A Grand first week in Grand Marais

Wow, did our loosely developed plans for the U.P. get upended by reality, bad information, and some unexpected rule changes.  First, our arrival date for Grand Marais was originally based on the presumption that we would get there after their annual music fest, which turns the quiet little town into a much bigger and louder one, while also filling up the “first come, first serve” campground completely.  Turns out we had screwed up that bit of planning, probably as a result of a google search that gave us results for Grand Marais, Minnesota’s Music Fest, which is in late July rather than early August.  We realized this error late in our Canada trip, and this was partially responsible for our accelerated jump to the U.P. in order to secure a spot at the campground.

Finally on the shore of Lake Superior

When we called the Woodland Park during the weekend, a full six days before the festival was to start, they told us they were completely full but only part of that was music event related; a lot of campers were there just for weekend fun during the peak season.  They advised us to arrive as soon as possible if we wanted a spot.  So early Monday morning we were on the road from Sault Ste Marie, arriving in Grand Marais in the late morning, where the campground office pointed out on the map four possible hook up sites that might be open.  We drove past the first rather small spot, and settled on the second opening without even checking the other two: there were just too many other people looking and we didn’t want to risk loosing it.

We had a great deal of confusion getting settled in because what we thought was the site was not, in fact, a site, but rather the end corner of the row, and our neighbors had pulled into the wrong site number, further confusing the picture.  The campground work crew got us straightened out, and we backed in and made connections, relieved to have snagged one of the last available openings.  By the time we were backed in and headed to the office to pay, that first spot we passed up had already been taken, and within an hour the only things left were dry camping spots.   Even those would be completely full by Thursday.

But we were here!  And though the music fest would make things crowded and loud for our first week, it also meant a lot more people and possible sales at the various markets we had planned.  Things would be different in that department this year:

  • First, our plan to bounce back and forth between Woodland Park and the Munising Tourist Park Campground an hour or so away went out the window when the manager of the Munising Tuesday afternoon market finally responded to our multiple attempts to contact her and turned us down as drop in vendors.  The only explanation was something about us “not meeting  their mission statement needs.”  Oh well, we had other options and that would actually simplify our schedule.
  • Second, the tiny Thursday late afternoon pop market in Grand Marais’ green space park had moved, by mutual agreement of the various baked goods sellers, to Friday.  The manager of the Mercantile coop up the road had stepped up to host a Thursday evening market and live music combination, with some wine/beer tasting and kids events tossed in to the mix.  We were gladly accepted at this event.
  • Third, we would also do the little Friday afternoon market in Grand Marais’ park for as long as it was fun and profitable.
  • Fourth, we would make the two hour drive (each way) to close out the week at the big market in Marquette for as many Saturday’s as they had an opening for us as drop in vendors.
  • Lastly, we would sporadically do a partial set up in front of our site for as long as we were permitted.  Like in a couple of other parks in Canada, we chose the “better to ask forgiveness than permission” route for this.

How did it all turn out? Fanfreakingtastic.  With the understanding that if the park objected we would close up shop, but without actually asking getting clearance, we set up in front of our site for a few hours during two days early in the week.  As the park neared max capacity, the foot traffic increased, even at our somewhat isolated end of the grounds.  We ended up selling enough to make it very much worth the trouble.

Then we did that new Thursday event at the Mercantile, where we killed it and had a great time doing so what with the music, tastings, and locals, many of whom recognized us from previous years, and treated us like honorary members of the community.  Hard to say if the next couple of Thursdays will be as good; the music fest is over, the town is far less busy (though it still has a lot of weekenders coming in) and rather than an all afternoon event it will revert back to a two hour evening shindig. 

Len, one of the locals, brings an interesting selection of drums and similar work to the Mercantile. Rose is under the big hanging drum absorbing what the kids play.

The little Friday market seemed the same as last year despite the different day: a small but steady stream of lookers and occasional buyers for the first hour, dwindling to nothing in the second.  We sold enough to make this short little event worthwhile, and enjoyed getting to know the other vendors a little better as well.

Saturday we got up at the crack of dawn and headed to Marquette.  In previous years we usually went the night before and treated ourselves to a hotel room on Carlson Club points, but with all those used up, and not a single Marriott or Starwood property in the city, we had to change things around.  We considered taking Serenity and staying at the Ojibwa Casino outside of town, but since we had already paid the full weekly rate at Woodland Park, we just sucked it up and accepted the long day. 

We don’t see the sunrise very often.  

It worked out even better than we anticipated: it was a beautiful day with plenty of walk through traffic from beginning to end, and we set a new personal one day record for our sales.  There was little down time, we had our full set of eight racks on display in addition to an entire section devoted to the Cricut creations, and Rose did on the spot custom work for a select set of jewelry types.  Buoyed by a week full of sales success, we treated ourselves to an assortment of items from other vendors: two different types of wild foraged mushrooms, heirloom tomatoes, garlic cloves, a cinnamon bun, and some sort of ginger and beet juice concoction. 

We made quick stops at Walmart for a few supplies and to change a wad of cash into a money order for electronic deposit, Super One foods for liquor (grateful for the new parking lot asphalt, the pot holes last year were killer,) the Dollar Tree (disappointing after Canada’s Dollarama,) and Goodwill.  We also dropped by the Ojibwa Casino where we learned that the overnight RV option there seems to have gone away during the ongoing hotel construction project, but at least they gave us some free play money and root beer to energize us for the rest of the ride home.

So many shrooms to choose from!

As we passed through Munising we sought out the excellent smoked white fish dip we enjoyed so much last year, but alas he was closed, and we had to settle for a nearby competitor’s that I found OK if not great, but Rose found quite wanting.  We skipped going into the Munising Moose Lodge this trip, perhaps next week, though we did pull in just long enough to see what was going on with the various canopies and booths in their parking lot: turns out they were hosting an annual Big Foot Hunters conference.  Go figure. 

As for the the non market related things during our first week: we reacquainted ourselves with the town, her restaurants, stores, and the people we recognized from last year.  We tolerated the rowdy and quite loud set of campers near us during the music fest itself, knowing things would quite down afterwards.  We walked the shore and swam in Lake Superior, and generally relished being back in Grand Marais.

Once home we collapsed and barely left the campground for the next 36 hours.