From the pages of the Crawford County Avalanche: 2019 Year In Review
Two different murder cases. New elected officials. Many changes at the Crawford AuSable School District, including a new superintendent and a new principal. The issue of contaminated water. AuSable Artisan Village activities. The Viking Activity Center project. Expansion of the road commission board from three to five. Plans for significant downtown redevelopment. A renovation project at Hanson Hills. The passing of longtime Crawford County Sheriff Kirk A. Wakefield. Construction on M-72. Return of Smokey the Bear to Grayling. The 100th anniversary of the state park system in Michigan. The reopening of the Hartwick Pines State Park Memorial Building. Grayling High School graduation. A major expansion of the Crawford County Library building. Progress at Kirtland, including moving more of its programs to the Grayling campus. The Michelson Church bell tower project. False bomb threats to local facilities in an effort to divert police from an out of town bank robbery. The Commission on Aging’s search for a new building.
Many new businesses opened in the Grayling area during 2019. Others – including Big Boy, Kmart, and Hallmark – closed their doors.
Annual events like the community Thanksgiving Dinner, the Chamber of Commerce awards, the AuSable River Festival, Forest of Fear, the Lovells Bridge Walk, Relay For Life, the Christmas Walk, and the Festival of Trees. The buck pole. Trout season opening day.
In sports action, the Grayling High School wrestling team won its seventh consecutive Lake Michigan Conference title and had six individual league champions. The wrestling team also won a district title, and had four individual state qualifiers, including one who placed 2nd at the state finals. A new all-time record for volleyball. Announcement of the Viking Award winners. The football team won the Guardian Trophy again. Several new all-time softball records.
Coverage of the many local canoe races: the Spike’s Challenge, the Business Relays, HUP, the Special Olympics Challenge, the Paddle Battle, and the 120-mile AuSable River Canoe Marathon.
Dozens of cross country skiers competed in the Cote Dame Marie Ski Loppet at Hanson Hills, and more than 170 cyclists participated in the annual Black Bear Gran Fondo. GRA’s 10K/5K had more than 140 runners, and its Firecracker Fun Run had a record number of participants. A new event at Hanson Hills – the Ragnar Trail Relay – featured more than 1,000 runners.
Just a few of the things that the Crawford County Avalanche covered last year. With 2019 coming to an end, the Avalanche presents its annual Year In Review feature.
(Story summaries in the Year In Review are listed according to the edition in which the article appeared.)
Grayling High School senior Brianna Martin signed a national letter of intent with Siena Heights University. Martin will be running cross country, indoor track, and outdoor track for the Siena Heights Saints next year. Siena Heights is based in Adrian, Michigan. For Grayling High School, Martin qualified individually for the cross country state finals in 2017 and 2018. She also holds the Grayling High School girls cross country record for best time (19:42), a mark she established while finishing in second place at regionals in 2018.
A Crawford Partnership for Substance Abuse Prevention billboard located on Old U.S. 27 just south of the Grayling High School features a picture of Tim Hatley, a 2007 Grayling High School graduate, in his football uniform and his gear. Hatley took his own life on December 30, 2017 after a long battle with drug addiction. He was 27. He took Norco, a narcotic containing acetaminophen and hydrocodone, for a football injury and later turned to street drugs. Members of his family joined the Crawford Partnership for Substance Abuse Prevention and agreed to allow his story to be on the billboard in an effort to make a positive change in the community.
The Crawford County Baby to Toddler Closet will mark its 10th anniversary this year, assisting young families and their children to be safe and healthy. The mission of the Baby to Toddler Closet, a non-profit organization, is to provide a dignified way of assisting families in building a healthy environment for the development of young children. Community members support the Baby to Toddler Closet by donating lightly used, clean clothing items, which their children have outgrown, and many other items such as cribs, sheets, quilts, and bibs. Monetary donations help the organization purchase new socks, underwear, shoes, and boots. Fundraisers are held to raise money to purchase diapers.
Airman 1st Class Erin Prosser, who graduated from the Department of Defense Fire Academy in March of 2018, pinned a duty badge onto Airman Emma Prosser, her twin sister, during Emma’s Fire Academy graduation event in December. The Prossers are both 2017 graduates of Grayling High School. According to military officials, the Prossers are the first twins and first sisters to both graduate from the academy.
The Kirtland Regional Policy Academy recognized its 47th graduating class.
As its first order of business of 2019, the Crawford County Board of Commissioners selected its leaders and made appointments to committees to better effectively utilize community resources. County commissioners voted to have Shelly Pinkelman serve as the chairwoman for the board. She was elected to office in 1998, serving the county for 20 years. Commissioner Phil Lewis was selected to serve as vice chairman for the board. Commissioner Jamie McClain will serve as chairwoman of the ways and means committee, while Commissioner Laurie Jamison will lead the personnel and labor committee. Commissioner Sharon Priebe will head up the law enforcement committee.
Two new commissioners took their seats on the Crawford County Board of Commissioners. Cary Jansen and Sherry M. Powers assumed their positions on the board for its first meeting held on Thursday, January 3.
An internationally known wildlife artist from Grayling finished a painting to help in the conservation of game birds and their habitat. Kim Diment, the co-owner of the Main Branch Art Gallery in downtown Grayling, painted the 2019 Ruffed Grouse Society Print of the Year.
Grayling High School senior Nick Hunter was named to the Detroit Free Press all-state first team for football in Division 5 as a wide receiver. He was only one of two receivers named to the squad for Division 5. Hunter was also named to the Associated Press and Detroit News all-state teams as an honorable mention.
A defense attorney for a teen accused of murdering a Frederic man opted not to make arguments on additional charges brought against his client during the continuation of a probable cause hearing. At a hearing held in Crawford County District Court on Wednesday, January 9, Grayling attorney Michael Brown Jr. did not call for any witnesses in the hearing for Dylan Ziegler, 18, of Romulus. Ziegler and Matthew Franklin Smith, 37, of Canton, are accused of killing Dennis Everson, 64, from Frederic. Both Smith and Ziegler face a charge of open murder, which is a felony that carries up to life in prison.
After being hired to serve as the director for the Kirtland Regional Police Academy last July, Shannon Dekun had to go through the training regimen with the cadets herself. Dekun learned the position was open through the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards website. For the next six months, she went through the academy’s training because she had to be recertified as a police officer. Dekun was a deputy for the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office for four and a half years. She then went on to work on the City of Detroit’s Police Department for 10 and a half years. Prior to taking the job at Kirtland Community College, Dekun worked for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services for three years.
In December, Munson Healthcare Grayling Hospital closed on the purchase of a dental clinic at 1321 S. Mt. Tom Road in Mio, a location that will be the future site of its newest primary care office, Munson Healthcare Mio Primary Care, which is set to open in mid-to-late 2019. It is estimated to take months to complete the renovations and IT upgrades needed to make the location ready for providers to see patients.
The 2019 Cote Dame Marie Ski Loppet – Grayling Recreation Authority’s annual series of cross country ski races hosted by Hanson Hills Recreation Area – featured solid overall participation numbers with more than 120 skiers despite the chilly weather. The start of the race divisions – conducted between 10 a.m. and 10:30 p.m. – featured a temperature of approximately six degrees. The 2019 Cote Dame Marie Ski Loppet featured the following divisions: Michigan Cup Men’s, Michigan Cup Women’s, Junior, Citizens Classic, and Citizens Skate.
More than 1,000 books were gifted to Crawford County children in 2018 due to the generosity of area organizations, businesses, and individuals. Crawford County United Way contributed $500 to Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library of Crawford County. Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is a book gifting program that mails free high quality books to children from birth until they begin school, no matter the family’s income. The award-winning book program was started in 1995 by Dolly Parton to inspire kids to love reading. It now sends over one million books a month to children around the world.
A new business, which carries a little bit of everything and will have a constantly changing inventory, has opened in downtown Grayling. Gypsy Soul Resale, located at 234 East Michigan Avenue, opened for its first day on Saturday January 19. The store is owned and operated by Theresa Van De Ven. The store carries new and gently used women’s clothing, shoes, jewelry, purses, knick knacks, and furniture. It features a man cave where tools and equipment are available.
While frigid temperatures swept into the area late last week, that did not prevent a number of children from chilling out and learning some cross country skiing basics at a local sporting goods outfitters business. For the second year in a row, cross country skiing instructor Carole Mueller-Brumbaugh and Northbound Outfitters have teamed up to provide lessons to elementary school age children. The classes were offered after school on Tuesday and Thursday.
Alice Snyder, the executive director of the Crawford County Commission on Aging and Senior Center, gave the agency’s 2018 annual report to the Crawford County Board of Commissioners on Thursday, January 24. A total of 40,100 meals were provided to senior citizens last year to 1,118 residents. Seventy percent of the meals were home-delivered through the Meals on Wheels program. The total program cost rose to $100,000. Consequently, 48 percent of the funds spent on providing the meals came from millages supported at the polls by county voters for the Commission on Aging. That is compared to 42 percent paid for through grants from the federal and state government.
In a Lake Michigan Conference wrestling match-up that came down to the final weight classes, the Grayling Vikings defeated the Boyne City Ramblers 48-30 at The Wheelhouse in Boyne City, giving the Vikings a 4-0 record in Lake Michigan Conference meets for the 2018-2019 season. The league title is determined by both regular season conference record and placement at the end-of-the-season championship tournament. Going into the 2018-2019 season, the Vikings had a streak of six consecutive Lake Michigan Conference titles. To make it seven, they still need to place third or above at the Lake Michigan Conference championship meet slated for February 2.
Hanson Hills Recreation Area is hoping a popular event from the past – downhill winter canoe racing – will help revamp its current winter festival, an event slated for the weekend of February 9 and 10. For several years, Hanson Hills has conducted Winter Fun Days in February. It has featured a variety of events throughout the years, including a big air competition, cardboard sled box races, a chili cook-off, and fat biking in the snow. For the last few years, Winter Fun Days featured events on multiple February weekends. This year, Grayling Recreation Authority – the governing body for Hanson Hills – is changing the name of its annual winter festival to Blizzardfest. Blizzardfest will feature some of the same events from Winter Fun Days while incorporating new activities, including the Blizzardfest Winter Downhill Canoe/Kayak Chute-Out.
Boys and girls ages 9 to 14 competed in the local level of the annual Knights of Columbus Free Throw Championship on Sunday at the Grayling Middle School, and nine of those shooters will advance to the upcoming district level competition. The winners from Sunday’s K of C Free Throw Championship event: Leah Kirmo, 9-year-old girls; Joba Smock, 9-year-old boys; Katy Hayden, 10-year-old girls; Ali Helinski, 11-year-old girls; Cameron Baker, 11-year-old boys; Madison Demeere, 12-year-old girls; Dominik Demeere, 12-year-old boys; Ethan Kucharek, 13-year-old boys; Ann Hayden, 14-year-old girls. Three age groups did not have shooters. After the main competition, Kucharek won the Billy Nielson Shootout.
With a first place finish at the Lake Michigan Conference championship meet – plus an undefeated record vs. league opponents during the 2018-2019 regular season – the Vikings of Grayling High School clinched their seventh consecutive conference title. The Vikings took first place at the conference tournament, winning six individual league titles: Joe Armstrong (103), Max Halstead (145), Eli Bindschatel (189), Logan Joseph (215), Nick Bluemlein (heavyweight), and Darrin Hawes (140).
Crawford County Sheriff’s office employees were trained to use Narcan. Narcan is the brand name for a drug called naloxone, which blocks the effects of an opioid. The sheriff’s office received two different types of Narcan. One is a nasal spray, which comes with two doses of the lifesaving drug. The other comes with a syringe and three doses.
After months of gathering input and taking applications, seven finalists have been selected as potential candidates to be the next superintendent for the Crawford AuSable School District. A committee with members ranging from a student to a school administrator was formed in August to help select the next leader for the Crawford AuSable School District. Superintendent Joe Powers retired from his position with the school after 13 years on the job on March 31. He was later brought back on a part-time basis to serve the school district through a month-to-month contract.
Jorden Wakeley, a local cyclist, won one of the toughest outdoor competitions in the country – a 135-mile race held in Minnesota during the middle of winter – and his final time shattered the event’s all-time record. Wakeley competed in the 2019 Arrowhead 135. The race – open to cyclists, hikers, and cross country skiers – starts in International Falls in Minnesota. Seventy-seven people started the bicycling portion of the 2019 Arrowhead 135, according to results posted on the event’s website. Only 39 of them finished. Wakeley placed first, posting a finish time of 11 hours and 43 minutes. The second best time was 13 hours and 27 minutes. Wakeley’s time beat the existing record for best finish by more than an hour and a half.
