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No place celebrates Memorial Weekend and the start of the Pure Michigan summer season quite like the Straits of Mackinac. For nearly 60 years, this community has hosted America’s longest-running, free Memorial Day historical program in the United States. The Memorial Pageant Weekend has been running consecutively since 1962 (although the first, small-scale pageant was first held in July 1933) and has entertained families for generations during this three-day event—Saturday, May 25 through Monday, May 27.
During this costumed live action portrayal, volunteers bring to life the June 2, 1763 battle between the French, British and Native Americans which helped shape the history not only of this “Crossroads of the Great Lakes,” but of the entire state of Michigan, the Midwest and America. More than 200 reenactors bring history to life during scheduled performances throughout the weekend at Colonial Michilimackinac, set along the shores where Lake Michigan and Lake Huron converge.
There’s even a fun game of baggataway planned, today better known as Lacrosse. This sport was actually highlighted once on the Travel Channel show “Mysteries at the Museum” as it was used as a ruse during the uprising at Fort Michilimackinac in 1763 (sometimes called Pontiac’s War). As the story goes, the local Ojibwa staged a game outside the Fort only to have the ball “accidentally” fly over the wall during play. When they were permitted inside to retrieve it (armed with concealed weapons that their women had been hiding), the Ojibwa overtook the British and maintained control of the Fort until September the following, year when it was reoccupied by the British.
Honoring local veterans, specifically those who were casualties of war, the annual Mackinaw Memorial Parade, steps off on Saturday, May 26 at 1pm from Conkling Heritage Park, near the Municipal Marina. More than 100 combined floats, bands, clowns, queens, reenactors and other entertainers from around the Great Lakes region follow a route that travels down Huron Avenue to Central Avenue to Nicolet Street at Colonial Michilimackinac.
Fireworks are planned at dusk that evening, at Conkling Heritage Park on South Huron Avenue along the shores of Lake Huron.
On Monday, May 27, a brief and informal Memorial Day observance, paying tribute to the soldiers who served at Fort Mackinac, takes place on Mackinac Island. Soldiers assembles at 8:30am at Fort Mackinac, march to the Post Cemetery, perform a short ceremony and salute, and then return to the fort. Ferry service from Mackinaw City to Mackinac Island is available at 7:30am from both Shepler’s Ferry and Star Line Ferry.
A Memorial Day Service is also planned at 10am on Monday at Conkling Heritage Park in Mackinaw City.
A detailed schedule of events can be found online here: https://www.mackinawcity.com/events/memorial-weekend-pageant/.
For lodging reservations for Memorial weekend, or throughout the summer season, visit MackinawCity.com/stay/.