Sunday, January 24, 2010

St Joseph, Silver Beach Carousel

I've taken quite a hiatus from writing on this blog, haven't I? I guess that's the winter doldrums for you. I haven't stopped having fun in St. Joseph, I just haven't been motivated to write about it. D and I have mostly been spending this month working on our condo. It actually feels good to be working on projects again (more so for me than for D ;-) And with all the grey, gloomy skies we've been having, indoor projects are just the thing to focus on until we see the sun and the mild temperatures beckon us outside once again.

But enough about the winter greys. The big news in St Joseph this month has been the much anticipated grand opening of the Silver Beach Carousel and the Curious Kid's Discovery Zone. There was a New Year's Eve gala at the Shadowland Ballroom (also housed with the carousel and the museum) for those who were inclined to fork out the big bucks for a fancy evening. There was a time when D and I would have been one of those couples but not this year. This was our first year as residents of St Joseph and we wanted to spend a casual evening with family. Which is what we did. And New Year's Day was spent watching Bowl Games of course (and dealing with the mighty lake effect snowfall!). But come January 2nd, we visited the new carousel. It was the first day it was open to the public.

I must say, I don't think I've ever seen a more beautiful carousel. And I've see a lot! This carousel is beautiful not only because of the the gorgeous setting with Silver Beach and Lake Michigan right outside but because the carousel is so lovely itself. The carousel animals (only half of which are horses) are each custom painted. Those who sponsored an animal got to choose what it was and what it's theme would be. I just have to share some of them with you here...

First, representing the University of Michigan (this picture was taken when the horse was on display at the St. Joseph library):

And of course Michigan State:

Western Michigan University is a neighbor of St Joseph so they were represented too:

The area high schools were honored as well. The St Joseph Bears:

The Lakeshore Lancers:

And the Benton Harbor Tigers:

The Coloma Comets had a horse too but unfortunately it was an inside horse and I couldn't get a good photo of it.

There was a nice mix of animals, some were quite unusual like this praying mantis:

And there were stationary animals for those who preferred to limit their motion (you can see a bit of the Coloma horse just under the camel's chin):

So which one did I ride? I'll bet you're thinking the U of M horse. But no, actually I wrote in the romantic peacock chair with my honey, D. It rocks!

Rides cost $2 each and last 3 minutes. You can buy tokens in bunches for a discounted price. :-)

The beautifully painted carousel animals aren't all there is to admire on this carousel though. The decorative panels on the top of the carousel were each painstakingly painted to honor a different facet of St Joseph's history. I didn't count how many there were but I'm guessing about a dozen or so. Here are some of my favorites...

Silver Beach:

The lighthouses:

And Summer in the City:

The whole carousel truly is a work of art. You have see it in person to really appreciate it.

I'll leave you  with a few last pictures of it...
The carousel on the inside:

From the inside looking out at Silver Beach:

From Silver Beach:

From the bluff at sunset:

We didn't visit the Curious Kid's Discovery Zone this time around. I figure we'll wait until some of our young nieces and nephews come for a visit and we'll explore it then.

So there you have it, the new Silver Beach Carousel. What are you waiting for? Come take a ride!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Buchanan, Michigan

One of the things I've enjoyed most about having a place in St. Joseph has been the opportunity to explore other nearby areas. On Sunday, December 6, we took a drive to the town of Buchanan. Buchanan is about 25 miles south of St. Joseph and it took us just over a half hour to get there.
Buchanan is a charming little town that appears to be going through something of a renaissance. D and I learned this as we strolled through the stores and chatted with some of the store owners. But I'm getting ahead of myself here. First off, we came into town hungry hoping to find some good eats. There aren't a lot of restaurants in downtown Buchanan. We only found one open on a Sunday afternoon and that was Marsooz Pub and Eatery. To our delight, the food was cooked to order and it was really tasty!

I had the ground round steak. YUM!

After lunch we wandered through town stopping in at the couple of stores that were open. Our first stop was Front.

