2017-07-13 / Front Page

Island Hosts Large Crowds July 2 - 5

By Cathryn Lien
Mackinac Island Town Crier

Visitors came in droves to Mackinac Island during the long Independence Day weekend, a period Shepler’s Mackinac Island Ferry President Chris Shepler described as the busiest days for his company since the 1980s. Other Island businesses also say July 2 through July 5 were their busiest days of the season, so far.

On July 3, Shepler’s rotated all four of the company’s ferries every hour from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m., each boat filled to capacity. On Shepler’s parking lots, 95% of the slots were full during the peak hours of July 3, the day before the Island’s Independence Day celebration. On July 5, the number of visitors boarding ferries to and from the Island was up 15%.

“In all my years, I haven’t seen this many visitors come through in one day,” Mr. Shepler said.

Businesses usually report less traffic July 4, as most families are home watching fireworks or those visiting Mackinac Island have reserved rooms and will stay for more than a day.

Mr. Shepler recalls a similar high-volume day in the 1980s, when Shepler’s lacked the infrastructure to handle such large influxes of visitors. Now that Shepler’s can accommodate larger passenger volumes, he can see just how busy this year’s holiday period was for Mackinac Island.

Star Line Ferry officials also say July 3 and July 4 were busier this year than in past years. According to Lora Brown, sales and marketing manager for Star Line, five ferries from St. Ignace rotated all day July 3, including boats they hadn’t planned to have in the rotation.

“We’re thankful that all of our boats were able to operate that day. It was one of our best days,” Mrs. Brown said.

Tim Hygh, CEO of the Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau, confirmed that July 3 was a bustling day for the city’s candy shops and attractions.

“Every fudge shop on the Island had a long waiting line,” Mr. Hygh said.

Ryba’s, Joann’s, and Murdick’s fudge shops all reported that this year’s July 4 weekend was busier than previous years, with a significant increase in sales July 3.

At Lucky Bean Café, July 3 was by far the busiest of the weekend this summer. While the rush of business at the Market Street coffee shop was a bit unexpected, owner Carolyn May said her team of baristas worked well under the pressure.

“The day ran smoothly and we were able to handle the crowds,” Ms. May said.

Mackinac Island’s Independence Day attractions included the International Stone Skipping Tournament on Windermere Point, Fort Mackinac’s Star Spangled Fourth of July celebration, and Grand Hotel’s American Picnic on Fort Mackinac’s Parade Grounds.

Grand Hotel marketing director Julie Rogers said 1,341 people booked the old-fashioned Fourth of July package, checking in July 2 and checking out July 5. The package deal included meal tickets to Grand Hotel’s American Picnic on July 4. Ms. Rogers said this was one of the busiest weekends of the 2017 season for the hotel, which also hosts major conventions each summer.

“The more the merrier” proved to be the theme of this year’s bustling holiday weekend, with tourists and Island resident coming together Independence Day evening to watch fireworks, an American tradition. The Island’s public fireworks display drew hundreds, lining the dock near Windermere Point to watch the show.

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