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On this day in Michigan, one hundred and seventy six years ago, our favorite state became the 26th of 50 to join the Union. As you’re aware, we’ve had a journey of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit proportions since 1837: inventions, industry, elections, stardom, and a lot of snow and swimming.
In elementary school I always learned about the place we now know as Michigan before it became a state. We’ve flown French, Spanish, and British flags and were primarily inhabited by the Native Americans until the Seven Year War…but today we’re going to focus on life after 1837. What we’ve accomplished, what we’re known for, and why we have good reason to be proud of the last 176 years.
Let’s have a small refresher course on Michigan technicalities. In our Mitten of almost ten million people, we have 83 counties that cover 57,000 square miles. We recognize the robin, the white pine, the Petoskey stone, the painted turtle and the apple blossom as our state’s bird, tree, rock, reptile and flower, respectively. We have four comprehensive seasons that encompass temperatures that range from -25 to 106 degrees Fahrenheit. We’re known to many as the “Wolverine State” which is interesting because the last wolverine sighting was in 2007. Speaking of wolverines, the University of Michigan was actually founded in 1817 and moved from Detroit to Ann Arbor in our birth year, 1837. In case you’ve lived under a rock or bridge your entire life, I will state the obvious by saying that the two Michigan college teams, U of M and MSU, “enjoy” one of the bitterest of rivalries on this side of the Atlantic.
Michigan, based on the Native American word “Michigana”, means great or large lake. Not surprising, considering we house more than 11,000 inland lakes, 36,000 miles of streams and 3,126 miles of shoreline on 4/5 of the Great Lakes. We boast 115 lighthouses and over a thousand campgrounds. Not to mention Torch Lake, which National Geographic dubbed the third most beautiful lake in the world. Swimmers, boaters, fishers, water-skiers, sunbathers and rock collectors can rejoice on almost any beach in Michigan (for about three months a year). Snowmobilers, skiers, snowboarders, ice fishers, hockey players and sledders also get their fun in the sun…when our beloved state freezes completely solid. Mother nature keeps it pretty even and offers these enthusiasts a minimum of three months also.
All of the fun-loving Michigan residents hauling around their families and trailers needed a way to alternate between peninsulas. The Mackinac Bridge, opened to traffic in 1957, provided that link. At five miles long, it was the world’s longest suspension bridge.
The first automobile assembly line in 1913 changed the way people all over the states travel. While cars are a Detroit staple, other parts of both peninsulas are known for their sizable contributions to the cereal, hardware, and furniture industries. Our state is a gold mine for everything but gold: iron, copper, iodine, gypsum, bromine, salt, lime, gravel and cement. Our edible gifts to all include apples, cherries, beans, pears, grapes, potatoes and sugar beets. Don’t forget…you also may get your Christmas tree from us. That’s 21 industries, one state. SO COOL.
Have you ever noticed that almost everyone in Michigan has encountered a famous person? That’s because so many superstars are from here! All sorts of entertainers, athletes, innovators, politicians and entrepreneurs were raised in the beautiful Mitten. To name a few: Robin Williams, Tim Allen, Gerald Ford, Henry Ford, Magic Johnson, Stevie Wonder, Eminem, Charles Lindbergh and Madonna. Their accomplishments speak for themselves.
The people I’ve come to respect most in Michigan, however, are the ones who keep the communities running, who support local businesses, who recycle and have gardens and help their kids with their math homework. I love that people come visit from out of state and keep exclaiming “Everyone is so nice here!”, just because a cashier asked how their day is going. I love that you can find a farmers market within a thirty mile radius on any given day and that vendors hand kids flowers and apples to keep them busy. While writing for the Awesome Mitten, I’ve encountered a lot of people who see a need and meet it. And that’s what makes Michigan a good place to be.
The official Michigan motto sums up my thoughts on Michigan’s day of birth exactly: “If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look around you”. Today, appreciate where you are lucky to be living! Maybe eat a cupcake, or take a walk. If you’re close to one of our Birthday Party locations, come show the love there! The Awesome Mitten is celebrating in Detroit, Ann Arbor, Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, Lansing, Traverse City, and Marquette today. Thanks to our readers for reminding us why we love writing about our Awesome Mitten…and finally-
HAPPY 176TH BIRTHDAY MICHIGAN!!!!