Tabatha Watkins, a 2012 Grayling High School graduate, will be fighting in a professional mixed martial arts bout in Connecticut for one of the largest MMA organizations in the world. Watkins, who’s 3-0 so far during her professional fighting career, will be competing in a bout held in Uncasville, Connecticut on Friday, February 15, during Bellator 215, a series that will feature several televised fights
on the Paramount Network.
Janna Hoehn, a Hawaii resident, is continuing on her mission to put a face with a name for the thousands of soldiers who paid the ultimate sacrifice during the Vietnam War. Five residents from Crawford County paid the ultimate sacrifice in Vietnam. They include James Evart Blaauw, Carl Whilem Borchers, Robert Lawrence Fairbotham, Michael James Hatfield, and James Erwin Russ. Hoehn has gathered the photos of all Crawford County’s soldiers who died in the war except for Russ.
Grayling High School’s varsity wrestling squad clinched a district championship with a 52-24 victory vs. the Boyne City Ramblers during the District 166-3 finals. Kalkaska High School hosted the meet. The Vikings drew a bye in the semifinal round. In the other semifinal bracket, Boyne City defeated Kalkaska 59-19. In the district finals, Grayling won by a final score of 52-24 vs. the Ramblers.
Seven Grayling wrestlers finished high enough at individual districts to qualify for individual regionals, including three Vikings who won their weight divisions. Grayling High School hosted the Individual District 17-3 tournament. Thomas May, Max Halstead, and Zach Duncan won their weight classes. Logan Joseph, Nick Bluemlein, Joe Armstrong, and Jordan Wakeley also qualified for regionals by placing in the top four.
Three Grayling High School wrestlers competed in the Michigan Wrestling Association’s 2019 Michigan High School Girls Championship at Adrian College on Sunday, February 3. Shelby Thomas, at 125, placed 3rd for Grayling.
For the second time in nearly four months, a panel of county officials met to fill a vacancy for a Crawford County elected official. Crawford County Treasurer Joseph V. Wakeley submitted a letter to Crawford County elected officials on Wednesday, February 6, giving them a formal notice for his retirement. His last day as treasurer will be Wednesday, April 30. Wakeley has overseen the county coffers for over 46 years, and is the longest serving treasurer in the State of Michigan. Wakeley began serving as the county treasurer on January 1, 1973 after winning the primary and general elections in 1972. At the time, Wakeley was the youngest county treasurer in the state at the age of 24. Wakeley recommended the elected officials appoint Kate Wagner to fill the unexpired term as the Crawford County treasurer. Wagner has served as the chief deputy treasurer since February 2004.
Grayling Recreation Authority conducted the Blizzardfest Winter Downhill Canoe/Kayak Chute-Out at the Hanson Hills tubing run, and the event featured nine kayaks and four canoe teams competing for custom-made trophies supplied by Sylvester’s of Grayling. Exit Realty won the Canoe Division. Dayne Rohn took 1st in the Kayak Division. Scott Norman won the Outlaw Division.
The Beaver Creek-Grayling Township Utility Authority received a $3.2 million grant from the United States Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration, plus a $4.1 million United States Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service low-interest loan to provide water and waste water utilities for the Arauco mill. The $400 million plant, which will employ between 200 and 250 when it is fully operational, will begin production soon.
The second annual Grayling Eagles Snowshoe Pub Crawl had 44 participants and raised $1,795 for the Michigan Parkinson’s Foundation.
Chief Crawford County Probate and District Court Judge Monte J. Burmeister, in an opinion issued on January 22, bound Matthew Franklin Smith, 37, of Canton, and Dylan Ziegler, 18, of Romulus, over to the higher court for jury trials. The men are accused of killing Dennis Everson, 64, from Frederic, who was reported missing by family members on Friday, July 6. Smith now faces one count of homicide-open murder, which carries a sentence of life in prison. Ziegler was bound over on charges of conspiracy to commit homicide-open murder and conspiracy to commit torture, which carry a sentence of life or any number of years in prison.
Four wrestlers from Grayling High School – junior Max Halstead and sophomores Thomas May, Zach Duncan, and Joe Armstrong – placed high enough at Saturday’s Division 3 Region 9 tournament to qualify for the upcoming Michigan High School Athletic Association state finals.
The Grayling High School wrestling team ended its 2018-2019 season with a regional semifinal loss vs. the Gladstone Braves on Wednesday in a series that came down to the final weight class. The Vikings earned a spot in the Region 117-3 team tournament by winning the District 166-3 bracket on February 6.
Crawford AuSable Soccer Association (CASA) leaders and volunteers are digging in to provide more space for players to enhance their skills in the community. The Crawford County Board of Commissioners gave CASA the green light to start developing a practice field. The field, which will be located at the Crawford County Sports Complex next to adjacent playing fields, will be completed with volunteer labor and equipment.
Grayling city officials approved changes in the budget for the fire department to keep two full-time firefighters on staff through the early summer months. The Grayling City Council agreed to pull money from a fund balance to continue the current fire department staffing levels. On November 30, four full-time firefighters were laid off due to the end of contract to provide fire protection services to Camp Grayling.
The Huron-Manistee National Forests will delay implementation of a closure order prohibiting alcohol on sections of three National Wild and Scenic Rivers until at least 2020. The delay creates an opportunity for the Forest Service to work with local communities to develop alternative means of restoring public safety and preventing damage to sections of the AuSable, Manistee, and Pine Rivers.
Fifth grade students will make their way up to the Grayling Middle School a year earlier for the next school year to alleviate a crunch for space at the school they are now attending. The Crawford AuSable School Board of Education approved moving fifth graders to the Grayling Middle School for the 2019-2020 school year. Traditionally, the middle has housed sixth through eighth grade students.
Fred Bear Day will be held in Grayling on Tuesday, March 5, on the birthday of the renowned hunter and archer.
A group of Crawford-Oscoda County Relay For Life organizers and volunteers banded together to “Channel The Flannel” to kick off its annual campaign to help battle cancer. The kickoff was held in the dining area at the Michelson Memorial United Methodist Church. The theme for the Relay For Life kickoff was “Channel the Flannel” to recognize Arauco, AJD Forest Products, Weyerhaeuser, and Georgia-Pacific for the contributions wood manufacturers make in the community as well as their employees.
The Grayling Big Boy restaurant closed its doors on Friday, February 16, with little notice to customers and employees. A sheet of paper taped on the door says “Your Big Boy Is Closed,” and encouraged customers to go to the restaurant chain’s location in Gaylord. Employees were given the opportunity to transfer to restaurant locations in Gaylord and Kalkaska. Marvin Miller, a district manager for Big Boy, said it was a business decision to close the eatery.
Meijer State Games and Fun Promotions LLC conducted the Hanson Hills Fat Bike Race on Saturday, February 16, at Hanson Hills Recreation Area, and 50 cyclists competed. The cyclists raced on the cross country ski trails at Hanson Hills.
Hanson Hills Recreation Area hosted the Meijer State Games of Michigan Hanson Hills Classic cross country ski race on Sunday, February 17, and more than 80 skiers participated. The 2019 Hanson Hills Classic was a 14km race that took participants through Hanson Hills Recreation Area’s Wilderness, Blue, Brown, Yellow, and M-93 trails. Kyle Hanson won the overall male division with a time of 0:44:40. Emily Blackmer was the overall female division winner with a time of 0:54:15.
The Grayling Regional Chamber of Commerce hosted the 2018 Chamber Awards at its Annual Chamber Awards Gala at the Kirtland Health Sciences Center. Crawford County Sheriff Kirk A. Wakefield, who retired on December 3, was honored with the Citizen of the Year Award. The 2018 Chamber Member Business of the Year was presented to Matt LaFontaine Automotive. Flowers by Josie/Thanks a Latte was recognized with the 2018 Longevity Award, a new award presented this year. The Crawford County The Commission on Aging and Senior Center was recognized with the 2018 Chamber Member Organization of the Year Award. The Grayling Youth Booster Club was recognized with the 2018 You Made It Happen Award.
The Grayling community is rallying around residents displaced after a huge fire, which destroyed an apartment complex on Friday, March 1. Just prior to 1 a.m., the Crawford County Central Dispatch received a report of a fire at Arbor Court Apartments located at 400 Madsen Street in the City of Grayling. Upon arrival, Crawford County Sheriff’s Deputies discovered an active fire, notified dispatch of the status, and began assisting with evacuation of the building. Firefighters arrived to find the east end of the complex involved in heavy fire. Out of the 16 apartments, eight were a complete loss. There were no injuries or fatalities due to the fire, although at least one resident suffered minor injuries during the evacuation; however, multiple pets perished in the fire.
Grayling High School wrestler Max Halstead – one of four state qualifiers for the Vikings this year – took 2nd place at the Michigan High School Athletic Association Division 3 Individual Tournament at Ford Field. Halstead posted an overall record of 41-4 during the 2018-2019 season.
Chief Crawford County Probate and District Court Judge Monte J. Burmeister, County Clerk Sandra Moore, and Prosecuting Attorney Sierra R. Koch unanimously voted to appoint Kate Wagner, who has served as Crawford County’s chief deputy treasurer for 15 years, to serve as the county’s next treasurer. Crawford County Treasurer Joseph V. Wakeley submitted a letter to Crawford County elected officials on Wednesday, February 6, giving them a formal notice for his retirement. His last day as treasurer will be Wednesday, April 30.
The Friends of Hartwick Pines started a Go-Fund-Me fundraising account with a goal of raising $100,000 to restore the Hartwick Pines Memorial Building.
The Crawford County Board of Commissioners unanimously passed a resolution to change the road board to having five members rather than three members.
Ellie Wagner, a sophomore at Grayling High School, established a new record for the school’s volleyball program – most digs in a single season – during the fall of 2018 campaign. The school recently announced the record; it required film study to confirm the final number, Coach Tim Zigila said. Wagner finished the 2018 season with 489 digs, surpassing the previous record of 421 (Rachel Cooper, 2011) by 68.
Members of a superintendent search team, Crawford AuSable School Board members, and school staff were on hand for a second round of interviews with finalists for the school chief’s position held on Friday, March 15. Justin Gluesing, the associate superintendent for human resources and labor for Alpena Public Schools, and Raphael Rittenhouse, the superintendent for Iron Mountain Public Schools, were selected as final candidates for the position. Selecting the next superintendent will be turned over to the school board, which has the ultimate authority to offer a contract to the next superintendent and to negotiate terms of the contract.
Shelby Thomas, a wrestler at Grayling High School, recently finished her freshman season for the Vikings, and she placed 3rd at the Michigan Wrestling Association’s 2019 High School Girls Wrestling Finals at Adrian College.
Official practice sessions for Grayling High School’s 2019 spring sports campaign began on Monday, March 11, and all of the teams had to start their preseasons with indoor sessions due to snow on the fields.
Fourteen dancers, their families, and their coach, Jillian Tremonti Engelhardt, traveled to Walled Lake for the Hall of Fame Dance Challenge held March 8-10, and returned with regional awards and national accolades. The performers are a division of AuSable Dance Center. They spend four to eight hours a week training, rehearsing, and preparing for performances and competitions throughout the state and country.
The Grayling Robo Vikes blasted into a new season with an intricate robot built to handle a variety of challenges. The team made it into the semifinals in its first match held at the Alpena High School from Thursday, March 21, through Saturday, March 23.
A law enforcement officer known for finding resources for those in need and treating jail inmates with dignity is stepping away after 36 years in the field. Capt. Randy Baerlocher, the jail administrator for the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office, served his last day on the job on Friday, March 22.
The Great Northern Art Explosion will be held throughout Grayling’s downtown business district from Friday, July 19, through Saturday, August 3. Similar to ArtPrize held in Grand Rapids and the Art Walk Central in Mt. Pleasant, artwork will be on display at businesses located downtown and in nearby businesses.
A landmark building in downtown Grayling, which is deteriorating rapidly and has been deemed functionally obsolete, will be demolished soon to make way for a new $8 million development. The planned project calls for the demolition of the Chief Shoppenagon’s Motor Hotel, located at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Norway Street. The Crawford County Board of Commissioners, at its regular monthly meeting held on March 28, voted to support the Grayling Hotel project. The Grayling Hotel’s ground level of 10,500 square feet will house the hotel lobby and retail space. The second and third floors will each include 10,500 square feet for hotel guest rooms. The fourth floor will include 10,500 square foot for commercial offices. A lower level parking deck would be located in the basement level of the building with 16 parking spaces.
