By MIKE NORTON
All right – that was without a doubt the strangest January weekend I’ve ever experienced! On Friday morning we had snow on the ground and temperatures in the 20s, but by Saturday morning the snow had vanished and it was sunny and warm — in the 50s. In the afternoon I took a long hike wearing only shorts, a sweater and a light jacket, but the weather started cooling off toward the end of the day and by Sunday it was cold and snowing again.
Looking out the window this morning, it’s just as wintry and monochromatic as ever. Weird.
It’s just as well that winter has reasserted itself, though, because the next few weeks will bring some extremely snow-centered activities. On Feb. 3, for instance, Women’s Winter Tour — a good-humored “celebration of women, winter and chocolate,” will be held on the scenic Leelanau Trail. The region’s two international ski races, the North American Vasa and the White Pine Stampede, are coming up on Feb. 2 and 9, respectively. And on Feb. 8-9 the Turtle Creek Casino and Hotel hosts the U.S. 27 Motorsports Snocross National, which is expected to bring 5,000 snowmobile riders and spectators to the area.
And, of course we can’t forget the fourth annual Traverse City Winter Microbrew & Music Festival on the evening of, Feb. 9.
The popular regional festival will be held from 4-10 pm in the farmer’s market lot on the north bank of the Boardman River, between Cass and Union, with multiple heated tents featuring over 50 craft breweries from around the state and more than 200 flavors of brews, wines, ciders and meads.
The Microbrew Festival is the culmination of a new “Craft Brew Week” created to celebrate Traverse City’s craft beer culture. During the week-long celebration, special food and beer pairing events, meet-and-greets with brewers, educational events and other special activities will take place throughout the city at various restaurants and venues.
Already well-known as a food and wine destination, this northern Michigan lakeshore resort community is also making fans in the burgeoning microbrew community; last year the Travel Channel ranked it among the top seven beer destinations in North America, and Draft magazine named it one of Americas’ three newest “emerging beer towns,” along with St. Louis and Oklahoma City. Five years ago, it held its first Summer Microbrew & Music Festival – and followed up the next year with a winter version.
The festival will highlight live musical acts on multiple stages — including the Lowdown Brass Band, Funktion, The Crane Wives, Billy Strings, Laith Al-Saadi, DJ DomiNate (and his renowned laser light show), the Grand Traverse Pipes & Drums and local fire dancers – as well as polka tents, snow forts, winter decorations, local food vendors, and a “silent disco” where dancers are issued wireless headphones through which music is broadcast via an FM transmitter and nobody else has to listen.
Free shuttle service will be available to and from the nearby Old Town parking deck and participating hotel partners, and 100% of alcohol sales from the event will be donated to Bay Area Recycling for Charities, a local non-profit recycling service.
Festival promoter Sam Porter, who started the first Winter Microbrew & Music Festival four years ago, says the new “Craft Brew Week” and a series of after-parties at select downtown venues (Union Street Station, ECCO and Brew) on Feb. 8-9 should help festival attendees connect with the town’s existing microbrew scene.
“Our goal is to have another sold-out festival and help drive thousands of residents and visitors to downtown retailers, bars and restaurants during an otherwise slow week in February,” he said.
Complete festival details, ticket information and announcements on Craft Brew Week events can be found online at www.porterhouseproductions.com, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/porterhouse.mi and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/porterhouseprod.