The Fishtown Preservation Society (FPS) is honoring a milestone in early 2019, when, after 12 years, the non-profit organization becomes debt-free.

UPDATE: The Fishtown Mortgage Pay-Off Celebration for tonight is CANCELLED due to freezing rain. The celebration has been rescheduled for next Thursday, February 14 from 5:45–6 p.m.

However, the Fishtown light display will still go on at 6 p.m. tonight. Go to our Facebook page, Fishtown Leland, at 5:55 to see a LIVE stream from Fishtown in the midst of the storm! The Fishtown shanty rooftops and a big red lighted heart will be illuminated nightly from 6–10 p.m. through February 16.

FPS has scheduled a celebration on Thursday, February 7, from 5:45–6 p.m. in Fishtown, the same day the organization makes the final payment for the property with a $789,600 balloon payment. The event will be an opportunity to offer tributes, have a small bonfire for the old mortgage and light the shanty rooftop lights one more time. The white lights were a festive and popular end of year display, called “Fishtown in Lights.” The display will have a big red heart added in the middle of Fishtown, in honor of those who made the purchase of the historic destination possible. Visitors can view the “Love Fishtown Week” light display from February 7 through February 16, 6–10 p.m.

“The ceremony will be brief because it is being held outside in the middle of winter, but we wanted to capture this moment,” says Amanda Holmes, executive director FPS. “I remember the day in February 2007 when Fishtown Preservation acquired the property. It was also my first day working for the society, and there was a blizzard.”

The mortgage paid for a quarter acre tract of Fishtown on the north side of the Leland River in Leland, Michigan. The $3 million purchase included eight shanties, two smokehouses, 200 feet of docks along the Leland River and other ancillary buildings. It also included the fish tugs Joy and Janice Sue and their related commercial fishing licenses and equipment.

“We can thank our donor base for their vision and steadfast support to have been able to meet this goal,” says Holmes. “We’re grateful that over the years more and more people have realized that they can be and are a vital part of the work of preserving Fishtown.”

Thanks to the growing base of support, in early 2016, FPS also acquired two neighboring shanties and their deep lots on the south side of the Leland River. As a result, the property now owned by FPS comprises most of the key historic elements of Leland’s Fishtown, which extends from the dam to the river mouth at Leland Harbor and Lake Michigan.

This celebratory moment will also be about what comes next. The organization is now working on plans and raising money for critical infrastructure work, including retaining walls, docks and several of the shanties, all of which need attention this year. Fishtown’s location near Lake Michigan and the thousands of annual visitors take a toll on the docks, grounds and buildings. “In the past, the fishermen cared for Fishtown, looking after its every need every day,” says Holmes. “That has been the responsibility of Fishtown Preservation—and all who love Fishtown—for the past 12 years. It will continue to be our responsibility in the future because Fishtown is a forever project.”

Fishtown Preservation is declaring February 7–16 “Love Fishtown Week,” linking the mortgage payoff date and Valentine’s Day. There will be “I Love Fishtown” signs for visitors to pose with for photos. Visitors are also encouraged to share their photographs with the organization: email, send a Facebook message or use #LoveFishtownWeek and #FishtownHasMyHeart.

The strings of white lights—about 4,000 feet long—were donated by Shine, a holiday lighting business in Traverse City. Additional sponsors include an anonymous donor, Chemical Bank and Fishtown’s Dam Candy Store.

—Press release provided by FPS

Leland, Michigan