Fishtown Preservation Society is stringing white lights across the rooftops of Leland’s fishing shanties. The first-ever event, Fishtown in Lights, starts Friday, December 14, at 5:30 p.m. in Fishtown. The light display will continue nightly from December 14 through January 6 from 5–10 p.m.
Having the honor of turning on the lights is Leland resident, Keith Burnham. Fishtown Preservation Society (FPS) is recognizing Keith for his efforts to spread the word in 2006 that Fishtown needed saving, and for his continued devotion. Many know Keith from The Leland Report, an online diary and photo blog of life in Leelanau County that he began in 2001. Now 84 years old, Keith still makes daily visits to Fishtown in his bright red jeep with his lab, Biscuit, at his side. After the event on December 14, stop by the Bluebird to toast Keith and Fishtown.
“We wanted to find a way to round out the year with something extra special to celebrate Keith, our donors, volunteers, and everyone who has made the preservation of Fishtown possible,” says FPS Executive Director, Amanda Holmes. “We’ve scheduled the display to continue into the New Year so individuals and families can return again and again to see the lights.”
The light display is also to highlight the pending 12th anniversary of Fishtown Preservation’s purchase of the Carlson family’s Fishtown property on February 7, 2007. The non-profit organization will make the final mortgage payment on the property on February 7, 2019. In celebration, the lights will be turned on again from February 7 through February 14.
“In 2006 the community responded to the threat that Fishtown could be lost to development with the huge Save Fishtown campaign,” Holmes says. “The event is also a way to remember that back then we knew we couldn’t take Fishtown for granted, and we still can’t.” February 7 will also be the public kick-off of the Campaign for Fishtown for repairs to the Village Cheese Shanty, Carlson’s Fishery and Morris shanties, and site rehabilitation—including drainage, accessibility, and dock issues.
Major sponsors for the light display include Shine, a Traverse City company specializing in holiday lighting and window cleaning, and Chemical Bank. “Fishtown is a magical place,” says Shine General Manager Christopher Teasdale, who is overseeing the installation. “Most people only know Fishtown in the summer, so we are excited to help visitors see it anew by bringing out its iconic rooflines in lights.”
Lighting Fishtown’s rooftops has proved to be a bigger challenge than anticipated. Because the dock in front of Fishtown’s oldest historic shanty has washed out, putting up some of the lights will require temporarily slowing the flow of the Leland River over the Leland Dam and having a host of volunteers pull Fishtown Preservation’s trap net boat, JOY, across the river to serve as a platform for the Shine to complete the installation. Fundraising efforts are underway for the dock and other urgent site and shanty repairs.
About Fishtown Preservation Society
FPS, a non-profit corporation, owns and operates Fishtown, a working waterfront with a cultural fishing heritage that draws thousands of visitors each year to the Leelanau Peninsula and Leland. A special place that portrays commercial fishing and maritime heritage, Fishtown is home to a broad and rich history and is an important economic asset to the region. FPS acquired ownership of the site in 2007 in order to preserve its historical integrity and ensure that it continues as a publicly accessible and authentic connection to regional history, Great Lakes fishing, and maritime traditions. Anyone seeking more information may call Fishtown Preservation at 231-256-8878 or visit www.fishtownmi.org.