Getting to the top of the Mackinac Bridge isn’t easy. Physically, it involves squeezing through a series of narrow openings and climbing multiple ladders inside one of the towers that hold up the bridge’s center span. But that’s not the hard part. (There’s an elevator inside each tower that goes most of the way to the top, and the ladders are safely enclosed.) The hard part is getting access.
Only 277 guests got to visit the top of the 5-mile-long suspension bridge last year, and the vast majority of these were VIPs. (According to the Mackinac Bridge Authority, notable visitors in 2019 included Gov. Whitmer’s husband, more than a dozen state lawmakers including House Speaker Lee Chatfield and U.S. Congressman Jack Bergman.) The state does not accommodate tour requests from the general public. It does, however, give away 25 tower tour certificates each year for nonprofit organizations to use as a fundraiser prize.
Most of the 2020 tower tours are already claimed, but there are still four raffles coming up. Winners will each get one tower tour certificate that grants access for two people to stand atop the north tower, at a height of nearly 550 feet above the water.
The certificates expire on October 15, but the Mackinac Bridge Authority said it will honor 2020 passes next year if it’s not possible to schedule a tower tour this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Grant High School (in southern Newago County, northeast of Muskegon) is selling raffle tickets for $25 each in order to raise funds for an all-night party for their 2020 graduating class. According to organizer Jenn Koopman, they will sell a maximum of 500 tickets, but as of this writing, they’ve only sold 35.
“We were going to sell them at sporting events, but with all of the spring sports canceled we couldn’t do anything,” Koopman says.
That puts the current odds of winning at an exceedingly favorable 1-in-35. (Of course, the final odds depend on how many people ultimately enter the raffle.) To purchase tickets, call 616-581-9782 or email [email protected] The April 29 drawing will get streamed live on Facebook.
BaySail (a youth sailing organization based in Bay City) is using the Mackinac Bridge tower tour as an incentive to encourage people to donate during its one-day online giving event. Every $50 donated on May 5 at www.givelocalbay.org/organizations/baysail earns one entry into a drawing to be held after the event. Call 989-895-5193 or email [email protected] for more information.
The Knights of Columbus Assembly #2365, of Birch Run, is selling raffle tickets for $10 each or 11 for $100. Organizer Dave Mohn estimates they’ve sold about 200 tickets thus far. Visit www.kofcbirchrunmi.com to download the entry form and submit by the May 30 deadline for the June 1 drawing. For questions, call 989-244-6318.
Saginaw Valley State University Athletics is selling tickets for $25. The drawing date is still to-be-determined (it will likely be this fall) but tickets are on sale now. Call Shelly Losee at 989-964-7306.
The difference in price among the various raffles for the exact same prize poses a dilemma: do you enter the lowest-cost raffle, which presumably will get more entrants and thus worse odds? Or do you strategically enter one of the pricier raffles hoping fewer people participate? Probably a good idea to diversify and buy tickets from all of them to be safe.
In addition to these four upcoming raffles, several other organizations were planning to hold charity auctions, but those events have all been postponed due to the coronavirus.
There is no minimum age requirement to climb to the top of the Mackinac Bridge, but guests must be at least 56 inches tall and weigh at least 80 pounds. There is no maximum weight limit either, but guests must be able to fit through a 16-inch-by-12-inch hole (with a circumference of about 45 inches) while climbing a ladder in the north tower.
Ryan Kazmirzack is a Michigan-based freelance writer. You can reach him at [email protected]