A business tucked away off of one of Grayling’s main thoroughfares has been helping keep the assembly lines for the Big Three automakers and other manufacturers busy for the last four and a half decades. Deane Systems LLC is marking its 45th anniversary in business this year. Owner Gary Ginther started the business as a design service for assembly machines. Today, the firm supplies industrial manufacturers with custom feed and drive equipment for assembly line equipment for Ford, General Motors, Chrysler and appliance manufacturers.
The 2019 Ragnar Trail Relay – slated for June 15 and 16 at Hanson Hills Recreation Area – could feature more than a thousand runners. Justin Andre, Director of Operations for Grayling Recreation Authority (the governing body for Hanson Hills), said more than 100 teams – close to 800 people – are registered for the 2019 Ragnar Trail Relay, and he’s expecting more.
A school administrator who has been waiting in the wings to serve as a superintendent raised his prospects with Crawford County school officials during a second interview and with his interaction with members of the community. The Crawford AuSable School District’s Board of Education, at a meeting held on Monday, April 1, voted unanimously to start contract negotiations with Justin Gluesing, the associate superintendent for human resources and labor for Alpena Public Schools. The other candidate for the position was Raphael Rittenhouse, the superintendent for Iron Mountain Public Schools.
Local construction company McClain and Sons – the winning bidder for the project – started working on the lodge at Hanson Hills Recreation Area, stripping away the old siding and repairing the roof. Crawford County voters – during the November 2018 general election – approved a millage to pay for the renovation project. Justin Andre, Director of Operations for Grayling Recreation Authority (the governing body for Hanson Hills), said the millage generated approximately $295,000. Grayling Recreation Authority is approaching the project in two phases. Phase one, Andre said, involves replacement of the lodge’s roof, siding, windows, and doors.
The Crawford AuSable Board of Education, at its regular monthly board meeting held on Monday, April 8, approved a contract with new superintendent Justin Gluesing. He is slated to start as the next school chief on July 1, but will transition into the job in June. Gluesing is the associate superintendent for human resources and labor for Alpena Public Schools.
The paved cycling and walking trail which stretches from the City of Grayling out to the Hartwick Pines State Park was enhanced with mile markers and information kiosks. There is a mile marker every half mile with the exception of one that is at the pedestrian bridge located over I-75. Noah Shambarger helped organize and lead the project as part of his final steps in earning the rank as an Eagle Scout. Shambarger, a sophomore at Central Michigan University, has been a lifelong trail user.
The AuSable Valley Animal Shelter hosted the grand opening of Camp Kitty, the newly remodeled cat room. The room was designed to honor Mary Wright, who was a dedicated volunteer. Wright passed away in 2015. She was 66.
A downstate teen linked to the murder of a Frederic man entered into a plea deal agreement to lesser charges while his co-defendant was given a significant bond in an attempt to keep him in jail. Dylan Ziegler, 18, of Romulus, in Crawford County Circuit Court, pled guilty to torture, a felony that carries up to life or any number of years in prison, and manslaughter, a 15-year maximum sentence in prison. Charges were dropped against Ziegler for conspiracy to commit homicide-open murder and conspiracy to commit torture. In exchange for the deal, Ziegler agreed to testify in the jury trial for Matthew Franklin Smith, 37, of Canton. Smith faces one count of homicide-open murder, which carries a sentence of life in prison. The men are accused of killing Dennis Everson, 64, from Frederic, who was reported missing by family members on Friday, July 6.
Five people are vying for two new seats on the Crawford County Road Commission and those who are appointed will do so without a stipend to pay for healthcare insurance. The Crawford County Board of Commissioners, at its ways and means committee meeting, voted to eliminate a stipend paid to county road commissioners. The recommendation will go before the board again at its next meeting.
The AuSable Martial Arts Academy, River House Shelter, Inc. and Grayling Department of Public Safety collaborated to empower women with more than punches and kicks. A free women’s self defense seminar was held at the academy, located at 214 Huron Street. Over 40 women attended the event, which was held to mark crime victim’s awareness week.
Hundreds of Grayling area residents and visitors attended the annual Maple Syrup Day at the Hartwick Pines State Park on Saturday, April 13.
ARAUCO, a global producer of renewable forestry solutions, wood products, and pulp, held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Tuesday, April 17, at its state-of-the-art particleboard and lamination facility in Grayling. Executives from ARAUCO, ARAUCO North America, as well as key customers and public officials from Chile and the State of Michigan attended the official dedication ceremony, which also included a plant tour.
A celebration of life service will be held for the longest serving sheriff in the history of Crawford County. Kirk A. Wakefield passed away at his home on Tuesday, April 16. He was 68. Wakefield retired from serving as the Crawford County Sheriff on December 3, 2018 after holding the office for 17 years.
The RoboVikes from Grayling High School finished qualification matches in ninth place out of 40 teams at the First in Michigan Traverse City District event, and were the Alliance Six Captain. The RoboVikes advanced to the semifinals, where they were narrowly defeated. The team also received two awards: the Team Spirit Award and the Inspection Award, and were runner-up for the Safety Award. The team performances at both the Alpena and Traverse City District events were sufficient for the RoboVikes to qualify for the Michigan State Championships, which were held at Saginaw Valley State University April 10 through April 13. At the Michigan State Championship finals, in qualification matches the team had five wins, six losses, and one tie, finishing 25th in the Consumers Energy field. The team was not selected for elimination playoffs, and finished the season ranked 139th in the state out of 542 teams.
A $6.5 million Michigan Department of Transportation project to rebuild six miles of M-72 – from M-93 to the Kalkaska/Crawford county line – began last week. The estimated completion date is October 1, 2019.
Grayling Middle School students have continued to put the community on the map for students who know the location of countries, places of historical interest, and natural wonders of the world. Baden Essmaker, age 13, a seventh grader at the Grayling Middle School, competed in the state Geography Bee Finals held at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo on March 29.
Hundreds of kids hunted for thousands of treat-filled eggs during Grayling Recreation Authority’s annual Easter Eggstravaganza event at Hanson Hills Recreation Area on Saturday morning. Kids also lined up to get their pictures taken with the Easter Bunny. The event featured sunny weather and Grayling Recreation Authority officials said turnout was strong this year.
Hundreds of law enforcement officers, military personnel, family, and friends celebrated the life of retired Crawford County Sheriff Kirk Alan Wakefield. Wakefield passed away at his home on Tuesday, April 16. He was 68. Wakefield retired from serving as the Crawford County Sheriff on December 3, 2018 after holding the office for 17 years.
A jury found a Grayling man guilty of second-degree murder for bludgeoning a 46-year-old woman using a can of yams. The jury of seven men and five women delivered their verdict for John Robert O’Connor, 57, on Friday, April 25, after nearly four hours of deliberations. O’Connor killed Michelle Kukulski on Thursday, December 7, 2017. They had lived together for 29 years, and had three children. The couple was estranged when the incident occurred. O’Connor faces life in prison or any term of years when he is sentenced by 46th Circuit Court Trial Judge Colin G. Hunter within the next month.
The varsity girls basketball program from Grayling High School announced its team awards and all-conference honors for the winter 2018-2019 season. The Vikings had two all-league players this year in the Lake Michigan Conference. Esa Powers was an all-league selection and Isabel Duba an all-conference honorable mention. Team awards this year included: MVP – Esa Powers; Ms. Hustle – Hailey Hartman; Most Improved – Duba.
Two varsity boys basketball players from Grayling High School received all-league recognition in the Lake Michigan Conference this year, and the program as a whole earned an Academic All-State Honorable Mention. Ryan Anderson was an all-conference selection for Grayling. Eli Jackson was an all-league honorable mention. Team awards for the Vikings included: Ryan Anderson – Offensive Player of the Year; Nick Hunter – Defensive Player of the Year; Eli Jackson – Harald Fairhair Award, Great Viking Warrior Award; Garrett Reilly – Team First Award, MHSAA.
The Lovells Township Historical Society held its 17th Trout Opener and 10th Leaky Waders 1K Fun Run on Saturday, April 27, the traditional opening of the trout season in Michigan.
After a four-year hiatus, Smokey the Bear has returned to Grayling complete with digital signs to inform area residents and visitors about the dangers of wildfires. The new sign is located in front of the Michigan State Police Crime Lab in Grayling. The property is owned by the City of Grayling. Smokey the Bear was removed from the location when the I-75 Business Loop was expanded to three lanes in Grayling. Rather than put the old sign back up, local Michigan Department of Natural Resources officials opted to pursue a state-of-the-art digital sign.
Michigan is celebrating the 100th anniversary of its state park system this year, and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is encouraging people to share their favorite state park memories “while making new ones.” Online at Michigan.gov/StateParks100, the DNR is offering places to share stories and view memories people have already submitted. The site has a schedule of centennial events for many of the 100-plus state parks in Michigan. Crawford County has two state parks within its boundaries: Hartwick Pines State Park and North Higgins Lake State Park. This year’s Black Iron Days festival – slated for August 24-25 – will feature a celebration as part of Michigan’s state park centennial, according to Friends of Hartwick Pines.
Volunteers and staff from the River House Shelter, Inc. hosted their sixth annual Spring Fling on Friday, May 3, at the St. Mary’s Church Family Center. The “Tropical Getaway” themed event included dinner, craft beer and wine tasting, silent auctions, and entertainment.
Kirtland Community College held its annual Exploration Day on Friday, April 26, when it welcomed more than 700 middle school students from 13 area schools (including some from Grayling) to explore careers across a variety of industries. Students had a chance to witness real-world equipment in action and learn how college can help them land their dream job.
Eight disabled military veterans took part in the eighth annual Bamboo Bend Project at the Lovells Township Community Center. Bamboo Bend, a locally organized and funded project which has the motto “Handcrafted Healing for Heroes,” brought the military veterans to the Grayling area for a nine-day stay.
Construction recently began on the new Viking Activity Center at Grayling High School. The Viking Activity Center will feature courts for basketball, volleyball, tennis, and pickleball, as well as indoor areas for track, baseball/softball, and golf. The project is scheduled for completion in the fall of 2019.
A Grayling volunteer was recently recognized at the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing for giving thousands of hours of her time to better the community. Terry Tody received a Community Action Volunteer Award presented by the Northeast Michigan Community Service Agency at a ceremony held in Lansing on May 2. She was one of five volunteers from throughout the state to be recognized with the award.
An open house was held at the Camp Grayling Officer’s Club on Thursday, May 9, for local community leaders, business owners, and emergency responders. Camp Grayling officials plan to make it an annual event prior to training commencing at area ranges and bases.
The Crawford County Sheriff’s Office hosted its annual National Police Week Law Enforcement Memorial Ceremony on Wednesday, May 15, to honor fallen officers who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty. Retired Crawford County Sheriff Kirk A. Wakefield, who passed away on April 16 of this year, was recognized for his service as well as a memorial scholarship established in his honor.
Grayling High School recognized all of its 12th grade sports participants – including two all-staters and 13 players who earned six or more varsity letters – during the 21st Annual Senior Student-Athlete Honors Night at the auditorium at GHS. The event honored 40 seniors this year. Each senior received a plaque. Of the 40, two were honored for achieving all-state status: Nick Hunter (football) and Logan Joseph (football). The night ended with the presentation of the Viking Award. The award – voted by the school’s varsity coaches – goes to the top male athlete and the top female athlete of the senior class. This year’s Viking Award winners were Nick Hunter and Nicole Oppermann. Hunter played football, basketball, and baseball during his time at Grayling High School. Oppermann was a skier, a volleyball player, and a tennis player.
The Grayling Fish Hatchery – now operated by the Anglers of the Au Sable in cooperation with Crawford County – will open for the season this weekend.
Feeny Ford Grayling and the Grayling Main Street teamed up to host the Ford Drive 4 UR Community fundraiser in the parking area by the Grayling City Park on Friday, May 17. Feeny Ford Grayling General Manager Shawn Abraham had eight models for area residents and visitors to test drive. Funds received through the auto maker will be used to pay for new downtown Grayling maps and way-finding materials to help visitors navigate the community.
After a 24-year closure, visitors will get their first glimpse of initial changes at the Hartwick Pines State Park Memorial Building as it reopens to the public Memorial Day weekend for guided tours following a partnership repair and cleaning effort by the Department of Natural Resources Parks and Recreation Division, the Michigan History Center and Friends of Hartwick Pines.
