2017-08-03 / Front Page

MINIs Go for Big Goal at St. Ignace

The Small Cars Will Aim To Set World Record With Saturday Bridge Crossing
By Erich T. Doerr

When the MINI brand of cars comes to mind, the images that come with it are usually of them in their native England, zipping through the busy city streets of London. But Saturday, August 5, will see the little cars trading the London Bridge for the Mackinac Bridge in an attempt to set a very big record. The third MINI on the Mack car parade will attempt to set the world record for the largest gathering ever of MINI-branded cars.

This year’s parade will begin and end in St. Ignace at Little Bear East Arena. The event is designed to be enjoyable, time no matter what the outcome of the record attempt is. The procession will set off from the arena at 10 a.m. and make its way north on the I-75 Business Loop through Evergreen Shores to reach the highway, then head south to bridge and the Lower Peninsula. The 19-mile route will take them down I-75 to Levering’s Exit 326, marked by the Sea Shell City gift shop, before the cars turn around and return to St. Ignace at their leisure; the trip back north is not in parade formation. A police escort will accompany the MINIs on their way to Exit 326. The procession will need at least 1,451 cars to break the current world record set by a short 2009 parade in London’s Crystal Palace Park to mark the 50th anniversary of the MINI.

St. Ignace Events Committee and the Sharpe Collection, the owners of several car dealerships including MINI of Grand Rapids, are the organizers of this year’s parade. MINI USA is providing some additional support to the cause and its effort bring the world record “across the pond” to the eastern side of the Atlantic Ocean. The event is expected to draw more than 2,000 people into the Straits area. The parade is open to all MINI branded vehicles. More than 1,170 MINIs had already registered for the crossing as of last week, including a few classic models.

“This event brings in a lot of people for the weekend. It will have a lot of economic benefit for the area,” St. Ignace Visitors Bureau Director Quincy Ranville said. “Many of the drivers will make…day trips during their stay.”

The number of MINIs in this year’s parade is expected to be close to the 1,450-car record. The first parade in 2013 attracted 848, cars with the number rising to 1,319 in 2015. The Sharpe Collection is handling registration. On-site registration for the parade on the show weekend will be available at Little Bear from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, August 4. Registration will reopen at 7 a.m. Saturday. All MINIs are instructed to be in place and ready to depart by 9:30 a.m.

“Our numbers are getting close to the record,” said Erin Welsh of Sharpe, noting that registration is pacing ahead of the 2015 parade. “We are getting a lot of feedback, [and] people are sharing the event a lot on social media.”

Mrs. Ranville said each bridge crossing event brings something different to St. Ignace, and she loves the club-like atmosphere that MINI owners have, similar to the one among those who own Jeeps. The camaraderie spreads between people from all walks of life.

“The community feel of MINI enthusiasts makes it a unique brand,” Ms. Welsh said. “It’s a cool event to get so many people together who have a common interest.”

Those wishing to view the parade will likely find the best views will be available alongside the Mackinac Bridge in locations like Bridge View Park. Mrs. Ranville expects that most of the spectators for the event will be local residents. While no longer in parade formation, the MINIs will return to St. Ignace at about 11 a.m., crossing the bridge again before heading into downtown on their way back to the arena.

The public will also be able to see the MINIs at Little Bear before they depart. The first MINIs will begin arriving for the parade at about 6 a.m. While the arena’s main parking lots will all be filled with MINIs, spectators will be able to park across the street. A disc jockey will be provide music and coffee and doughnuts will be available for purchase.

Due to crowd size concerns, most of the events being held in conjunction with MINI on the Mack are exclusively for the event’s participants, including a lunch at Little Bear from noon to 2 p.m. im- mediately after the parade. There will be an after-party for the parade at the St. Ignace Marina from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. The party is open to members of the public if they purchase a $5 wristband for admission.

The five-hour period between lunch and the party will see a scavenger hunt available to the MINI drivers. Seven colored signs will be hung in local businesses that belong to the St. Ignace Chamber of Commerce, with participants challenged to find all of them. Once the signs are located, participants will need to photograph them and post the images to an online photography site. Those who find and photograph all the signs can show their photographs to the staff at the party to be entered into a drawing for a chance to win a Mackinac Bridge tower tour.

The MINI parade is only held every other year to avoid conflict with the MINI Takes the States rally held in even numbered years. The route for the States rally varies year to year, and it came across the Mackinac Bridge and through St. Ignace in July 2016, in part to tie in and promote this year’s MINI on the Mack. Planning has already begun to bring the parade back to St. Ignace in 2019, including increasing the side trip options, possibly adding MINI get-togethers in other communities.

Ms. Welsh said this year’s MINI on the Mack has a charity tie-in to raise funds for the Van Andel Institute Purple Community and its Parkinson’s disease research efforts. People can make donations to the charity in exchange for merchandise from the event; the campaign had already raised almost $4,000 as of last week.

During the days after the parade, the MINI drivers who take part in it will be offered the opportunity for extra trips across the Upper Peninsula with discounted admission to area attractions. One offers an excursion to the Paradise and Newberry area with discounted admission available to the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum and the Tahquamenon Logging Museum, plus local St. Ignace attractions the Deer Ranch and the Mystery Spot. A free admission to Castle Rock also comes with this package. A package for Sault Ste. Marie offers discounts at the Museum Ship Valley Camp, the Tower of History, the River of History Museum, and the Soo Locks Boat Tours. The third package offers a trip to the Seney and Munising area including discounts at the Pictured Rocks Cruises, Glass Bottom Shipwreck Tours, and the Riptide Ride.

The MINI-themed fun will continue in St. Ignace Sunday evening, August 6, as the 2003 film “The Italian Job” will be this week’s Outdoor Movie by the Bay in American Legion Park. The film’s stars a trio of modified MINI Coopers as the heroes’ getaway vehicles for its climatic car chase. The free film will begin at dusk and free popcorn will be available.

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