by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL
For the ninth year in a row your locally owned and original hometown newspaper, The Rockford Squire, was present Labor Day morning to participate in the 54th annual Labor Day Mackinac Bridge Walk.
Wanting to be in the first wave of walkers on Labor Day morning, we awoke at 4 a.m. in the middle of the night to drag ourselves out of bed, shower, down ½ a bagel (Herman’s Boy, of course) with ½ cup of bad motel coffee and head off to the bus staging area to grab a seat on the first group of 5 buses to transport walkers across the Mighty Mac to the walk’s origin in St. Ignace in the U.P., eh.
A throng of 36,000 people was on hand to walk the bridge that morning, down from 42,000 in 2010. The lesser number perhaps, was the result of the poor economy, high gas prices, unseasonably cool and windy weather, or a combination of all three.
Never the less, the traditional bridge walk faithful always show up, some year after year, to participate in what for many is an event on their “bucket list”.
So promptly at 7 a.m., following a select group of Michigan runners, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, along with an entourage of 100+ staff and supporters, headed off over the bridge towards the finish line in Mackinaw City aided by a strong wind at their backs.
This wasn’t a political event, but never the less, the Governor and his party all sported lime green t-shirts with a sprinting dog and the words, “We work in dog years.” For the uninitiated the analogy was meant to convey that the Governor and his party had accomplished more in one year than previous administrations had accomplished in seven. You know the old expression; “a dog lives the equivalent of seven human years in one year of its life”.
Shortly after the start of the walk, your reporters overtook and worked their way through the governor’s party. Being very competitive, we found ourselves with a select few people striving to reach the walk’s finish line in their personal best time. Toward that goal, we achieved admirably, finishing the 5-mile walk in 59 minutes, 36 seconds. Our bridge walk completion certificates, awarded to every finisher, were numbered 81 & 82 consecutively out of 36,000 participants. (Eat your heart out Neil Blakeslee; consider this a challenge for 2012.)
Being in front of the Governor’s party had its rewards as we were able to reach the finish line some 3 minutes ahead of Governor Snyder. In doing so we were able to position ourselves to take pictures as he crossed the finish line and watch as he lingered for a while to sign autographs on special certificates awarded to the phalanx of supporters who accompanied him across the bridge.
We, ourselves, were in a perfect position to get the Governor’s autograph and also that of Lt. Governor Brian Calley.
Proceeding on after a much needed “pit” stop, we were off to breakfast at Darrow’s, Mackinaw City’s famous eatery. Plentiful and affordable, you really need to check it out.
After breakfast, we joined the maddening crowd of tourists taking in all that Mackinaw City has to offer (bring your wallets). Along the way we happened across Sparta resident, Robert Shangle, who was in town for the 3-day Labor Day weekend for a sidewalk performance as LiveStatue at Mackinaw Crossings Mall. Is there anyone in West Michigan who has not seen and been amazed at the bronzed and immobilized human statue?
Now statues don’t talk, but we were able to read its mind and the statue told us that he was a Top 25-finisher in last year’s Grand Rapids ArtPrize competition. Thousands were awed and amazed at his staying power in front of The B.O.B. in downtown Grand Rapids during the annual 18-day art extravaganza.
Hoping to finish in the Top 10 in this year’s ArtPrize competition, the LiveStatue will again appear at The B.O.B., in the company of two friends – all bronzed. This year instead of his trusty bicycle and faithful dog statue, Shangle will appear for the first time ever with his son, statue apprentice Jasper Shangle, and a real statue depicting a third person – A.R.T. (Artistic Replica of TrueLife).
LiveStatue is building on the future and will appear in a work of art titled, “Under Construction” presenting a scene that is common in West Michigan; where things are constantly changing, rebuilding, and improving. LiveStatue told us the trio would be depicted working on scaffolding undertaking a construction project.
Sounds like something worthy of our vote, how about yours? From September 21 – October 9, 2011, “Under Construction” will be on display for your admiration and consideration for a Top 10 ArtPrize finish in the parking lot in front of the B.O.B. This Sparta area resident deserves your votes. After all, many Sparta residents voted for Rockford’s Farm Market in the America’s Favorite Farmers Market contest and you know where that led.