Grayling High School recently announced its Class of 2019 valedictorian and salutatorian – Tyler Brandt and Esabella Powers, respectively – as well as its other 10 members of this year’s Lake Michigan Conference All Academic Team. According to the school, Brandt plans to attend the University of Michigan School of Engineering for computer science to become a software engineer. Powers plans to attend the University of Michigan to study biochemistry. The other Grayling High School students to earn Lake Michigan Conference All Academic status are Sophia Do, Hailey Hartman, Blane Johnston, Madi Longendyke, Miranda Makowski, Miguel Quiñones, Andrew Reichelderfer, Emily Sajdak, Dana Trudgeon, and Josie Trudgeon.
The Grayling City Parks and Recreation Committee held a ribbon cutting ceremony on Tuesday, May 21, for the new public AuSable River Canoe Launch.
The eighth annual Grayling Band Boosters Carnival was held in the parking lot in front of Grayling Mini Mall May 24 through May 27. Proceeds from the carnival will go toward purchasing new uniforms and gear for the Grayling High School’s marching band.
The American Legion Post #106 hosted a Memorial Day Ceremony at the Elmwood Cemetery in Grayling on Monday, May 27, to honor the men and women who gave their lives for the freedom of the nation.
Diane Burtch recently sold Diane’s Car Wash, located at 5605 M-72 West, to Matt and Christine LaFontaine, the owners of Matt LaFontaine Automotive. The business will now be known as the MLA Auto Spa.
The Grayling City Planning Commission, at a meeting held on Tuesday, May 21, approved the site plans for a mixed-use retail and residential development planned for downtown for the former Sawmill Billiards property. The development also includes the building where the Crawford County Avalanche was located and where Heirloom Antiques operated.
Grayling city planners nixed a plan to allow a proposed industrial manufacturing facility to go into a building previously used for manufacturing products. Following a public hearing held on Tuesday, May 21, the Grayling City Planning Commission turned down a conditional use request to rezone land located near downtown Grayling. The proposed site for the project was 5671 M-72 West, where the former Fred Bear Archery plant was located. The proposed venture involved bringing particle board manufactured by Arauco, cutting it to size, nailing it together, and cutting a groove in the boards used as packaging and distribution units for Arauco.
Grayling High School celebrated graduation for the Class of 2019 – a group with 49 students who graduated with honors – during a commencement ceremony at Viking Stadium on Sunday. According to school officials, the Class of 2019 had 25 Honor Roll graduates (gold cords, 3.0 to 3.499 grade point average), eight Cum Laude graduates (green cords, 3.5 to 3.699 grade point average), six Magna Cum Laude graduates (red cords, 3.7 to 3.899 grade point average), and 10 Summa Cum Laude graduates (purple cords, 3.9 or higher grade point average). Twelve graduates earned Virtuoso status (orange cords) by taking five or more AP courses. The Class of 2019 exceeded its community service requirement by more than 5,000 hours and earned more than $600,000 in scholarships.
A new eatery has opened near downtown Grayling to provide fresh and healthy lunch and dinner options as well as products to take home. Tim Ash and his wife, Christi Ash, opened Two River Deli, located at 203 Ionia Street in Grayling. The name pays homage to the importance of the AuSable River and Manistee River to the area, but also refers to another business venture started by the couple: Two River Properties.
The Crawford County Road Commission is up to full strength as two new members were appointed to the board recently. Cris Jones, of South Branch Township, and Scott Hanson, a resident of Grayling Charter Township, were appointed to the road commission at the Crawford County Board of Commissioner’s regular monthly meeting held in April. In February, the Crawford Board of Commissioners voted to increase members on the road commission from three to five members.
The sentencing for a Grayling man found guilty of second-degree murder for bludgeoning a 46-year-old woman using a can of yams was adjourned on Monday, June 3, to give him more time to review and understand reports pertaining to his case. A jury of seven men and five women delivered a guilty verdict for John Robert O’Connor, 57, on April 25. O’Connor killed Michelle Kukulski on Thursday, December 7, 2017. They had lived together for 29 years, and had three children. O’Connor was scheduled to be sentenced to serve time in prison on Monday. 46th Circuit Trial Court Judge Colin G. Hunter brought a halt to the sentencing hearing when O’Connor said he did not have enough time to review and comprehend a pre-sentence investigation report.
Classes cropped up at businesses throughout the community for the 2018-2019 school year to help jump start students exploring career options and bringing in young talent to fill jobs for employers. The students completed internships or on-the-job training to allow them to explore careers they are interested in. This year, nine students were placed at job sites through the work based leaning program including Weyerhaeuser, Grayling Elementary School, McClain and Son Builders, Grayling Hospital for Animals, Blarney Stone Broadcasting, IMM Welding, Deane Systems, and J&J Heating and Cooling.
The lodge at Hanson Hills Recreation Area – slated for renovation earlier this year – has a new roof, new windows, new siding, and new doors, and a few more improvements are scheduled for later this summer. During the November 2018 general election, Crawford County voters approved a millage to pay for the lodge renovation project. Justin Andre, Director of Operations for Grayling Recreation Authority (the governing body for Hanson Hills), said the millage generated close to $300,000.
The Ragnar Michigan Trail – an outdoor relay race event that could feature more than 1,200 runners – will be held at Hanson Hills Recreation Area on Saturday and Sunday, June 15 and 16.
Hundreds of cyclists competed in the Meijer State Games of Michigan Hanson Hills Challenge – a series of races for boys and girls, men and women, elite riders to beginners – on Sunday, June 2, at Hanson Hills Recreation Area. According to Fun Promotions LLC – organizer of the Hanson Hills Challenge – more than 190 people competed in this year’s event. Jorden Wakeley won the Elite Men’s Division with a time of 1:59:05.37, according to Fun Promotions LLC. Maddy Frank won the Elite Women’s Division with a time of 2:23:52.76.
Community members, patrons, staff, and board members gathered on Monday, June 3, in front of the Devereaux Memorial Crawford County Library for an informal groundbreaking, kicking off Phase 1 of the project to expand the facility. The project will be completed in three phases, adding a second meeting room, more parking, reconfigured and renovated interior, updated energy-saving lighting, new roof, and updated technology to better meet the needs of the patrons and staff.
The Grayling Farmer’s Market kicked off for the season on Thursday, June 6. The market is again being held under the pavilion at the Grayling City Park, 213 North James Street. The farm market has 15 vendors signed up this year, compared to eight last year.
The AuSable Artisan Village – located at 219 Michigan Avenue in downtown Grayling – has a new facade due to the efforts of AAV director Terry Dickinson and volunteer Neil Nettles. The director said that the goals in redesigning the front of the building were to provide some depth rather than have just a flat surface and to create a visual break along the skyline.
More than a thousand people took turns running throughout the day and night on Saturday and Sunday at Hanson Hills Recreation Area during the Ragnar Michigan Trail, an event that organizers are already looking to bring back to Grayling in 2020. The Ragnar Michigan Trail, a relay race, featured more than 1,100 runners representing 139 teams, said Justin Andre, Director of Operations for Grayling Recreation Authority (the governing body for Hanson Hills). Starting Saturday morning, teams began the race; the event featured three different loops. Start times for teams were staggered throughout the day, and runners finished on Sunday. People ran throughout the night. Most teams consisted of eight runners. Ragnar set up a series of tents for participants, tents for apparel shops, a fire pit, and a tent for runners to exchange chipped wrist bands. The “Ragnar Village” also featured a coffee station, food trucks, music, a shoe drying station, a potable water station, a beer tent run by the Grayling Rotary Club, a recovery station inside the lodge, and a medical station with Frederic EMS.
The Relay for Life for Crawford and Oscoda Counties will be held on Saturday, June 22, in the Grayling City Park. The theme for this year’s Relay for Life is “Made of Michigan” as cancer survivors, Relay team members, and volunteers come together to battle the disease.
The Crawford AuSable School District board paid the bill for a new propane bus, which was added to its fleet earlier this year, along with positioning the district to receive more buses through a state program. The school board, at its regular monthly meeting held on Monday, June 10, agreed to pay $92,482 to the Holland Bus Company for a 2019 propane bus. Instead of purchasing two buses, like the school district usually does, officials are holding back some funds in hopes of being approved for a state bus purchasing program.
A six-person team featuring several AuSable River Canoe Marathon regulars took first place in the 2019 Texas Water Safari earlier this month. The winning squad during the 260-mile race featured Bill Torongo, Nick Walton, Ian Rolls, Wade Binion, Andrew Condie, and William Russell in a six-man canoe. Some of these names should be familiar to AuSable River Canoe Marathon fans. Torongo has competed in the Marathon 33 times, placing as high as second (five times), and Walton has several recent top 10 finishes, including back to back times placing second. Rolls took 7th place last year during his second AuSable Marathon. Binion placed 19th during the 2017 AuSable Marathon and Condie finished 22nd in the 2017 Marathon.
Eighteen four-person teams participated in the Sheriff Kirk A. Wakefield Golf Outing – an annual scramble event that helps the Crawford County Sheriff’s Department raise thousands of dollars for its youth programs – at the Grayling Country Club. Until this year, the event was known as the D.A.R.E. Golf Outing. The Crawford County Sheriff’s Department renamed the golf scramble fundraiser this year in honor of Wakefield, who passed away earlier this year. Wakefield served as Crawford County’s sheriff for 17 years and was a fixture at the annual golf outing.
The Kirtland Community College Board of Trustees approved a resolution on Thursday, June 20, to move facilities and students to its campus in Grayling. The approved proposal includes plans for an additional building on the Kirtland-Grayling campus, anticipated to be to 70,000 square feet. The new building will house learning spaces and facilities for criminal justice, the police academy, the automotive technology lab, print and mail shop, art and design department, an event center, and the facilities management department. The board of trustees capped the budget for the new building at $17 million.
The Crawford County Historical Museum – located at 97 E. Michigan Avenue – will officially open for the year on Thursday, July 4. The museum has had a delayed opening this year due to an ongoing renovation project, museum officials said. The Crawford County Historical Museum received a $4,000 grant from the Great Lakes Energy People Fund for the purpose of improving current displays and developing new ones.
A Grayling family opened a business in the downtown business district to offer candy and gifts to area residents and visitors. Anne Tuck and Matt Tuck opened the doors at The Sweet Life, located at 207 E. Michigan Avenue, on June 7. The business offers an array of candy choices, ice cream, and gifts.
The 2019 Relay For Life for Crawford and Oscoda Counties was held in the Grayling City Park on Saturday, June 22.
The summer reading program for the Crawford County Library System kicked off on Thursday, June 20, with a performance by the Grayling based Acting Up Theatre called “Space For Rent.” Dozens of children and their parents attended the event.
Seventy-nine duos were signed up for the 2019 AuSable River Canoe Marathon – a 120-mile non-stop race from Grayling to Oscoda held every year during the last full weekend of July – as of Thursday, June 27, including a record number of Women’s Division teams.
Grayling High School’s varsity softball program announced its awards for the 2019 season at its end-of-the-season banquet following a record-setting campaign at the plate. The Vikings had three all-conference selections this year. Jenna Schwartz and Sabrina Junttila were all-league honorees and Jordyn Schwartz was an all-conference honorable mention. Jenna Schwartz (catcher), Junttila (utility), and Jordyn Schwartz (outfield) were also named all-district. Team awards for the Vikings included: MVP – Jenna Schwartz, Junttila; Defensive MVP – Alison Brown, Jocelyn Brown; Coach’s Award – Kaylynn Childers, Hailey Hartman. As a group the Vikings earned academic all-state status. Hartman earned academic all-state honors as an individual.
The Crawford County Board of Commissioners approved a plan to remove structures from the historic Grayling Fish Hatchery to improve habitat in the facility and for areas reaching downstream on the river. The board, at its regular monthly meeting held on Thursday, July 28, unanimously gave the go ahead to remove two walkways on the north side of the facility. The walkways are basically cement slabs that go over the water. The reason for removal of the walkways is sand that came into the hatchery when the bridge over the AuSable River on North Down River Road was replaced in 2016.
The Memorial and Pass In Review Ceremony was held at Camp Graying on Friday, June 28, to cap off the annual training for the Michigan Air and Army National Guard.
