2016-09-22 / Front Page

One prediction: vibrant fall colors

Tourist season growing
By Patti Brandt Burgess
Of The Enterprise staff

One area forester is predicting a dramatic color season this year in Leelanau County.

That’s good news for those people who like it when the days get a little shorter.

It’s also good news for area businesses, who like a tourist season that draws out a little longer.

“I think it’s going to be a really good season,” said Kama Ross, district forester with the Leelanau Conservation District.

“The temperatures have been so warm and it’s been a good growing season, so the trees have a lot of foliage.”

Ross says she’s not usually good at predicting when the best time to visit is, and sometimes not good at predicting whether it will even be a good season for color.

This year is different, she said.

“I’m optimistic it will be a spectacular one to go out and view,” Ross said.

And that’s good news for area businesses, many of which hold sales or plan events in the fall to attract late-season tourists.

“It’s huge,” Jennifer Collins, president of the Leland Chamber of Commerce, said of the very-popular shoulder season.

“It makes a big difference. The longer we can extend the season, the better our businesses do.”

Local merchants go out of their way to extend the season.

In Leland the 16th annual Fiber Festival will be held Oct. 7 and 8 at the Old Art Building.

“That’s always a really big day in Leland,” Collins said.

Then there’s also the Fall Frenzy, held this year on Oct. 22. The event was started by Fishtown business owners as a big season-finale sale, as many of them close for the winter.

“That’s developed into a thing that people now mark their calendars for,” Collins said.

And it’s not just the beautiful fall colors that attract people. Many of them find that by visiting Leelanau County after Labor Day they can avoid the crowds, she said.

Collins said there used to be a lull in September, but that’s now all but gone.

“Every year the season gets a little bit longer,” she said.

Fall is a great time for the taste buds, too, when restaurants offer special drinks, like pumpkin spice latte, and dishes that use fall apples and those meant to warm people up, like braised meats and hearty stews.

Trish Kropp, owner of Trish’s Dishes in Leland, said the extended season is important for employees, who can earn a little extra money from visitors before the winter lull.

“It’s extra revenue for the season that we’ve learned to count on,” Kropp said. “We count on it because it’s such a short season.”

There are lots of seasonal lattes the restaurant serves up, as well as fall to-go dinners. Kropp and her employees also have more time to think up interesting specials because weekdays have slowed down a bit.

“It lets us be more creative because we have more time during the week,” Kropp said. “It’s such a fun change in the season and really fun local food, too.”

And if wine is your thing, fall is a perfect time to visit Leelanau County.

“When you come during the off season you get more attention from the winemakers,” said Lorri Hathaway, executive director of the Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail.

Many of them, especially in Leelanau County, are actually behind the bar pouring. They welcome questions about their wares and the process of making wine, she said.

There is also the Hunt for the Reds of October event that takes place on weekdays during the entire month during which $10 buys a signature wine glass and a complimentary red wine pour at participating wineries.

There are 23 participating wineries this year and each ticket sold includes a $5 donation to the American Red Cross.

Hathaway said you don’t have to wait for fall colors to enjoy wine.

“We don’t hibernate,” she said. “You can drink wine in Leelanau County any time of the year.”

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