When people make their plans to visit Beaver Island, they generally have three target times. If they can get here for the Fourth of July, they can see how many people can fit on the Island by counting heads at the Parade. Homecoming offers them the opportunity to rediscover why they've held a grudge against someone who might be their second cousin for forty-two years. But Museum Week allows them to sit back and relax while a few more pieces in the mosaic of our heritage are filled in.
This year the staff of the Historical Society knew they were headed for good things when the weather finally cooperated for Monday night's traditional Music on the Porch. After several stormy years it was held on a balmy night, and each of the dozen musicians responded with an excellent performance. Glen Hendrix set a high tone at the onset with a half-dozen Irish jigs, followed by Signe Thomas' tap-dancing routine. Folk singers were abundant, including Island troubadour Barry Pischner, who included his song on the Bradley, which appears in the new history book, Volume 5. The two most appreciated acts were Northern Lights, four Island women (Mary Kay McPherson, Wendy White, Patty Cull, and Nancy Butler) who harmonize and play bass and guitar, and the Community Choir chorale group, well coached by Kathy Speck, which fit together all the parts of their songs with great depth and nuance.
Once again Antje Price played a prominent role, contributing a Door Prize for the art show (won by Ruth Benjamin), opening the Protar Home two afternoons, and talking about slides she made from pictures she has taken over the last fifty years during her annual visit. She has a fine eye, and the background to be able to see things in a broad context and anticipate what will become important.
CMU also played a major role. In addition to letting the Historical Society sponsor its regular schedule of Nature Walks, it ran three more during Museum Week--with all the proceeds going to the BIHS. And the most popular presentation, once again, was Jim Gillingham's mesmerizing presentation of Amazing Amphibians and Reptiles. This show is a must for kids, who once again squealed in delight as the snakes were brought down the aisles by Jim's assistants and the panic-stricken parents scrambled for the door.
Wednesday saw two interrelated themes: John Lorenzen's afternoon talk about the correspondence between Celtic culture and Native American Life, and, in the evening, Andrew Jacob's analysis of Beaver Island's stone circles. John listed affinities in art, music, and religion that implied these two disparate cultures had evolved along parallel paths. Then Andrew took this line of thought one step father. After introducing a recent discovery of a stone configuration that mirrors the constellation Virgo, with the stones' size chosen to represent the brightness of the stars, he brought forth evidence, at first anecdotal but then somewhat specific, that Celts came to midwest America and marked their arrival on Beaver Island by rearranging rocks to hold ceremonies of thanks and transformation here.
Robert Cole's presentation of his continuing Oral History work was very well received. Especially the tape of Earl Gallagher, who told the story of an infirm Islander during Prohibition who turned to moonshining to make a living, and did well enough to buy a new Ford when the uninsured one he owned was in a barn that burned down. He was finally caught, but the judge sympathized with him and only gave him a fine, saying "How could I put a poor soul like you into prison?" "So, he never made moonshine again?" Robert was heard to ask. Earl corrected him with his reply: "Not so, but he was never caught again."
The Ray Denny Memorial Art Show was a success, as was the Pet Show, in which a dozen pets won certificates of honor. Throughout the week old-time Islanders arrived and introduced themselves; plenty of Culls and O'Donnells, the daughter of Barney Mooney, some Strang descendants, and the granddaughter, from San Jose, of Agnes Bird's sister, her first time here to see the place that plays such a prominent role in her family's stories. This is another reason why Museum Week is so important, besides raising funds and promulgating information about the Historical Society's projects: it makes it possible for people to more firmly touch their roots.
And of course it would not have been possible without the strong continuing support of the merchants, particularly the Emerald Isle Hotel, the Bluebird, Haggards, McDonough's, Dick Burris, Ron Wojan, the Boat-Tique, John Works' Golf Course, Ray and Grace Matela, Roy Ellsworth, Out on a Limb, Rich Gillespie, the Beaver Boat-Tique, Dick Burris, Johnny B, Montaage, and the Charlevoix State Bank. Thanks to their generosity, Museum Week was an unqualified success.
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