Hollywood came to Manistee this week, as Manistee native and television/film actor Toni Trucks officially dedicated the Manistee Historic Sites Tours to community leaders and media at the Ramsdell Regional Center for the Arts, along with representatives from the Manistee County Visitors Bureau (MCVB) and Manistee County Historical Museum.

Spearheaded by the MCVB with close collaboration from the Manistee County Historical Museum, the Manistee Historic Sites Tours are the county’s most comprehensive tourism project in history, showcasing more than 100 historic sites through eight themed tours. Supported by a $50,000 grant from United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development and $70,000 from the MCVB, the MCVB created the self-guided routes with an accompanying guidebook, map, and mobile app with links to videos and images on the bureau’s website.

Toni Trucks

CBS Seal Team actor Toni Trucks provided the voice-overs for more than 20 videos narrating Manistee’s most prominent historic sites. The video about the Ramsdell Theatre was shown on a screen to the audience at the dedication event. At the conclusion, Toni Trucks and MCVB Executive Director Kathryn Kenny pulled a drape off of a new tour sign to be placed in the Manistee County Historical Museum, the starting point for the eight tours.

“Today is the culmination of a project that dates back to 2011 when it was just a kernel of an idea,” Kenny says. “When we looked at Manistee’s brand assets, our rich history is one of the primary draws for visitors. Yet many of our most treasured buildings are private homes and businesses. This new Manistee Historic Sites Tour gives people an inside glimpse through videos and photos of these fascinating historic treasures.”

“I am so thrilled to provide the audio narration of the Manistee Historic Sites Tours,” says Toni Trucks, who came to Manistee this week specifically to dedicate the tours. “It feels like my hometown love has come full circle.

“Growing up in Manistee, I was completely enamored by the elaborate Victorian architecture that dominates the area. Manistee is flush with beautiful buildings with the breathtaking Michigan shoreline as a backdrop, and it has a rich, complex history to match. It is such an incredible honor to help educate people further on this jewel that I proudly call home.”

Coverage of the CBS series SEAL TEAM. Photo: Cliff Lipson/CBS Broadcasting, Inc.

Born in Grand Rapids and raised in Manistee, Trucks stars as Lisa Davis in the hit television series SEAL Team on CBS and well as in a recurring role in Corporate on Comedy Central. Other television credits include Franklin and Bash, Made In Jersey, NCIS: New Orleans, Grimm, Hostages, and Do No Harm. Her film credits include Ruby Sparks, Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2 and Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, plus the short film, Good Eggs. An alumna of both Interlochen Arts Academy and the University of Michigan’s Musical Theatre Program, Trucks returns to West Michigan from her home in L.A. regularly to participate in community activities, from co-anchoring the Manistee Victorian Sleighbell Parade, to hosting a live screening last September for the premiere night of SEAL Team at Manistee’s Vogue Theatre.

8 Themed Tours Tell Manistee’s History

The MCVB officially began the Historic Tours project in 2014 and then applied for and was awarded a $50,000 grant from USDA Rural Development—the highest level awarded in its annual grant cycle. The MCVB partnered with the Manistee County Historical Museum, which identified more than 100 sites across the county with historic significance for the tours and organized them into the eight themed tours. Fifteen of the sites are on the National Register of Historic Places (including more than 50 sites in downtown Manistee) and 20 are on the list of Michigan State Historic Sites. The 25 most prominent sites feature an accompanying video voiced-over by Toni Trucks, with other sites visually represented through photos. Following are the tours:

“Manistee may be the first county in Michigan to showcase its historic assets to this level of depth and detail,” says Mark Fedder, executive director of the Manistee County Historical Museum. “It’s important to document these buildings not just from a tourism angle, but from a historic preservation angle as well. When you see these residences, churches, and buildings, you discover their beauty and craftsmanship and learn how Manistee residents used to live and work. And they may not always be here—if something happens, we will have them documented.”

The MCVB collaborated with more than 10 area agencies to create the Manistee County Historic Sites Tours, including the Manistee County Historical Museum, private contractors and creative agencies, and community activists. Brandon Jensen, owner and creative director of RightSide Design in Manistee, wrote the USDA grant on behalf of the MCVB, and his firm designed the website, mobile app, map, and printed guidebook. MyNorth Media in Traverse City wrote the video scripts, and Kris Riley with Kris Riley Productions produced the videos.

James Earl Jones Provides Welcome Message at Ramsdell

Xavier Verna, executive director of the Ramsdell Regional Center for the Arts, also announced news about another famous actor from Manistee County who got started at the Ramsdell and is known for vocal talent—James Earl Jones. Jones recorded a 30-second spot that will be played at the beginning of every Ramsdell production, making the Ramsdell the only theater in America with an audio greeting by James Earl Jones. Known most famously as the voice of Darth Vader, Jones got his acting start at the Ramsdell in high school in a production of Othello.

—Press release provided by Kim Skeltis, Blue Blaze Public Relations, LLC

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Photo(s) by Eric Ray Davidson/CBS Broadcasting, Inc.