After some initial discussions, Crawford County officials opted to slow down on plans to have a bicycle repair station located on property that runs adjacent to a bike path. The Grayling Main Street Program’s Design Committee and Stacy McIsaac and Kate DeVries-McIsaac, the owners of Tip’n The Mitten, raised funds to purchase bike racks, which are located in the downtown business district. The Design Committee submitted a grant, which was approved, to the Grayling Promotional Association to purchase two bicycle maintenance stations. The stations include a rack to hold and lock up to six bicycles, an air pump, screwdrivers, wrenches, and tire levers. One repair station will be located on property next to Thanks A Latte and Flowers by Josie. Crawford County Administrator Paul Compo said a second bicycle repair station has been proposed to be placed in the grassy area between a fence which blocks access to the railroad and the parking lot at the county building. The same area is used for a snowmobile trail, which is groomed and maintained by the AuSable Valley Snowmobile Association.
Construction is underway at the Paddle Hard Yard, which will be located at 117 E. Michigan Avenue. The venue, which will be made of repurposed shipping containers, will feature a beer garden, food trailers, and a stage for concerts and events.
Grayling Recreation Authority (GRA) conducted its annual Firecracker 1-Mile Fun Run – an event that gives young runners, including GRA’s Mighty Milers, the opportunity to race in front of Fourth of July parade spectators – on Thursday, July 4, raising approximately $1,500 for the GRA cross country program. Event organizers said 125 people – a new record for the event – participated this year, including more than 40 Mighty Milers.
The Crawford County Historical Museum celebrated its official opening day for 2019 on Thursday, July 4, giving visitors a chance to check out new exhibits while offering free admission and free food. The museum – located at 97 E. Michigan Avenue – delayed its opening this year due to an ongoing renovation project.
A lifelong Grayling resident was recently appointed to fill a vacancy on Grayling Charter Township’s Board of Trustees. Trustee Dennis J. Long resigned from his position effective May 15 after serving the township for a decade and a half. Joe Smock, Marc Dedenbach, and Bruce Zalobsky applied for the open position and were interviewed by a review committee. Smock was appointed to the board on June 19.
Grayling area residents with tainted drinking water caused by a firefighting foam used by the military have just a few months to mull options on how they will get a permanent source of clean and safe water. Camp Grayling and National Guard Bureau officials recently unveiled three options to get a safe source of drinking water to 17 residences in the City of Grayling and Grayling Charter Township. The areas with the tainted water are along Evergreen Drive and Little John Avenue in the township, and an area southwest of Date Street in the City of Grayling. Under a Time Critical Action Removal Action plan, three options were outlined to get residents a permanent source of safe water. The first option is connecting the homes to the City of Grayling’s municipal water supply. It is anticipated that it would take six months to achieve the remedial action objective. The estimated cost is $3.7 million. The second option is to drill residential deep wells with six-inch diameter telescoping wells installed to a depth of up to 200 feet with an accompanying submersible pump and tank. The estimated cost is over $2.6 million. The third option is the installation of a municipal well and pre-treatment system in Grayling Charter Township.
The 2019 AuSable River Canoe Marathon – a 120-mile non-stop race from Grayling to Oscoda – will feature the most Women’s Division teams in the history of the event, including a few of the fastest female paddlers ever to compete in the race. Nine all-female teams were signed up for this year’s AuSable Marathon – the 72nd race in the event’s history – as of Monday, July 8. The previous record for most Women’s Division teams to start the race was five (in 2013, 2016, 2017, and 2018). This year’s race will likely also break the AuSable Marathon record for most women overall to compete in the event. The current record is 32, established in 2016, according to Marathon records. As of Monday, July 8, there were 39 women registered for the 2019 AuSable Marathon.
More than 170 cyclists completed one of three loops during the Grayling Rotary Club’s Black Bear Gran Fondo, finishing a 100-mile “century ride,” a 62-mile “metric century ride” (100 kilometers), or a 45-mile course, all three of which started and ended at Hanson Hills Recreation Area.
46th Circuit Trial Court Judge Colin G. Hunter sentenced John Robert O’Connor to serve a minimum of 31 years and three months to a maximum of 50 years for second-degree murder. He was given credit for 574 days served in the Crawford County Jail. A jury of seven men and five women delivered a guilty verdict for O’Connor, 57, on April 25. O’Connor killed Michelle Kukulski on Thursday, December 7, 2017.
A resale store that will be used to support the River House Shelter Inc. mission of providing housing for domestic violence and sexual assault victims opened in Grayling. In November, the River House Shelter, Inc. purchased the building that housed the Sears store in Grayling, located at 6375 M-72 West, from owner Randy Crocker. After months of renovations through volunteer labor and donated materials, River House Resale held a grand opening celebration on June 28-29.
A Grayling educator is taking a step up on the career ladder when the 2019-2020 school year gets underway. Sarah Allen will serve as the assistant principal at the Grayling High School. She replaces Jeff Branch, a long time school administrator, who retired from his position with the school district.
The AuSable Artisan Village and Paddle Hard Brewing joined forces to finance “The Great Northern Art Explosion,” Grayling’s first statewide fine art competition. The show will be on display from July 19 through August 3 at nine venues throughout downtown Grayling.
The Grayling Skate Park, located next to City Hall on City Boulevard, hosted its seventh annual Father’s Day Skate Competition, and seven skateboarders participated. The event, normally held during Father’s Day weekend in June, had to be postponed this year due to rain on the original date. Jake Shoemaker finished 1st in the intermediate division and won the “raddest fall” award. In the advanced division, Dale Gaertner took 1st place.
Fifty-eight paddlers – 50 men and eight women – raced from Grayling to Burton’s Landing in one-person canoes during the 2019 Spike’s Challenge C-1 race. Steve Lajoie won the Men’s Division with a time of 0:41:54. In the Women’s Division, Mary Schlimmer finished first, posting the event’s 16th best overall time (0:46:22).
The team with the most championships in the event’s history – Andrew Triebold of Grayling and Steve Lajoie of Quebec – added one more Spike’s Challenge C-2 race victory to its record number on Sunday, winning the event for the 12th time. The Spike’s Challenge C-2 race starts in Grayling at the Old AuSable Fly Shop and ends at McMasters Bridge. This year, Triebold and Lajoie reached the finish line in 2:34:35; it was the duo’s best winning finish time, and it was the second best first place time in the history of the event. The Spike’s Challenge C-2 event started in 1991 as a shorter, daytime version of the AuSable River Canoe Marathon, a 120-mile race from Grayling to Oscoda.
During the 2019 Spike’s Challenge – a race from the Old AuSable Fly Shop in Grayling to McMasters Bridge – 10 of the top 11 teams also posted top 11 times during Saturday’s sprints. This year’s winners of the Spike’s Challenge C-2 race – Andrew Triebold and Steve Lajoie – also posted the event’s best sprint time. Triebold and Lajoie, a duo that has now won the Spike’s Challenge C-2 race 12 times together, posted a sprint time of 04:25.9 this year, nine seconds faster than the next team. Seventy-four teams competed in the 2019 Spike’s Challenge.
The new superintendent for the Crawford AuSable School District is getting acclimated to his position and the community with a focus on continuing high staff and student achievement. Justin Gluesing served his first day as the school chief for the district on Monday, July 1. He replaced Crawford AuSable School District Superintendent Joe Powers, who retired from his position with the school after 13 years on the job on March 31, 2018.
The 34th annual AuSable River Classic Car and Truck Show drew hundreds of visitors and families into downtown Grayling on Saturday, July 20. The car show was cut short when heavy thunderstorms and rain swept through the area.
Crawford County Sheriff’s Deputies were on hand to welcome a new resident who was making his way into the world. Crawford County Sheriff Shawn M. Kraycs said that deputies were dispatched around 1:20 p.m. on Sunday, July 21, as a woman was having contractions on M-72 while heading to the hospital and their vehicle overheated in South Branch Township. Deputies arrived on the scene at M-72 and Smith Bridge as the baby was being born. They assisted the mother and father with the delivery and care of the newborn until the ambulance arrived.
A landmark for AuSable River Canoe Marathon paddlers and others that travel the river was toppled earlier this month. The “bra tree,” which is located just above Conners Flat half-way between Wakeley Bridge and McMasters Bridge, broke around 3:18 p.m. on Saturday, July 13. Located on property owned by Greg Stansbury, the bra tree became a fixture on the river around 15 years ago.
The team with the most victories in the history of the Consumers Energy AuSable River Canoe Marathon – a 120-mile non-stop race from Grayling to Oscoda held every year during the last full weekend of July – added to its all-time record, winning the race for the 11th time. Andrew Triebold of Grayling and Steve Lajoie of Quebec, as a duo, had 10 AuSable Marathon championships going into this year’s race after winning the event together in 2004, 2008 through 2015, and 2018. Triebold and Lajoie reached the finish line at Oscoda in 14:15:34, approximately five minutes ahead of the second place team of Guillaume Blais and Samuel Frigon. Blais and Frigon, both of Quebec, posted an unofficial time of 14:20:13. Chris Issendorf of Texas and Pete Mead of Traverse City took third place with a time of 14:21:18. The 14th place team – Richard Lauth of Grosse Ile and Mary Schlimmer of Traverse City – won the Mixed Division. They posted an unofficial time of 15:06:18. Rebecca Davis of Homer and Edith MacHattie of Saskatchewan, winners of the Women’s Division, finished 16th overall. This year’s AuSable River Canoe Marathon featured a record number of all-female teams with nine, passing the previous mark of five (first established in 2013 and then matched in 2016, 2017, and 2018). Davis and MacHattie – with an unofficial time of 15:15:36 this year – broke their own record for best ever finish time for a Women’s Division team. In 2017, Davis and MacHattie posted a time of 15:17:39, breaking the previous mark of 15:26:14 (a record set in 1994).
AuSable River Canoe Marathon teams – before they raced 120 miles from Grayling to Oscoda on Saturday and Sunday – battled for starting positions during time trials on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Andrew Triebold and Steve Lajoie – 2019 AuSable Marathon champions – had the best sprint of the event with a time of 4:49.52.
The annual Business Canoe Relays featured six four-person teams racing in recreation canoes at Penrod’s on Thursday night as part of the AuSable River Festival.
As more bicycle races are hosted in the community and trails get developed, bicycle repair stations have been added as a new feature for residents and visitors in Grayling’s downtown business district. The stations were recently installed by Thanks A Latte and Flowers by Josie, 212 Michigan Avenue, and at the Rolling Oak Brewing, 509 Norway Street.
Dozens of lives have been saved due to a new feature added to law enforcement’s arsenal to combat the opioid crisis impacting the region. Lynda Rutkowski, a substance abuse prevention specialist for Up North Prevention and the Crawford County Partnership for Substance Abuse, gave an update to the Crawford County Board of Commission on Thursday, June 25, on substance abuse prevention taking place in the region. In 2015 a grant provided Narcan for every law enforcement vehicle in the region through the Northern Michigan Regional Entity, an organization which provides funding and resources for substance abuse prevention and education in 21 northern Michigan counties.
Each year, on the Friday before the AuSable River Canoe Marathon, the Grayling Knights of Columbus and the AuSable Marathon Committee team up to conduct a special event: the AuSable River Special Olympics Canoe Race. For the last two decades, AuSable River Canoe Marathon paddlers – current racers and former Marathon competitors – have been paired with local Special Olympians to paddle a short looped course in an aluminum canoe.
The Michelson Memorial United Methodist Church is nearing its goal of raising $50,000 to restore its bell tower following a low country boil dinner hosted at the church on Tuesday, July 23, as part of AuSable River Festival activities. The dinner included a mix of shrimp, smoked sausage, potatoes, onions, and corn on the cob.
Hundreds of spectators were on hand for the AuSable River Festival Parade held on Saturday, July 27. Crawford County Sheriff Shawn M. Kraycs served as the grand marshal for the parade. Former Crawford County Sheriff Kirk A. Wakefield, who died on April 16, was also honored, and his daughters, Amy and Melanie Wakefield, rode in the back of the sheriff’s office pick-up.
Dozens of vendors were on hand for the AuSable River Festival’s Arts and Crafts Show held in the Grayling City Park on Friday and Saturday, July 26-27.
Men and women, in separate divisions, faced off during the annual Grayling Main Street Paddle Battle on Michigan Avenue. During the event, competitors battled two at a time in a single elimination bracket. Winners this year were Cameron McClain (Men’s Division) and Vickie Hart (Women’s Division).
