By MIKE NORTON
Whew! It was quite an athletic weekend, between the five-mile Dune Dash and the TC Waterman Challenge on Saturday and the Fourth Annual Traverse City Triathlon on Sunday.
Traverse City has become a very health-conscious community in recent years, with dozens of races and contests of strength, endurance and skill. (Not that I competed in any of these events, you understand. But boy, my fingers are tired from typing about them.)
This coming week, however, brings a competition much more in line with my own personal talents and aptitudes: it’s the Traverse City Summer Microbrew & Music Festival, which will be held Friday and Saturday on the Front Lawn of the Village at Grand Traverse Commons.
It’s probably no news to you that in addition for its growing fame as a place to enjoy great food and wine, Traverse City has been carving out a national reputation for its imaginative beers and ales. This year Draft magazine named us one of Americas’ three newest Emerging Beer Towns (along with St. Louis and Oklahoma City) and the Travel Channel called us one of North America’s Seven Top Beer Destinations. Craft brewers are suddenly multiplying across the Traverse City landscape. Last time I checked, we had nine microbreweries, brewpubs and craft brew taprooms – three of them added in the past year – with three more scheduled to open this fall.
The Old Mission and Leelanau peninsulas, already renowned for their acres of fruit trees and vineyards, are now sporting a third cash crop: hops. Grown on enormous 15- to 20-foot trellis systems, the fast-growing vines provide one of the key flavorings in beers and ales and are being snapped up by eager brewers.
So it only made sense four years ago, when the indefatigable Sam Porter announced that he was putting together the area’s first Microbrew & Music Festival, bringing together brewers and brew-lovers from around the state to sip, taste and mingle on the immense tree-shaded lawn of Traverse City’s former mental asylum. I remember how amazing that first festival was – my son Jacob happened to be home on leave from the Navy, and it was a wonderful way to spend some bonding time together.
The fun starts Friday evening at 5 p.m. with “Pint Night” and a concert featuring country star Dierks Bentley – we loved him at the Cherry Festival Bayside Stage several years ago, and he TOLD us he’d be coming back someday – as well as Rachel Holder and The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band. (Bentley has been banging out the hits for almost a decade now, ever since his “What Was I Thinkin,” reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks charts, with over 5 million album sales, 10 Grammy nominations and nine number-one singles.)
Saturday is more for the serious brewophile, with what they call an “expanded brewery experience” from 4-10 p.m. with over 50 breweries and more than 200 flavors of beer, cider, mead and wine, live local and national music acts, $1 tasting tokens (5 tokens are included with admission), a variety of local food vendors and brew-friendly pub grub, the festival’s popular Hop ‘N Brew tasting shack, a silent disco tent and special partner activities and events.
It’s a huge amount of fun in a wonderful setting — but hey, these are adult beverages, so if you’re under 21 don’t even think about trying to get in.
But if you want to combine athleticism with self-indulgence, Tuesday features an event that might be more to your taste. It’s the Ice Cream Mile, a “running ice cream social” at the Traverse City Central High School track sponsored by Moomers Homemade Ice Cream. It’s not your ordinary race, since the idea is to eat a pint of ice cream while running four laps on the high school track. This is another event where I’d rather be a spectator than a participant.
“It’s almost more fun to watch, seeing runners of all ages and abilities try to overcome both the agony of an ice cream headache, and the intensity of running or walking a mile at the same time”, says Central track/cross-country coach Lisa Taylor, who’s in charge of the event.
The race starts at 6 p.m., and there are individual races for different ages – from “half-pint” youngsters all the way up to adult men’s and women’s events. (And if you just want to sit in the stands and cheer, yeah, there’s still Moomer’s available for purchase.) To register, go to https://events.bytepro.net/The2012AnnualIceCreamMile