Trucks helps dedicate Historic Sites Tours

Actress and Manistee native Toni Trucks, Kathryn Kenny, MCVB executive director, and Mark Fedder, Manistee County Historical Museum executive director, pose in front of the new self-guided historic tours sign. (Ashlyn Korienek/News Advocate)

Actress and Manistee native Toni Trucks, Kathryn Kenny, MCVB executive director, and Mark Fedder, Manistee County Historical Museum executive director, pose in front of the new self-guided historic tours sign. (Ashlyn Korienek/News Advocate)

Trucks helps dedicate Historic Sites Tours

MANISTEE — When it comes to preserving history, the Manistee County Visitor’s Bureau and Manistee County Historical Museum believe information should be accessible to all people.

After years of work, the Visitor’s Bureau and Historical Museum held a dedication ceremony at the Ramsdell Theatre on Tuesday, with Manistee native and actress Toni Trucks, who was the official voice behind the new self-guided historic site tours.

At the ceremony, Trucks said she was in the studio for three days straight recording audio for more than 20 videos. She said the tours are a reminder to others that Manistee has many hidden treasures to share.

“It’s so special in any small way to permanently infuse my connection to this town into a tour,” said Trucks. “Hopefully, it will be something that has the potential to live on. I am really hoping, with the tour’s success, that we continue to give explanations and histories of more places moving forward.”

Mark Fedder, executive director of the museum, who introduced Trucks to the audience, said he sent a text to Trucks asking her to be a part of the tours. Trucks said she accepted right away, without hesitation.

“It feels like my hometown love has come full circle,” said Trucks.

Spearheaded by the Visitor’s Bureau alongside the museum, the Manistee Historic Sites Tours is the county’s most comprehensive, and not to mention collaborative, project of all-time.

The project showcases more than 100 historic sites through eight themed tours, which led to the production of maps, videos, a mobile app and images, all displayed on the Manistee County’s Visitor’s Bureau website. A self-guided historic sites tour printed book also features information, photos and other details.

Kathryn Kenny, executive director of the bureau, said the idea behind project dates back to 2011, but started to take off in 2014 when a grant was sought.

“We wanted to create a full visitor experience,” said Kenny. “This project would not be possible without the vision and assistance of so many partners who got on board, even when this was just a kernel of an idea.”

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development funded the project with a $50,000 grant, and the Visitor’s Bureau put $70,000 toward the project costs.

Jason Allen, state director for the USDA, said grants in the $50,000 to $100,000 range are awarded sparingly, as they are the highest level possible.

“The primary goal of the program is to assist local businesses,” said Allen. “The concept of cultural tourism and attraction, when you get in the tourism industry, there are so many niches and cultural tourism is certainly one of them. This project is really remarkable.”

Alan Anderson, USDA area specialist, said the grants were officially awarded in 2015, with nearly 15 other applicants. He said only two-thirds of the total applicants each cycle are selected, but the USDA tries to fund as many as possible.

He said a project of this size, impacting so many people, was a top candidate to receive a high award.

“There’s several different factors the (projects) are scored on,” said Anderson. “You are competing with other applications around the state, and fortunately we do not get buried in applications. We are able to fund most of them.”

During the event, Trucks and Kenny unveiled the new tour sign, which is set to stand in the Manistee County Historical Museum for the public to access. This will be the starting point for all eight tours.

Fedder played a huge role in the creation of the books and tour information, as he helped to catalog and identify all 100 stops. The stops were organized into the eight tours.

“Manistee may be the first county in Michigan to showcase its historic assets to this level of depth and detail,” said Fedder. “In many cases, I kind of had to start from square one to get as much information as I could find. This took an enormous amount of time… it was a lot of fun to put together and a lot of work.”

The Visitor’s Bureau collaborated with 10 other agencies to create the Manistee Historic Sites Tours. Brandon Jensen, owner and creative director of RightSide Design in Manistee, wrote the USDA grant, helped to design the website, mobile app, map and printed guide book.

MyNorth Media in traverse City wrote the video scripts, and Kris Riley, with Kris Riley Productions for MyNorth Media, produced the videos.

Fedder said plenty of research, writing, editing and reviewing the previous self-guided tours book, alongside many other project members, took place in order to make the project a success.

“I often say history often repeats itself,” said Fedder. “The latest edition of the book here is the most comprehensive historic (tours) book ever assembled, with the most amount of sites and maps.”

Xavier Verna, who hosted the ceremony on the Ramsdell stage, said the RRCA played a huge role in the self-guided tours, with a video dedicated solely to the historic site.

“We are proud to be one of the leaders in the community to help preserve our historic sites,” he said.

The tour includes stops at churches, the downtown and commercial district sites, east homes, west homes, destination sites, museums, industrial and Riverwalk sites.

To learn more about the self-guided historic tours, visit www.visitmanisteecounty.com/tours/.

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Posted by Ashlyn Korienek

Ashlyn is the cops & courts and city reporter for the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach her at (231) 398-3109 or akorienek@pioneergroup.com

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