By all measures the Great Northern Arts Explosion was a success, drawing people into Grayling area businesses, making cash registers ring, and showcasing art from artisans from throughout Michigan. The AuSable Artisan Village and Paddle Hard Brewing joined forces to finance the Great Northern Art Explosion, Grayling’s first statewide fine arts competition. The show was on display from July 19 through August 3 at nine venues throughout downtown Grayling. On Saturday, August 3, an awards ceremony was held at the Artisan Village to recognize winners in seven categories as well as the people’s choice award. Jason Glicker won the people’s choice award for his 3-D art display called 20 Level Merkaba.
Just over a dozen and a half Grayling area residents who have tainted drinking water caused by a firefighting foam used by the military will get a new source of water if the military can solidify plans in less than two months. Camp Grayling and National Guard Bureau officials are pursuing a contract that would connect 17 area residents impacted by PFAS to a safe source of drinking water. Three homes in the City of Grayling, which have their own private water wells, would be connected to the city’s municipal water system. Fourteen residents in Grayling Charter Township would be connected to a newly constructed municipal water system. Under a Time Critical Action Removal Action plan, Grayling is the first community in the nation to identify sources of contamination, reduce exposure, and provide a clean source of water to residents.
The 2019 Grayling Recreation Authority 10K/5K – foot races for people of all ages held every year during the AuSable River Festival – featured close to 150 finishers with 103 people completing the 5K loop and 43 runners finishing the 10K course. This year’s 10K/5K event was held on Saturday, July 27, with each loop starting and ending at Hanson Hills Recreation Area. The overall winners for the 2019 GRA 10K were Jorden Wakeley (Men’s Division, 0:34:56) and Emily Short (Women’s Division, 0:41:31). Short has now won the 10K Women’s Division in 2012 through 2019, an active streak of eight consecutive victories, including a first place overall finish in the 2015 GRA 10K. In the 5K event, Josie Short won the Women’s Division with a time of 0:19:42. J. Short also won the division in 2017 and 2018. There were 61 runners in the Women’s Division this year. Out of 42 runners in the 5K Men’s Division, Tyler Bischoff finished first with a time of 0:19:32.
A store which offers cards for any occasion, gifts, and other merchandise is closing after operating in Grayling over three decades. Flo’s Hallmark Shop, located at 2400 South I-75 Business Loop, is closing its doors on Saturday, August 17. Flo Hajek bought out John’s Hallmark, which was run by Grayling businessman John Cherven, in 1986.
Grayling High School’s new Viking Activity Center – an expansion of its physical education facilities – is currently slated for completion later this year, and school officials are hoping the existing gym will be ready in time for the start of the 2019-2020 school year. The new facility is being added to the front of the high school (facing Old 27) onto the side of the current gymnasium. The bones of the new facility are in place.
People in the community for vacations or those from the Grayling area looking to take a staycation are urged to check out a new museum highlighting military artifacts and memorabilia. Pineview Military Surplus and Museum officially opened at its new location at 604 Norway Street in Grayling on December 14. The business operated in the Frederic area for nearly five decades. The museum features items the business has collected over the years as well as items that family and friends of veterans have donated or traded for merchandise carried in the store.
The Crawford AuSable Day Care and Preschool and a Grayling church have joined forces to open a new building, which will double its capacity to serve more children and families in the community. The Crawford AuSable Day Care and Preschool and Mt. Hope Lutheran Church leaders and their congregation held a groundbreaking ceremony on Sunday, August 4, for a new building that will be home to the day care and preschool. The new facility will be located adjacent to the church and will have its own access drive off of Airport Road. The building will be 6,000 square feet with a 2,400 square foot attached pavilion.
Jamie and Cameron McClain are opening up M-93 Storage, LLC, located at 9898 M-93, which is next to the Denholm Family Chiropractic. There are 48 units ranging 10 feet by 10 feet up to 20 feet by 30 feet. The couple purchased the property about a year ago and received approval for the zoning of the project from the Grayling Charter Township Planning Commission. They broke ground in mid-June.
The 28th Lovells Bridge Walk – an event that began in 1991 as a small scale version of Michigan’s Mackinac Bridge Walk – featured hundreds of participants this year and raised a record amount of money for the Lovells Township Volunteer Fire Department & EMS. Saturday’s Lovells Bridge Walk event featured its annual Fireman’s Pancake Breakfast, a community luncheon, and a quilt show, in addition to the parade and the walk across the bridge in Lovells. The event raised more than $13,000.
Due to their move to the Grayling Middle School, fifth graders are no longer involved with the Extended Learning Year program, but two community organizations teamed with teachers to provide new learning opportunities for the students. The Grayling Youth Booster Club and the Grayling Rotary Club each awarded $1,000 grants to send 34 fifth graders on science field trips. First, fifth grade teachers Kristy Raymond and Gloria Partlo took the students to the Inland Seas Education Association based in Suttons Bay. Next, near the end of the Extended Learning Year, the students visited STARBASE Alpena.
Dozens of golfers, sponsors, and volunteers gathered together to honor an iconic Grayling man who was an advocate for youth and supported people of all ages. The 13th annual Irv McIsaac Scholarship Golf Open was held at the Grayling Country Club on Saturday, August 17. Throughout his time in Grayling, McIsaac started dozens of other organizations for youth such as little league and the Boy Scouts. He also served as chairman of the Grayling Country Club Men’s League for 27 years and was an ambassador for Grayling. McIsaac passed away on January 28, 2009. He was 88. One of last wishes was to start a scholarship program through the Grayling Country Club to support Grayling High School students in their future college endeavors.
Thousands of people visited Hartwick Pines over the weekend for the state park’s Black Iron Days festival, an event that featured a variety of blacksmiths and artisans in addition to the re-opening of the Edward E. Hartwick Memorial Building. This year’s Black Iron Days event also featured Hartwick Pines State Park’s salute to the 100th anniversary of the Michigan state park system.
A Grayling couple, who have been in the construction business for decades, have established a new business to help bring affordable housing to the Grayling area. Judy and Tom Steffen founded the Northern Michigan Housing Development, LLC in Grayling. The first home was placed on a site at 601 Galen Street, which will serve as a model house and sales office. The business has partnered with Mary Becker, the sales manager and licensed associate real estate broker from Midge and Co. Real Estate, to help find property for homes and help finance the purchase.
Hundreds of Crawford County residents attended the annual Neighborhood Connections event hosted at the Grayling High School on Thursday, August 22. The event is organized and put on through the Crawford County Collaborative, a group of community service and advocacy organizations.
The 13th annual Old U.S. Motor Tour rolled into Grayling on Friday, August 23, for a car show and overnight stay at the Ramada by Wyndham Grayling Hotel & Conference Center. The motto for the tour is “Back in the Day It was the Way” since Old U.S. 27 begins in Michigan goes down to Florida.
After a seven-year absence, a local police officer is back on the local undercover drug enforcement team to combat the opioid epidemic and stem the flow of illicit drugs coming into the area. Crawford County Sheriff Shawn M. Kraycs said the City of Grayling and Crawford County have entered into an agreement to add a drug enforcement officer back to the local drug enforcement team called the Strike Team Investigative Narcotics Group (STING) unit. STING covers Arenac, Crawford, Iosco, Ogemaw, Oscoda, and Roscommon counties.
The Crawford County Prosecuting Attorney is trying to add more charges in a case for a man already charged with murder, while his defense attorney is hammering away at the credibility of a co-defendant and questioning the timeline when the incident occurred. A second preliminary hearing was held on Friday, August 30, in Crawford County District Court for Matthew Franklin Smith, 37, of Canton. Smith is awaiting a jury trial for one count of homicide-open murder, which carries a sentence of life in prison. Crawford County Prosecutor Sierra R. Koch is seeking to have Smith charged with torture, which carries a sentence of life or any number of years in prison, and unlawful imprisonment, a 15-year felony.
The Grayling Lions Club made donations to the Viking Pantries housed at each school in the community to kick off the school year and provide food and needed items to students. Members of the Grayling Lions Club met with school representatives on Tuesday, August 27, to present donations to support the food pantries. The Grayling High School, Grayling Middle School, and Grayling Elementary School were each given $200 in order to purchase items for the food pantries as the traditional school year gets underway.
The Grayling Promotional Association (GPA) held its 16th annual Junque in the Trunk Sale in the Grayling Mini Mall parking lot on Saturday, August 31. GPA President Jeanne Pratt said there were 40 vendors on hand for the sale, which raises funds for projects the organization supports and allows its members to be more visible in the community.
A failed attempt to divert law enforcement resources away from a bank heist which took place in another part of northeast Michigan put Crawford County first responders to the test. On Friday, September 6, a phone call from an unknown person was received by Munson Healthcare Grayling Hospital’s main phone line stating that there were explosive devices placed at all the entrances to the hospital. The hospital went on immediate lockdown and officers from the Grayling Department of Public Safety, Crawford County Sheriff’s Office, and Michigan State Police responded and secured the hospital and the surrounding area. The local schools were notified and went on lockdown as well. As the investigation was underway, more information was obtained that there was more than one bomb threat in the area and threats were made to schools and hospitals in Arenac, Ogemaw, Roscommon, and Iosco counties. Around 9:20 a.m. the Rose City Mercantile Bank was robbed of an undisclosed amount of money. Deputies from the Arenac County Sheriff’s Office spotted the suspect’s truck traveling on M-61 near Standish. The driver fled into a cornfield on foot. City, county, and state police officers established a perimeter around the field. The State Police’s Emergency Response Team, a helicopter, and K-9 units were called in to help with the search. A drone from the Sterling Area Fire Department was used to locate the suspect. He was taken down by a K-9 unit as he attempted to flee the field around noon. State police started interrogating the man on Friday. They hoped to gather evidence from inside the truck and to locate a cell phone to determine if it was used to call in the bomb threats.
To meet the needs of existing companies in the area and meet the evolving market for skilled trades, Kirtland Community College has opened its Michigan Forest Products Institute. Kirtland Community College President Dr. Tom Quinn, state legislators, members of the Board of Trustees, and community members provided special remarks at a ribbon cutting for the brand new building on the college’s Grayling campus on Friday, September 6. With a focus on trade education, the new building houses the cosmetology program’s updated Kirtland Salon, modern wood science and automation labs, library and tutoring center, and additional classroom and office space. Classes began in the building on August 26.
A pillar for retail sales in the community, the Grayling Kmart will be closing near the end of the year on Sunday, December 15. The store currently has 35 employees, but is hiring additional associates to work through upcoming liquidation sales and the holiday season.
Grayling is participating in Tie Michigan Teal, an event to bring awareness to National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.
The Grayling Rotary Club, other community organizations, businesses, and individuals are joining forces to provide a safe environment for Halloween. Trunk or Treat on Main Street will be held between 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday, October 31. The Grayling City Council, at its regular monthly meeting, approved a multi-use permit to close the 200 and 300 block on Michigan Avenue for the event.
Grayling High School hosted Bubble Soccer Mania 2019 at Viking Stadium, and the event raised thousands of dollars for Project Graduation 2020. During the event, players wore see-through plastic “bubbles” and played 10-minute soccer games in a double-elimination tournament. The winning team consisted of Nick Bluemlein, Reed Cvitkovich, Drew Kanary, Emma Mertes, David Millikin, and Justin Youngblood. Event organizers said this year’s Bubble Soccer Mania raised more than $4,000 for Project Graduation.
After the congregation at the Michelson Memorial United Methodist Church raised $50,000 for the bell tower restoration project, work began on the project earlier this month. The bell tower dates back to 1977.
Deputy Michael Dekun from the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office is the new school liaison officer for Grayling Elementary School, Grayling Middle School, and Graying High School. The school liaison officer provides an extra level of security for student safety, helps with discipline issues, and serves as a mentor to students.
For the second year in a row, Camp Grayling served as a hub for about 60 veterans that went on the Mid-Michigan Honor Flight. They were served dinner and other meals and had an overnight stay in the barracks before flying to Washington D.C. on Wednesday, September 18.
The Crawford County Community Christian Help Center donated 24 new headphones, which were provided by the Salvation Army, to the Grayling Elementary School for student use with their Chrome books.
The Grayling Country Club and foster care advocates teamed up last week to host a golf scramble to raise foster care awareness. The Foster Care Golf Open was held on Thursday, September 19, and was hosted by Michigan Department of Health and Human Services staff from Crawford, Oscoda, and Otsego counties. The goal of the event was to “Raise Hope and Foster Dreams” as well as to try to recruit people to become foster care parents.
