Sunday, May 20, 2018
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Mary Alice Powell

Michigan lake communities celebrate winter with Tip Up festival

Tip Up is an annual festival in Michigan's Devils and Round Lake communities that are more often identified with summer activities than they are with snow and ice. But the Devils Lake Men's Club and the five restaurants and bars in the area will prove Feb. 1, 2, and 3 that there is a lot to do around the lakes in mid-winter.

There just might be more to do, considering the three-day program that is outlined for Tip Up. I have been in and out of Lenawee County in southern Michigan all my life and I can't remember being invited to a leg-wrestling contest, a crab race, or a snowmobile run, or to compete in a chili cook-off. And definitely not a bikini contest. It seems that the men's club and the owners of the businesses who want to be involved have gone all out for the 56th Tip Up.

Could it be that they are making allowances for a lack of a main ingredient for a festival in a lake area? That ingredient is ice, and wouldn't you know, Mother Nature has slighted Devils and Round and other southern Michigan lakes this winter. You may think that walking or driving on four inches of ice, which is the current estimate in the area, is too much, but old-timers who know their ice depths say it has to be 18 inches thick to be safe.

"Just look at that open water," Marie Parker said. "But we are still going to have a good time." Marie has owned the Manitou Inn, one of the oldest establishments at Manitou Beach, for 25 years. She hopes to run out of her homemade cabbage soup and hamburgers that weekend. The awards in a fishing contest will be announced at the Manitou Saturday. Just for the record, walleye, perch, bluegill, and crappie are the species caught in Devils and Round lakes summer and winter.

Because the festival is on thin ice, or no ice at all this year, ice fishing is not on the agenda. But it won't be surprising if some of the diehards hitch their shanties to pontoon boats and head for the open waters. They did two years ago when there was a similar shortage of ice on the lakes.

That the third day of Tip Up is also Super Bowl Sunday only adds to the partying mood, the committee believes.

Things will be busy all three days at the Highland Inn, another golden oldie that is located between the lakes, and where the Red Light Run will get the festival rolling Friday at 6:30 p.m. That's when snowmobiles and four-wheelers will line up, travel around the lake, and return to the Highland. The lead driver carries a torch.

"There may be 100 vehicles," Claudia Conners says. "It's really beautiful. After the run a 9 p.m. scavenger hunt will be under way, and participants will visit stores and restaurants to find the requirements on the list. Al and Sherry, DJs who have been playing at the Highland for several years, will be there Friday and Saturday.

People who bypass the leg-wrestling contest at the Highland on Saturday may be more interested in entering the bikini contest Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m., before a Super Bowl party with 50-cent hot dogs.

The celebration will have a more serious side at the Lyons Restaurant, where owner Debbie Hocking is hoping for a big turnout for the Feb. 3 chili cook-off. The entry fee is $25 and contestants are asked to set up at noon and prepare their chili for a 2 p.m. tasting and a 3 p.m. judging. In the meantime, Kiki, a sculptor, will demonstrate his artistry with a large block of ice and a chain saw. Patrick Reese will be at the Lyons Friday and Saturday nights for karaoke and DJ entertainment.

In the Devils and Round lake areas, when someone says let's go to the other side, they probably are referring to The Other Side, a bar/restaurant on U.S. 223 at the corner of Devils Lake Highway. That's where crab races will be held Saturday and there will be band music Friday and Saturday nights.

Tip Up fever has spread north on U.S. 127 into downtown Addison and the Pirate's Cove, where preparation for the festival focused on installing a rotisserie for ribs and chicken.

The name "Tip Up" does not refer to tipping up beverages, though some of that is expected during the three-day celebration. Over coffee at Tina's Kitchen one morning, Al Hedrick explained that a tip up is a device used by ice fishermen. When a flag tips up it's a signal there is a bite on the line.

Al, one of the 10 members of the men's club who work diligently to bring the festival together, said they are confident of a good turnout despite the lack of ice. Proceeds from raffle tickets are given to Addison High School, he said.

Tina's Kitchen may not have the longevity of some of the other restaurants, but it's popular, beginning at 6 a.m. and serving hearty breakfast fare through the lunch hour. Owner Tina Morris has one plan for the Tip Up weekend.

She will tip up or tip over eggs and pancakes in a special way for breakfasts that weekend.

Mary Alice Powell is a retired Blade food editor.

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