in the Theatre, and were given tips on each wine they were enjoying by Brys Estate Vintner, Coenraad Stassen.  Mr. Stassen has earned over 350 medals in national and international wine competitions.  Menus for the meal were made of chocolate, and were provided as a keepsake for the weekend (or as an optional dessert!).

Our Spring and Fall Wine Weekends are always a great time, and our Master Sommelier, Elizabeth invites you to join us in 2015 to open your mind to new wine adventures.  Look for the 2015 Special Package schedule online the first week in November, and we hope to see you enjoying a special selection of wines with us next year!



Safety is Everyone’s Job at Grand Hotel

On an average summer day Grand Hotel is host to over 1200 guests. More than 600 employees are there to make those guests feel welcome, special and safe.

“In the hospitality industry it is important to be ready to help your guests in every situation,” said Jason Kladiva, Grand Hotel Director of Security and Safety. “This includes making sure they are in a safe environment and being ready for an unexpected emergency.”

Employees go through orientation each spring and are taught many things including safety of the guests that come through our doors. They are taught procedures should there be an emergency and are also taught to watch out for potential hazards to keep guests and employees safe. They are also taught how to use a fire extinguisher and Ansul systems in the kitchen if needed. A fire drill is then performed at Grand Hotel and employee housing.   Life guards at the pool are required to have completed a certified course on life saving and CPR.

Security Guards are trained on accident prevention, CPR, defibrillators, fire prevention, first aid, and procedures on assisting emergency medical technicians, paramedics and firefighters. Grand Hotel security guards patrol Grand Hotel and it’s properties 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. During these patrols they are looking for potential hazards, monitoring the security and sprinkler system, and assisting guests and employees in need.

Maintenance and security departments also work with third party contractors that inspect, test and perform maintenance on all sprinkler systems, fire extinguishers and Ansul systems at Grand Hotel, satellite restaurants and employee housing.

In addition to their regular duties at Grand Hotel, many employees are also on the Mackinac Island Fire Department and receive additional training there that they use to help keep Mackinac Island and it’s guests and employees safe. These employees include Mr. Kladiva; Director of the Paint Department, Jason St. Onge; Stable Master, Ben Mosely; Manager of the Gate House and Cawthorne’s Village Inn, Travis Vartanian; and Carriage Driver Jeff Rosema. They have all been trained as firefighters and have also received training in hazardous materials, ice and water rescue, high angle rescue and first responder medical.

In April, Mr. Kladiva went for training at the Fire Department Instructors Conference in Indianapolis and experienced advanced hands-on classes in search and rescue and high rise rescue with fellow firefighters from departments like New York, Chicago, Denver, Sacramento, Miami and the military.

“The training I received at FDIC was incredible, ” said Mr. Kladiva. “I have already been able to pass on some of that training to the security guards in my department to help make Grand Hotel an even safer place to visit and work.”

Children’s Program Fun!

Each season, from Memorial Day to Labor Day, Grand Hotel’s Children’s Program is available twice daily for our young guests five and older. The program includes a special meal in one of our restaurants, with a Children’s Buffet the Main Dining Room on some evenings.  After everyone enjoys their meal, the fun continues with games, crafts or mini adventures.

Activities include walking to the butterfly house, visiting the Manoogian Mackinac Art Museum, arts and crafts, croquet and bocci ball, rock collecting on the beach, playground games, kite flying and scavenger hunts. Each program is complimentary for those guests staying under our Modified American Plan.  A fee is charged for young guests staying with the breakfast only or meal exclusive plans.  Baby sitting is also available for those under five through our Housekeeping Department.

Our Children’s Program is a great way for the kids to have fun and make new friends, and for mom and dad to enjoy a game of golf, or maybe a romantic dinner for two. Sign up at Rebecca’s Room when you arrive and let the fun begin!



Movies in the Tea Garden

Our Family Added Value Days package has always been a big hit with families looking to get away in August before the kids return to school.  With daily Ice Cream Socials, complimentary Children’s Programs, nightly family friendly movies, free golf for anyone 17 and younger, and half off golf for adults, this package has something for everyone.

