The Grand Experience: Celebrating 50 years of travel, partnership and family

This story is written by Ann Conklin, Executive Director of mParks. She shares the history and relationship between the Michigan Recreation and Park Association and Grand Hotel for the past fifty years. More than 150,000 seniors have visited since 1967 to experience Grand Hotel! We appreciate the partnership and the tradition it has become for so many every year. Today marks the arrival of one of 4 trips this year. Thank you mParks for fifty years, we look forward to fifty more!

50 year Grand Experience logo

Read more from Ann about the golden relationship and how the program started in 1967 with Dan Musser, Jr.:

The Grand Experience: Celebrating 50 years of travel, partnership and family

Fifty years is the golden anniversary and the partnership between Grand Hotel and the Michigan Recreation and Park Association (mParks) is certainly golden. The Grand Experience is a travel program offered across the state through local parks and recreation departments.   The trip provides seniors the opportunity to experience the grandeur and magic of Grand Hotel and step back in time with the history and quaintness of Mackinac Island.  As we celebrate the 50th year of the partnership, it is impossible not to reflect on the history, friendship and growth of the program.

group photo

The idea of the Grand Experience was born during the summer of 1967.  Grand Hotel was looking to extend its season into the fall and local parks and recreation agencies were looking for new and affordable travel opportunities for their seniors. Jon Kipke who was chair of the mParks Seniors Committee, met Mr. Musser, Jr.  in Escanaba, MI at a meeting and together the idea of the Grand Experience was born  (the trip was originally named “Annual Senior Citizen Get-Together at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island.”. )  

That first year, mParks sold the trip to approximately 200 seniors but Grand Hotel was expecting 100 people!. Grand Hotel, as they always do, worked its magic to find rooms around the island for the overflow guests as well as providing a special lunch to all of the travelers. The Grand Experience continued to grow, offering multiple trips a year to seniors across Michigan and beyond.

Since 1967, mParks has sent more than 150,000 seniors to the Grand Hotel. Each fall the Hotel staff becomes an extension of the Association’s. The fifty year partnership between mParks and Grand Hotel is amazing and gets stronger by the year. There have been highs and lows but throughout the fifty years it has been a viable and valuable partnership. Grand Hotel and mParks are synonymous and mParks is proud of the partnership. mParks would not be the Association it is what it is without Grand Hotel.

Bocci ball in the Tea Garden
Bocci ball in the Tea Garden


While the Grand Experience is only a sliver of the Grand Hotel’s 130 year history, the long partnership is a tradition that is unique and important.  Grand Hotel carried mParks through some rough waters, both figuratively and literally.

“One fond memory that I recall is when we were on the boat on our way to the Grand and the steering system went out. We bobbed in the water for two hours!” said Joan Pawlukiewicz, Grand Experience Trip Leader for the City of Flat Rock. “What was nice was when we walked that red carpet on the way in, Mr. Musser was right there to open the doors. We were too late for lunch and too early for dinner but he and made sure we had hot soup, tea and mini sandwiches before dinner.  It was a great experience for me, I will always remember that.”

kitchen tour
Behind the scenes kitchen tour

On September 26th of this year, mParks will launch the first of four trips of the season. More than 1,800 seniors will be participating in the Grand Experience this year.  The City of Dearborn will be celebrating its 50th consecutive trip and some travelers will be visiting for the 30th time! They are excited to visit with their favorite hotel staff, stake out the perfect rocking chair on the porch and indulge in the Grand Pecan Ball; while others will be joining for the very first time, not yet aware of the magic and awe the Grand Hotel will provide. 

Ann Conklin,
Executive Director
mParks – Michigan Recreation & Park Association

M Parks logo

Michigan Historical Commission Award presented to Grand Hotel Chairman, Dan Musser, Jr.

Milliken Adams Kelley Michigan Historial Commission Award

Thursday September 14, 2017 the late Dan Musser, Jr. was honored with the Milliken/Adams/Kelley award by the Michigan Historical Commission. The Musser family hosted a  reception on the Front Porch where Michigan Historical Commission member Joseph Calvaruso presented the award to the family.

Joseph Calvaruso
Joseph Calvaruso

 Launched by the Michigan Historical Commission in commemoration of its centennial, the signature award is named for three public servants who exhibited grace, devotion and determination: Governor, William G. Milliken, Michigan Historical Commissioner Elizabeth Sparks Adam,  and Attorney General Frank J. Kelley.

Mr. Musser was recognized with this honorary award for his visionary service and life long understanding, promotion, and preservation of Michigan history.

giving award



Dan Musser, III addressing guests at the reception:



guests at reception

Thank you to the Michigan Historical Commission and everyone who attended the reception to recognized the late Dan Musser, Jr with this honorary award.