Here is our weekly salute to the people, places and organizations that make Northern Michigan a special place to live.
A healthy state
The Petoskey Regional Chamber of Commerce hosted an informative State of the Community luncheon recently detailing the successes and challenges facing the Petoskey community.
More than 200 people gathered in the Odawa Casino Resort's Ovation Hall to hear the four featured speakers eloquently provide updates on the state of our community. The diversity of subjects was well received.
Petoskey Mayor Bill Fraser reported on the state of the city, including the development of the Bear River Valley Recreation Area, construction of a second public safety station for the city, a balanced budget and several years passing without a local increase in property tax rates.
Dr. Josh Meyerson, medical director with the Health Department of Northwest Michigan, reviewed the state of health in the community and the proactive steps being taken to move ahead in three particular categories: obesity and chronic disease prevention, access to various forms of health care, and substance abuse prevention and treatment.
John Scholten, Petoskey schools superintendent, shared insightful information on the state of education in the community. "We're really proud of what the students and staff have accomplished in the past few years," Scholten said. With the funding picture for Michigan schools continuing to be tight, Scholten encouraged the audience to stay engaged on the topic and relate any concerns they might have about it to state policymakers.
Elaine Wood, chief executive officer of the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments, provided a report on recent local economic trends. "Overall, the Emmet County area is showing a very healthy economic condition, and there's always room for a little more diversification," she said.
The event was a valuable snapshot of the health of the Petoskey area.
Down in Dixie
As you read this, Petoskey High School student musicians are experiencing the trip of a lifetime -- New Orleans during Mardi Gras.
More than 20 members of the school's popular steel drum band flew down to Louisiana to take part in the revelry of Mardi Gras. This week, the students will be performing in three processions -- the Endymion, Bacchus and Orpheus parades.
"The parades are just a riot," said steel drum band director Barry Bennett.
"They are a ton of fun. The kids love it. ... We pretty much play non-stop," said Bennett who noted Mardi Gras parades can last four hours or more.
Carl Brien, another of the school's band directors, is accompanying Bennett and students on the trip, along with a dozen adult chaperones. In addition, band volunteers towed trailers, loaded with band equipment, south for the students.
When not playing in Mardi Gras parades, students will be taking in some of the other celebrations and doing some sightseeing.
They'll come home with stories to tell, photos to share, and memories to treasure for a lifetime.
Have a Heart
Eat, drink, dance and be merry -- all for the benefit of Brother Dan's Food Pantry.