This season, guests staying with us August 17, 18, and 19, will enjoy an added treat with movies in the Tea Garden.  Great Lakes Outdoor Cinemas will be showing Frozen, Despicable Me 2, and Lego Movie on the big screen (weather permitting of course). Sitting on blankets in the grass, watching movies together is the perfect time for creating treasured family memories.  Life can be hectic, and families can lose track of each other, so we strive to provide opportunities to bring you back together, to slow down, and enjoy each other.  Hopefully, we will see you at the movies this August!

Gardening with Guest Blogger Stacey Hirvela

Today’s Guest Blogger is Stacey Hirvela, marketing specialist for Spring Meadow Nursery.  Stacey is one of the guest speakers for the 2014 Grand Garden Show featuring Proven Winners.

Gardening rocks! There’s no better complement to a beautiful Michigan summer than a lush backyard, bursting with color and life (especially after the winter we had this year). For me, that means a mix of flowers AND vegetables – it’s the only way to satisfy my plant geek side and my foodie side. I’ve been growing vegetables in containers for most of my gardening life and I share my experience and ideas in my new book, Edible Spots & Pots, published by Rodale this past March. In it, I cover the details of growing edibles in containers and raised beds, sharing tips and tricks to set you up for a successful, beautiful harvest. For example, did you know that the secret to growing good cilantro like you buy at the grocery store is to grow more than one plant, and sow seeds regularly? Cilantro naturally has a very short life cycle, so to keep a continuous supply, you have to sow seed frequently. When your cilantro plant goes to seed, don’t just rip it out right away. You can let the seed turn from green to tan and sow it and grow more cilantro, or collect it and put it in a glass jar – it is the spice, coriander!

Because I work for one of the partners in the Proven Winners brand, colorful containers are pretty much a way of life. So in the book, I adapted the popular thriller-filler-spiller method of composing fabulous floral combinations to vegetables, herbs and edible flowers. The book includes over 30 “recipes” for gorgeous and edible combinations, plus all the information you need to mix up any herb or veggie that you like to grow into your own unique combo.

But I’m going to need to leave my container garden in the care of my husband (who fortunately loves to garden as well) when I head up to the Grand Hotel at the end of August for the Proven Winners Grand Garden Show. I am so excited to go back and enjoy the grounds of the Grand and all of the gorgeous private gardens on the tours. And, I get to do my favorite thing – talk about plants and gardening – for three whole days! Last year’s show was amazing, inspirational, and so much fun. I mean, who wouldn’t want to enjoy a cocktail on that legendary porch in the company of P. Allen Smith, Jon Carloftis, and Jack Barnwell – three of the nicest, funniest, most talented gardeners you’ll ever meet? I hope you can find someone to mind your garden and take the time to escape with us. It really is an unforgettable experience!

P.S. Master gardeners ( can earn 5 educational credit hours for attending!

Gayle McCracken Trunk Show

Mackinac Market will be hosting a Trunk Show July 9-19, with products created by Stampin’ Up distributor Gayle McCracken.   Gayle has been with “Stampin’ Up” since 2005 and has won awards for her designs.  What started out as a simple hobby turned into a wonderful way for Gayle to share her creative ideas by holding classes in her community.  She now has her products for sale at a local shop, and sells her creations at local events and craft shows.

For this Trunk Show, Gayle has created a variety of fun Mackinac Island specific pieces.  She offers custom note cards as well as memory books, photo albums, and craft bags.  We hope to see you there!




Shelbie, Grand Hotel’s First Female Coachman

For the first time in its long history, Grand Hotel has a female Coachman driving the Musser family’s Hackney horses.  Shelbie Mosley was raised on Mackinac Island and has been around horses her entire life.  Shelbie’s love of horses and other animals has driven her to pursue a career as a Veterinarian.  She is presently in her last year of pre-veterinarian studies at University of Findlay in Ohio, hoping to get into Michigan State University to further her education.

This is Shelbie’s fourth year working at the Grand Stables.  As a very young girl she remembers visiting the stables and falling in love with some of the very carriages she now drives.  The Hackney horses Shelbie drives are used to haul the Musser family to various Island functions, they also frequently pull our wedding carriage, and transport some VIP guests on special rides.

Hackney horses are known as the aristocrats of the show ring. They have a very high knee action, high head carriage, and are natural showmen.  The carriages that are used with these horses are over one hundred years old, and many have a great deal of history on the Island.  Shelbie considers this job not only a valuable learning experience, but a true life experience, and something she can use in her further career.