The Michigan Lighthouse Alliance (MLA) changed the focus of its biennial conference to officially include lighthouses from other parts of North America after several groups from other states and provinces attended its 2016 conference in Traverse City, Michigan. And it worked! Nearly 120 attendees representing 50 lighthouse groups, government agencies, and exhibitors gathered at The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island May 20-22 to celebrate obtaining, restoring, and providing public access to these iconic structures.
Planning began 18 months ago by the MLA Board of Directors to create an informative group of speaker and panel presentations about American and Canadian lighthouses and their individual sustainability and public access programs, as well as a general history of key lighthouses around the world.
The conference began Sunday afternoon with a nearly three-hour tour of several lighthouses by boat attendees on their way to the island in “The Heart of Lighthouse Country,” narrated by noted author and lighthouse historian Terry Pepper and lampist Jim Woodward. After arriving at the hotel, and a change into required evening wear, the program featured entertainment, including a live concert titled “Storm: Survivals and Rescues on the Great Lakes” by Ric Mixter and Dan Hall.
Presented on Tuesday, for the first time in Michigan, live and on stage was Monsieur Augustin Fresnel performed by Joseph Smith, an “Artist of Living History” who stole the show with his moving and fact-filled presentation “Through a New Lens; Augustin Fresnel.” It was the story of Fresnel’s life struggles and his invention in 1822 of the lens technology using his discovery that light is a wave and it could be bent and focused to provide a much stronger beacon to guide mariners away from danger or into safe harbor. It is still being used almost 200 years later. An exact replica of a 6th order Fresnel lens was supplied by Dan Spinella of Artworks Florida that helped explain how it works as well as providing a great prop for the Fresnel presentation.
Presentations were made to a rapt audience about the history of U.S. lightships, the National Lighthouse Museum, the Great Lakes Lifesaving Service, The National Park Service, U.S. and Canadian lighthouse funding programs, and the history of the world famous Grand Hotel and of Mackinac Island, Michigan where the conference was held.
It was a chance to learn, to share, and to celebrate the many success stories of assuming the daunting responsibility not only of the aids to navigation aspect of these amazing structures, but of the opportunities they represent to foster local pride, participation, and community development. By any measure, the International Lighthouse Conference was a rousing success for all who participated.
This story appeared in the
Jul/Aug 2018 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
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