Donald “Chopper” Steffes retired on Saturday, September 28, after serving as a corrections officer for the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office for 20 years. Prior to being hired by the sheriff’s office, Steffes served 20 years in the U.S. Army. Steffes received a resolution from the Crawford County Board of Commissioners from Crawford County Sheriff Shawn M. Kraycs to recognize his service to the community. Steffes was also presented a plaque, a sheriff’s office challenge coin, and a retirement identification card.
If a number of steps can be taken to go through governmental red tape and hard decisions can be made, the decade and a half-plus search to find a new home for the Crawford County Commission on Aging (COA) and Grayling Senior Center may come to fruition. The COA has entered into a purchase agreement to buy the former Mayday Windows Building, located at 4388 M-72 West. The Crawford County Board of Commissioners, at its regular monthly meeting on Thursday, September 26, held a public hearing on a plan to obtain bonds to purchase and renovate the building. Crawford County Administrator Paul Compo said $2.2. million in bonds have been secured from USDA Rural Development for the project. A total of $428,000 in bonds has been secured to purchase the building as well as a wooded lot located east of the building. A separate bond of over $1.7 million is also secured to renovate the building.
This year’s Guardian Game – a varsity football contest between Grayling High School and Kalkaska High School that includes a special rivalry trophy and tributes to past and present members of the United States military – will be held at Viking Stadium on Friday, October 4. The 2019 Guardian Game will mark the third time Grayling has battled Kalkaska for the Guardian Trophy. The Vikings have won both previous games. In 2017, Grayling defeated Kalkaska 50-33 to earn its sixth win of the season and secure a playoff berth. Last year, the Vikings won 47-6 vs. the Blazers. Kalkaska High School hosted the Guardian Game in both 2017 and 2018, so this year’s event will mark the first time Grayling High School has hosted it.
Christina Schlitt of Frederic is president of the League of Woman Voters of Michigan. She was elected to the position for a two-year term in July. Born and raised in Detroit, Schlitt said she was drawn to the organization by voter guides published by League of Women Voters of Detroit to educate voters about the candidates and ballot proposals. Schlitt became active in the organization in 2000. Schlitt started with the Grosse Pointe League as a voter service director and worked her way to be president of the League. Schlitt and her husband, Bruce, bought property on the Manistee River in Frederic 45 years ago. They built a cabin on the property 15 years ago.
The Crawford County United Way’s 9th Annual Campaign Kick-Off Spaghetti Dinner on September 18 at Fox Run Country Club raised over $1,100 for the organization.
The Guardian Trophy will stay at Grayling High School for another year. The Grayling Vikings defeated the Kalkaska Blazers 55-6 during Friday night’s Guardian Game, a varsity football rivalry contest hosted by Grayling High School this year. This year’s Guardian Game featured a special coin toss, a gathering of former and current members of the United States military at the end zone for the national anthem, and a moment of silence in honor of Kelly Richards. Staff Sergeant Richards, a United States Army Health Care Specialist and a 2005 Grayling High School graduate, passed away in September after a training accident in South Korea.
Eli Jackson and CeCe Cvitkovich were announced as Grayling High School’s 2019 homecoming king and queen during halftime of Friday night’s Grayling vs. Kalkaska varsity football game.
A 37-year-old Canton man accused of murdering a Frederic resident will face more charges when his case goes before a jury. Chief 46th Trial Court Judge George J. Mertz arraigned Matthew Franklin Smith on Friday, October 4, on charges of torture and unlawful imprisonment. The charges carry a penalty of life or any number of years in prison. Gaylord attorney Kevin L. Hesselink, who is representing Smith, asked that not guilty pleas be entered on behalf of his client. Smith and Dylan Ziegler, 19, of Romulus, are accused of killing Dennis Everson, 64, from Frederic.
Fourteen graduates of Grayling High School and three current seniors have earned the designation of AP Scholar by the College Board in recognition of their achievement on the college-level Advanced Placement Exams: Sophia Do, Christina Gilkerson, Hailey Hartman, Madison Hehir, Logan Joseph, Emily Kowalski, Genisus Rice-Romain, Katherine Snider, Josie Trudgeon, Amairis Tuck, David Walsh, Joshua Neal, Dana Trudgeon, Tyler Brandt, Blane Johnston, Miranda Makowski, and Esabella Powers.
Hundreds of Grayling area residents and others from surrounding areas lined the streets of the community to give a hero’s homecoming to U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Kelly Richards. Richards was serving as a health care specialist with the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry at Fort Carson in Colorado. He was deployed to the Middle East under Operation Spartan Shield. Staff Sgt. Richards passed away on Wednesday, September 25, at the age of 32 while competing for an expert field medical badge at Camp Casey in Seoul, South Korea. Richards was born in Petoskey and raised in Boyne City and Grayling. He joined the Army after graduating from Grayling High School in 2005. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered Michigan flags to be lowered to half-staff on Tuesday, October 8, to honor the service of Richards, which coincided with his military funeral.
Hundreds of people and families attended the Grayling Promotional Association’s annual Arts and Crafts Show held at the Grayling Elementary School on Saturday, October 5. There were 71 vendors on hand at the show.
The Grayling Promotional Association donated $10,000 to help bring state-of-the-art equipment to Munson Healthcare Grayling Hospital to assist in the diagnosis of heart issues. For the 2020 fiscal year, hospital leaders and supporters have launched a fund-raising campaign to purchase the CASE Premium Stress System, “a stand-alone, highly scalable exercise testing solution that helps physicians quickly and easily assess cardiac function during exercise,” www.munsonhealthcare.org.
Dozens of people and their canine caregivers packed into the Grayling City Park on Saturday for the third annual Bark For Life to help raise funds and awareness to battle cancer. The fundraiser for the American Cancer Society was held October 12 through the Relay for Life of Crawford County. Jessica Christensen Jazenski, the event coordinator for Bark For Life, said the goal of the event was to raise awareness about cancer and for people to have fun with their best friends. Relay for Life does not allow participants to bring their dogs, so this stand-alone event is held to highlight that dogs can also be impacted by cancer.
Crawford County Emergency Management Director Doug Pratt received the 2019 Emergency Manager of the Year Award for a population under 60,000 from the Michigan Emergency Management Association. The association includes emergency management directors from each county as well as some larger cities who have their own emergency management directors. Pratt received the award on October 8 during a three-day Michigan Emergency Management Association conference held at Shanty Creek Resort in Bellaire.
The Raminator, a Dodge Ram which holds the Guinness World Record for the fastest time for a Monster Truck, was at Matt LaFontaine Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram, located at 5850 W. M-72 on Wednesday, October 9, for a grand opening celebration.
A Grayling native and advocate for youth recently released a book of poems, which has been in the works for 52 years and covers topics from the Vietnam War to family and friends. Doug Wilson’s book, Echoes and Shadows, includes 145 poems written over a 52-year-period.
Camp AuSable hosted its annual mothers and daughters retreat October 11 through October 13. A total of 250 participants took part in the retreat. As part of pre-planning for the retreat, the mothers and daughters were urged to go out on shopping trips to buy food for the Crawford County Community Christian Help Center/Food Pantry.
The matriarch of a Grayling family recalled the good old days and cherished her family and unique events held in the community as she marked her 100th birthday. Bernetta Gladys Smock celebrated her 100th birthday on Sunday, October 20, at a gathering held at the Higgins Lake St. Elizabeth’s Episcopal Church.
The 15th Annual Horseshoe Tournament was held at the Kalkaska Eagles. The tournament raises funds to help the AuSable Valley Animal Shelter. This year the tournament brought in a record donation of just over $1,200, and for the fourth year in a row, Spike’s came in first place, claiming the golden traveling trophy to display at the establishment for another year.
Former Crawford County Sheriff Kirk A. Wakefield was honored posthumously with the President’s Award from the Michigan Sheriff’s Association at a fall banquet held on Sunday, October 13, in Lansing. Wakefield, the past president of the Michigan Sheriff’s Association, passed away at his home on Tuesday, April 16. He was 68. Wakefield retired from serving as the Crawford County Sheriff on December 3, 2018 after holding the office for 17 years.
After serving Crawford County for the last decade, Deputy Michael “Jake” Jacobi is ready to retire for good this time. Jacobi filled his last shift for the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office on Thursday, October 24, capping a 38-year career in the law enforcement field.
Crawford County officials have decided to weigh in on the state budget dispute between Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Republican led legislature. The Crawford County Board of Commissioners, at its regular monthly meeting held on Thursday, August 25, directed County Administrator Paul Compo to write a letter to state lawmakers representing the county, explaining how state budget cuts could have a potential impact on the county’s budget. Whitmer used line items vetoes to cut $1 billion from the $59.9 billion budget, which started on October 1. She exercised her right to veto programs in protest to get more money to fix state roads and bridges. For Crawford County, the cuts mean the county could lose $547,405, which is nine percent of the county’s $5.6 million budget.
Smoking mixed with using a home oxygen unit resulted in a deadly combination for a Frederic man last week. During the early morning hours of Thursday, October 24, the Frederic Township Fire Department responded to a house fire at 6208 Center Street in Frederic. As the initial response was underway, the occupant when the fire broke out was found in his truck outside the home after sustaining extensive burns to his body. EMS and firefighters provided emergency medical care at the scene and transported the victim with life-threatening injuries to Munson Healthcare Grayling Hospital. Later that morning, the burn victim was flown via fixed wing aircraft to the Flint Hurly Hospital burn unit. After two days of burn treatments, the victim succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced dead on Saturday, October 26. The cause of the fire was the victim smoking in his chair while using a home oxygen unit. The cigarette caused the chair in which he was sitting to ignite and oxygen that he was using accelerated the fire’s intensity.
The Viking Activity Center – an expansion of Grayling High School’s physical education facilities – is expected to be finished in November following a few delays. School officials are expecting the new facility to be ready for the winter 2019-2020 sports season. The Viking Activity Center is attached to the east end of Grayling High School’s existing gymnasium.
A new gift store has opened in downtown Grayling just in time for the holiday season. The Curator, located at 200 E. Michigan Avenue, opened for business on Thursday, October 24. The business is owned by Penny and Erich Podjaske plus a silent partner who lives in Oklahoma.
Grayling Elementary School conducted its annual Halloween parade on Thursday despite snow and cold temperatures.
Cutting edge technology is being used to detect the extent of contamination caused by a firefighting foam used by the military at the Grayling Army Airfield to try to figure how those chemicals are moving off base and tainting private drinking water wells. In late October, technicians began gathering more water and soil samples within the confines of the Grayling Army Airfield. The samples are being tested in a mobile lab. Instead of taking three to four weeks to get the results back for a remedial investigation that is underway, mobile labs are now being used to analyze the water and soil samples. That means results can be obtained within a 24-hour period. The Grayling Army Airfield is the first Department of Defense site in the nation where such testing is occurring since the contamination has migrated off site and has contaminated private water wells used by residents.
Hundreds of youth and their families packed into downtown Grayling on Thursday, October 31, for the Trunk or Treat on Main Street hosted by the Rotary Club of Grayling and Grayling Main Street Program.
The Rev. Elizabeth Chace will take her place at the pulpit for the last time on Sunday after leading the congregation at the St. Francis Episcopal Church for just over a decade and a half, but plans on continuing to serve the community after getting her first taste of retirement. Chace will be giving her last sermon and celebrating Eucharist with parishioners at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday, November 10. She is going to retire after serving the church since 2002.
A Crawford County mother faces a felony case for fleeing the area after her children were ordered to be taken into protective custody. On Tuesday, October 29, Selina Anglemyer-Douglas was arraigned in Crawford County District Court on one count for obstruction of justice, a five-year felony and a $10,000 fine, and four counts of children-interference with juvenile court custody, one-year misdemeanors with a $1,000 fine.
The Carl W. Borchers Veterans of Foreign Wars Post #3736 hosted a Veterans Day ceremony at the American Legion Post #106 on Monday, November 11.
The South Branch Township Fire Department and EMS Service celebrated retirements and the longtime service of some of its members at a dinner held at Jack’s Place in Roscommon. Service awards were presented to George Torr, 33 years as a firefighter and EMT, George Rhode, 37 years as a firefighter, and Mike Janisse, 33 years as a firefighter, medic, and captain. Retirees Suzanne Pennell served 19 years as an EMT lieutenant, Don Pennell served 19 years as firefighter, Henry Lehman served 20 years as firefighter, and Ernie Windolph served 34 years as the fire chief.
