Editor's note: This article was published in Grand Traverse Scene magazine's Fall 2018 issue. Pick up a free copy at area hotels, visitor's centers, chambers of commerce or at the Record-Eagle building on Front Street. Click here to read GT Scene in its entirety online.
East Jordan owns the fall.
Just ask East Jordan Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Mary Faculak.
Faculak said her city — as well as nearby Atwood and Ellsworth — is a good place to be between September and November. That's when a variety of activities help usher in the fall season along the south arm of Lake Charlevoix and the mouth of the Jordan River.
“People of all ages, whether you live here or come up annually, (find) there’s always something new to experience,” Faculak said. “There’s so many things to do."
The Fall Festival takes place Sept. 29, a week after the official first day of autumn. Residents and visitors flock to Tourist Park for music, an art contest, hay rides and other rites of passage for the new season.
Faculak said there’s "something for everyone” at the family-friendly festival.
Another autumnal event is the Pumpkin Festival, which takes place from 5-7 p.m. Oct. 17. Kids can wear their Halloween costumes for early trick-or-treating on Main Street. Activities also include games and a baking contest.
“Last year was our first year that we did it,” Faculak said. “We get people from neighboring communities, especially for the early trick-or-treating. They love it.”
Whether visitors drive around Lake Charlevoix or follow the Jordan River, Faculak said there are many scenic places to see the yellow, orange and red leaves.
Another option is taking a drive on the "Breezeway" — a 26-mile route from Atwood to Boyne Falls. Faculak said five nature preserves provide sites and hiking opportunities along County Road 48.
“There is also hiking and rustic camping in the Jordan Valley,” she added.
Area businesses, organizations and residents post scarecrows outside their facilities to welcome drivers along the Breezeway. These are usually in place by the end of September.
Faculak said wineries and orchards like Friske's Farm Market in Ellsworth offer apple cider, donuts and more.
“You come across the Breezeway at your own pace,” she said. “People can choose their own adventure or experience.”
Fall color tour maps and other information are available at the East Jordan Area Chamber of Commerce.
Later in the season Christmas shoppers can get an early start at the Jordan River Arts Council’s Holiday Craft Fair. The annual event — Nov. 10 this year — takes place at the East Jordan High School and features crafts made by 40-50 artists.
“Any artisan in Michigan or really anywhere can participate,” said Howard Ellis, a former arts council board member, noting that originality is key. "Items cannot be ordered from China or anything. They make their own stuff — from granola to wreaths. It’s a Christmas-y theme, but there’s all kinds of stuff.”
The day also includes lunch, which Ellis said is popular with bptj vendors and customers. Soup and sandwiches are available starting around 10:30 a.m.
East Jordan is also home to Raven Hill Discovery Center. The facility is one of six locations in the state to host the traveling Water/Ways exhibit, a collaboration between the Smithsonian Institution and the Michigan Humanities Council that started making its way around the country in 2016.
Founder and CEO Cheri Leach said the exhibit celebrates a prevalent element in northern Michigan: water.
“It is all about the science and culture of water,” Leach said. “We get to do a local panel, so ours is focused on Lake Charlevoix. It goes right into the Michigan panel.”
The exhibit also features a national panel with topics like the history and chemistry of water and climate change.
The discovery center will offer related programs and events throughout the fall, including a garden party and artwork auction set for Sept. 22. Leach said kids and adults can create "fish" to auction off.
The Water/Ways exhibit is part of the Museum on Main Street program and is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily through Sept. 23. Leach said speakers and hands-on workshops are on the events calendar every weekend.
“We hope people will come enjoy some of the connections to water,” she said.