Driving through Leelanau County with the windows down, I’m on a mission to find out what half-marathons and microbrew beers have in common. The answer, it seems, lies in what is shaping up to be one of the most exciting and soon-to-be talked about summer events in Northern Michigan.
As I slow my car to cross the narrow stretch of M22 that becomes a boat-surrounded bridge, Glen Lake’s surface glows, its endless shades of turquoise lapping against docks and reflecting the green hills that embrace it. It’s then that I enter the cozy town of Glen Arbor, nestled up to the dramatic Sleeping Bear Dunes and the Lake Michigan shore.
Inside Art’s Tavern, a local hangout where everybody knows everybody, I sit down with Molly Connolly, the Marketing Director for the Glen Lake Chamber of Commerce. Over summery salads, we chat about why on Saturday, June 16th, Glen Arbor will be the place to celebrate the summer solstice in Michigan.
Starting at 7am, Endurance Evolution will be hosting the first-ever Glen Arbor Solstice Half-Marathon and 5K Race. The half-marathon (13.1 miles) will start and end in downtown Glen Arbor. And participants’ breath won’t just be taken away by the thirteen mile run. Connolly describes the route, which wraps around Big Glen Lake, taking runners along its beautiful shoreline and up to Inspiration Point, which offers sweeping views of Glen Lake, Lake Michigan, and the majestic white sand of the Sleeping Bear Dunes. The 5K run/walk course is flat, taking runners though the streets of charming downtown Glen Arbor.
But the races are only a warm up for the rest of the day. At 12 noon, the first ever summertime Glen Arbor BBQ and Brew Festival will kick off at the corner of M22 and Lake Street in downtown Glen Arbor. Connolly explains why this event, usually held in the fall, has been moved to June to coincide with the marathon event. “I want this to be a huge beginning-of-summer party,” she tells me.
And what better way is there to celebrate than with sunshine, barbecue, and beer? Delicious BBQ dishes will be provided by local food producers such as Cherry Republic, Western Avenue Grill, Foothills Café, and more. As Connolly tells me that festival-goers can expect summer favorites such barbecued chicken and pulled pork sandwiches, I can already smell the fiery grills and taste the tangy, sweet, and smoky flavors of summer.
“Ok, now tell me about the beer!” I say. After all, what’s a pork sandwich without a cold beer? Bell’s, Founders, Jolly Pumpkin, Right Brain, and many more will be on hand, or, shall I say, on tap, with samples of special summer brews and other favorites to cool your palate, warm your soul, and toast the beginning of everyone’s favorite season. With live music, a dance floor, and an expected 1,000 attendees, this is one party you won’t want to miss.
Information about tickets to the BBQ and Brew Festival, which ends at 6pm, can be found on the event’s website, and information about how to register for the half-marathon and 5K can be found on Endurance Evolution’s website.
Connolly encourages patrons to make a day (or weekend!) of these events by enjoying Glen Arbor and its surrounding areas, including miles of hiking trails and beaches along the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
“I have visions of this festival getting huge,” says Connolly. “So many people are excited to come here now, since Sleeping Bear Dunes was named the most beautiful place in the country. These events will be a great way to introduce people to this beautiful place.”
–Ariana Hendrix, Feature Writer