Crawford County voters will decide a millage request to fund the purchase, renovation, and expansion of a building to house the Crawford County Commission on Aging (COA) and Grayling Senior Center this winter. The millage to fund the $3 million project will be on the ballot as voters go to the primary presidential polls on Tuesday, March 10. The COA has entered into a purchase agreement to buy the former Mayday Windows Building, located at 4388 M-72 West. Crawford County Administrator Paul Compo said $2.2. million in bonds have been secured from USDA Rural Development for the project. A total of $428,000 in bonds has been secured to purchase the building as well as a wooded lot located east of the building. A separate bond of over $1.7 million is also secured to renovate the building.
Organizers and planners for the 42nd annual Christmas Walk made a blast into the past to add more variety and activities to kick off the holiday season in the community. There is a focus to hold more events during daylight hours, to be family-friendly, and to encourage participants to shop local as they prepare for the holiday season.
The Grayling Mini Mall will be lined from front to back with trees decorated with ornaments and prizes as the 2019 Festival of Trees gets underway. The Grayling Promotional Association’s Festival of Trees event has 60 trees and 30 gift baskets available this year. The trees will be on display from Saturday, November 16, through Saturday, November 30.
The 25th annual Shop With a Cop Christmas Tree Sale will go on as planned this year with a few adjustments. The trees will be sold through Sunday, December 22, or while the supplies last. Since its inception, deputies took the students shopping at the Grayling Kmart, when they went on winter vacation from school for the holidays. But since the Grayling Kmart is slated to close its doors for good on Sunday, December 15, the shopping outing will not be possible this year. Instead, parents and their children will be asked to fill out wish lists detailing items they need or want with sizes and their choice of design. The gifts will be ordered on-line, and given to the youth at a pizza party.
A strong start to this year’s buck pole event – a contest conducted by the Camp Grayling Conservation Club at Skip’s Sport Shop during the first two days of firearm deer hunting season, November 15 and 16 – led the annual Orangecoat Round-up to its highest number of bucks since 2015. This year’s buck pole featured 21 deer on Friday, November 15 – the highest day one total for the event since 2014 when the Orangecoat Round-up had 22 bucks. Jason Hatfield’s buck from day one had the largest rack score this year (156 1/2) over the course of the two-day event; he won the grand prize (a scoped rifle).
Joe Hemming, the past-president of the Anglers of the Au Sable, gave a presentation to the Crawford County Board of Commissioners at a meeting held on Thursday, November 14, regarding their partnership with the county. Excess fish, after the close of the season, were planted in the pond at Hanson Hills and in Howes Lake in Frederic Township. Hemming said the Anglers would be forging ahead with new plans and ideas for the hatchery this winter. He committed to coming back before the board with a tally of visitors to the facility as well as any proceeds generated. He said there is room to build upon on what the group offers visitors.
Hundreds of people packed into downtown Grayling on Saturday, November 16, for the 42nd annual Christmas Walk.
The Grayling Promotional Association’s 2019 Festival of Trees got off to a busy start over the weekend beginning with the Christmas Walk on Saturday; GPA members reported strong turnout during the event. According to GPA, this year’s Festival of Trees has 60 trees and 30 gift baskets available as prizes.
A Breakfast With Santa held at the American Legion Post #106 helped kick off Christmas Walk activities in Grayling on Saturday, November 16. Funds raised went to support the AuSable Dance Center’s competitive dance team.
The seventh annual Chili Cook Off to raise funds for the River House, Inc. was held at the Rolling Oak Brewing Co. on November 14. Eighteen chili recipes prepared by businesses and individuals were entered into the competition. Prize money for the cook off came from event sponsor, the Michigan Bean Commission based in Frankenmuth.
The Michelson Memorial United Methodist Church was a busy place during the Christmas Walk held on Saturday, November 16. A cookie walk, a shopper’s showcase, and a light dinner were held at the church.
The Crawford County Board of Commissioners fired off another letter to state lawmakers in hopes of getting funding restored to several county entities before the end of the year. The Crawford County Board of Commissioners, at its regular monthly meeting held on Thursday, November 21, voted to send the letter to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Whitmer used line item vetoes to cut $1 billion from the $59.9 billion budget, which started on October 1. For Crawford County, the cuts mean the county could lose $547,405, which is nine percent of the county’s $5.6 million budget.
Plenty of volunteers and a steady stream of people seeking to get spooked allowed the Forest of Fear to scare up a record amount of donations to support local students and community organizations. The Forest of Fear, located off of Stephan Bridge Road, ran every weekend in October up through Halloween. The Forest of Fear marked its 14th anniversary this year. Volunteers established a new record, bringing in $12,000 to support school programs and non-profit organizations.
Grayling veteran Todd Hernandez keeps his medals and even bronze stars earned on the battlefield tucked away, but a cherished gift given to him for his military service remains a prominent part of his household. Hernandez was awarded a patriotic quilt from the Quilts of Valor program from a longtime friend of the family, Ruth Ann Bennett from Dimondale. Hernandez enlisted in the Michigan National Guard in 1983 and later became part of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit. Hernandez was assigned to the 745th EOD unit based out of Grayling. The unit was deployed for Operation Desert Storm. Hernandez and the 745th EOD unit was later deployed for Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The Cops for Kids Christmas Tree Sale, a collaboration between area businesses and the Crawford County Deputy Sheriff’s Association, began on Friday, November 22, in the Grayling Kmart parking lot.
On October 3, 25 students visited and toured the Weyerhaeuser Grayling mill to continue the company’s involvement with the Crawford AuSable School District’s work based learning program. On October 11, 50 students from the Grayling High School and Grayling Middle School traveled to Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City for a Construction Trades Career Fair titled “Building Tomorrow.” On October 17, students toured the Arauco North America Plant in Grayling Charter Township, and Kirtland Community College’s Wood Technology Institute. Exposing students to emerging career opportunities is part of “Growing Your Own” to fill the gap for the need for jobs in skilled trades fields.
Volunteers for the 29th annual Crawford AuSable Thanksgiving Day Dinner provided 1,090 meals to Crawford County residents on Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 28. The total included 175 dine-in meals at a dining facility at the Grayling Army Airfield as well as 175 take-out meals. Sixty-seven turkeys, which were donated by Family Fare of Grayling, were prepared for the holiday feast. About 125 volunteers helped package the take-out meals.
The Grayling Promotional Association raffled off 60 trees and 30 gift baskets as the 2019 Festival of Trees came to end on Sunday, December 1. Jack Millikin, Inc. was the winner for the Festival of Trees with the most raffle tickets placed in the bucket by its tree.
The Grayling Department of Public Safety held a Stuff The Patrol Car donation event to support the Viking Food Pantries housed at the Grayling High School, Grayling Middle School, and Grayling Elementary School on Sunday, December 1. The event was held in coordination with the Cops For Kids Christmas Tree Sale in the Grayling Kmart parking lot.
Winners for the Grayling Promotional Association’s Festival of Trees coloring contest were announced as the holiday event promoting businesses and organizations in the community came to a close on Sunday, December 1. Each winner received a $25 cash award.
The Grayling High School Players will present the family holiday play “The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus” on Friday, December 6, and Saturday, December 7, at 6:30 p.m. at GHS.
The Lake State Railway Company, Crawford County Historical Society, and Blarney Stone Broadcasting teamed up to welcome Santa, Mrs. Claus, and a number of other holiday Christmas figures for a Toys for Tots of Crawford County collection held at the train depot on Saturday, December 7.
An arresting sporting match is on tap for Grayling residents next week, and it’s all aimed at supporting the kids in the community for the holidays. The inaugural Cops vs Kids basketball game will be held on Wednesday, December 18, at the Grayling Middle School. The game will match police officers serving Grayling and Crawford County against seventh and eighth grade basketball players from the Grayling Middle School.
A military veteran who was born and raised in Crawford County was recognized for his service to country near his hometown. Don Corwin was raised on a dairy farm located off of Four Mile Road in Grayling Charter Township. His dad, Charles Corwin, operated the farm from 1923 through 1946. Don graduated from Grayling High School in 1939. He joined the armed forces and served in the 10th Armored Division 425th Field Battalion in Europe during World War II. After the war, Corwin relocated to the Village of Clinton Township, which is about 25 miles southwest of Ann Arbor. Don was honored by the Saline Main Street Program through its Military and Veterans Program with a banner placed on a lightpost in the community. He was among 43 veterans who were recognized.
Cub Scout Pack #3993 of Grayling held a holiday dessert auction at the Michelson Memorial United Methodist Church on Sunday, December 8. Funds from the event will go toward buying gifts and items for a foster care child and senior citizen the Scouts have adopted for the holidays.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently announced that the Kirtland’s warbler longer warrants protection under the Endangered Species Act. The Kirtland’s warbler, a small songbird once poised on the brink of extinction, is thriving due to decades of effort by a diverse group of dedicated partners.
Levi Burkett was hired to serve as the assistant principal at the Grayling High School on December 2, which was the start of the second trimester for students at the school. He is taking the place of Sarah Allen, who is now the interim Grayling High School Principal. Grayling High School Principal Donna Boughner is retiring on December 31 after nine years in the position.
The Crawford County Board of Commissioners is seeking applicants to fill a vacancy on the Crawford County Road Commission. The vacancy is to fill the unexpired term for Jim Burtch, who passed away on December 5. He was 85. Burtch had served on the road commission since 2003, with many of those years as chairman of the board.
Patrons at the Crawford County Devereaux Memorial Library received a comprehensive overview of the logging era in the area as a national touring exhibit was unveiled. The Crawford County Library is one of six Michigan organizations selected by the Michigan Humanities Council to host the Smithsonian’s Museum on Main Street “Crossroads: Change in Rural America” Exhibition from December 14 to January 26.
Consumers Energy has agreed to trim thousands of dollars off bills to relocate power lines to accommodate a higher roofline for an addition at the Crawford County Devereaux Memorial Library, but the delay in work has pushed the completion date for the project out nearly a month. Power poles in the back of the library and in the parking lot for the library had to be moved so that construction crews could start on the addition and renovations to the library.
The St. Mary’s Women’s Club hosted its annual Christmas Cookie Sale in the church’s family center on Saturday, December 14. Hundreds of cookies and treats were sold to support funeral luncheons, scholarships for high school graduates, the Crawford County Community Christian Help Center and Food Pantry, and River House Shelter, Inc.
The Cops vs Kids basketball game was held at the Grayling Middle School on Wednesday, December 18. The kids, represented by the eighth grade basketball team, won the match by a 66-54 final score. The overall big winners from the game were the Viking Pantries housed at the Grayling Elementary School, Grayling Middle School, and Grayling High School. A total of $1,082 was donated to the pantries along with donated hygiene products brought in by spectators for the game.
Grayling High School’s varsity football program recently announced its all-conference honors and team awards for the 2019 fall season, a list of accolades that also featured academic all-state status. Seven Vikings earned all-league honors in the Legends Division of the Northern Michigan Football Conference this year: (all-league) Zach Osga, running back; Reid Cvitkovich, offensive line; Eli Jackson, linebacker; (honorable mention) Nick Bluemlein, offensive line; Pali Feri, kicker; David Millikin, defensive back; Parker Dole, linebacker. Jackson was co-defensive player of the year (with a linebacker from Traverse City St. Francis) in the Legends Division of the Northern Michigan Football Conference for 2019. During its recent end-of-the-season banquet, the Vikings announced their team awards for the 2019 campaign: Offensive MVP – Zach Osga; Defensive MVP – Eli Jackson; BAHUNA Award – Parker Dole; Michael Goodrich Award (Top Lineman) – Sterling Shazri; Mr. Lockdown (Defensive Back Award) – Zach Osga; Hammer Award (Big Hitter) – Reid Cvitkovich; Turnover Cup (Most Turnovers) – Andrew Kanary, with five. The team also earned first team academic all-state.
Tiny houses could be coming to Grayling to fill a need in the housing market. The City of Grayling’s Planning Commission, at its regular monthly meeting held on Tuesday, December 1, took input on a planned unit Tom Steffen is hoping to develop in the community. Steffen, along with his business partner Fred Fabian, are planning on building a tiny houses project on the corner of Madsen and State Streets in Grayling.
A specialty coffee shop, where people can have drinks and food, do work, and have meetings, is slated to open in downtown Grayling next spring. The Grayling Planning Commission, at its regular monthly meeting held on Tuesday, December 17, approved a special land use permit for Michigan Brew, which will be located at 106 East Michigan Avenue. The focus of the business will be serving coffee, liquor, and it will also have a 15-brew tap system.