It's a home decor and accessories shop that has more pizazz than you'd expect to find in little ole Buchanan.

Bright colors certainly lent a festive air to the place especially on a dull, gray, December afternoon.
The proprietor was happy to chat with us as we looked around. He told us that he and a couple other guys from Chicago had bought some of the vacant store fronts in town and were planning a redevelopment.
Another store we stopped in was Thomas Jolly, a home furnishings store.

We could see evidence of redevelopment as we walked around the town. The sidewalks looked warm and welcoming with areas of recently installed brick pavers suggestive of an earlier era. Likewise the lamp posts were in keeping with the history of the town (it goes back to 1833) and combined with the vintage sign gave Buchanan a feeling of yesteryear.

The town gazebo, which sits next to the Buchanan Police Department, was festively decorated for the holidays.

Just behind the downtown storefronts there is a farmer's market and a what looks to be an entertainment venue.

Those buildings sat right next door to the historic Pears Mill (c. 1853).

Strolling through Buchanan was like taking a step back in time to small town Americana of days gone by. We enjoyed our visit and I'm sure we'll stop back again one of these days. Ya gotta love small town humor...

Bye, bye, Buchanan! See you again soon!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Bark for Breakfast and the Reindog Parade

The Christmas/New Year holiday season in St. Joseph was wonderful. I didn't get a chance to write about it simply because I was too busy experiencing it. I left off writing about the lovely "Light Up the Bluff" display so I have to go back to that same weekend to share what came next.

Saturday, December 5th was a day for the dogs. It was brutally cold, windy, and snowy. The day started out with "Bark for Breakfast", a fundraiser for a local animal shelter and rescue organization. The breakfast was held at the Silver Beach Hotel which itself was festively decorated for the season. This breakfast wasn't just any old breakfast though. It was extra special fun because dogs were welcome too!

There was a breakfast buffet for people and a separate table for dog treats.

Santa-Dog was there for anyone who wanted to get their pet's picture taken...

Around the edges of the room were a few caged cats up for adoption and an area of hand-crafted pet accessories and treats.

The food was yummy, traditional breakfast fare, eggs, sausage, and hash browns. Hot chocolate, coffee, and pastries were also available.

The event had a nice turnout. The room was packed with people and canines, all well behaved and clean.

On our way out we met up with the resident parrots that live at the Silver Beach Hotel. Very charming!

After breakfast was over it was time for the Reindog Parade! What a fabulously fun and zany event that was!!! It was an parade where everyone dressed up their dogs and themselves to welcome Santa to town. And when I say dressed up, I mean dressed up! The costumes were amazing, hilarious, cute, creative, and inspired. Everyone was judged in one of three categories, Best Dressed Dog, Best Dressed Group, and Best Look-alikes (dog and owner). Check out these contestants...

The Grinch and Little Cindy Loo-Hoo...

A pair of Irish Setters dressed just like their owner, or is it the other way around? ;-)

A pair of St. Bernards

A group of angel Great Danes

There was a lot of laughter and good cheer as everyone assembled at the staging area. Lots of pictures were being taken by proud pet owners.

The awards were announced for the winners in each category and then it was time for the parade to begin!

It's hard to convey just how many dogs there were in the parade... they just kept coming, and coming, and coming! Interspersed in the crowd of parade dogs there were 3 ponies too.

Snoopy made an appearance

Santa and Mrs. Claus arrived at the end of the parade atop a bright red firetruck! What fun!

As you can see, the snow came down quite heavily at times which created the perfect holiday atmosphere to welcome Santa!

D and K and I had a marvelous day together. Breakfast was terrific and K marched in the parade along with his many canine friends. We have some wonderful memories now and we look forward to next year's parade. This being our first Reindog Parade, we didn't know just how enthusiastically people would get into dressing up their dogs. I'm afraid K's "costume" was quite lame...

...but I'm already planning his costume for next year! :-)