2018-12-06 / Life in Leelanau

Lights to shine in Fishtown

This holiday season the Fishtown Preservation Society (FPS) will light the rooftops of Leland’s historic Fishtown with strings of white lights.

FPS has scheduled a lighting event, “Fishtown in Lights” on Saturday, Dec. 14, starting at 5:30 p.m.

Leland resident Keith Burnham will have the honor of flipping the switch, recognizing his efforts to spread the world in 2006 that Fishtown needed saving, and for his continued devotion to Fishtown.

Many know Burnham from “The Leland Report,” an online diary and photo blog of Life in Leelanau County that he began in 2001.

Now, 84 years old, Burnham still makes daily visits to Fishtown in his bright red Jeep and with his white lab, Biscuit, at his side.

“We wanted to find a way to round out the year with something extra special — to celebrate Keith, our donors, volunteers, and everyone who has made the preservation of Fishtown possible,” FPS executive director Amanda Holmes said.

.”We’ve scheduled the display to continue into the New Year so individuals and families can return again and again to see the lights.”

The display will also highlight the pending 25th anniversary of FPS’s purchase of the Carlson family’s Fishtown property on Feb. 7, 2007. The non-profit organization will make the final mortgage payment on the property on Feb. 7, 2019, and in celebration the lights will be turned on again from Feb. 7 through Feb. 14.

“In 2006 the community responded to the threat that Fishtown could be lost to development with the huge Save Fishtown campaign,” Holmes said. “The event is also a way to remember that back then we knew we couldn’t take Fishtown for granted — and we still can’t.”

Feb. 7 will also mark the public kickoff of the Campaign for Fishtown, for repairs to the Village Cheese Shanty, Carlson’s Fishery and Morris shanties, and site rehabilitation — including drainage, accessibility and dock issues.

Major sponsors for the light display include Shine, a Traverse City company specializing in holiday lighting and window cleaning, and Chemical Bank,

“Fishtown is a magical place,” said Christopher Teasdale, the general manager of Shine, who will be overseeing the installation. “Most people only know Fishtown in the summer, so we are excited to help visitors see it anew by bringing out those iconic roof lines in lights.”

Lighting Fishtown’s rooftops has proved to be a bigger challenge than anticipated. Because the dock in front of Fishtown’s oldest historic shanty was washed out, putting up some of the lights will require temporarily slowing the flow of the Leland River over the Leland Dam and having a host of volunteers pull Fishtown Preservation’s trap net boat, JOY, across the river to serve as a platform for Shine to complete the installation.

Fundraising efforts are underway for the dock and other urgent site and shanty repairs.

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