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In Michigan's U.P., Visitors Welcome, Just Don't Stay

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In Michigan's U.P., Visitors Welcome, Just Don't Stay

In Michigan's U.P., Visitors Welcome, Just Don't Stay

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Marquette, Michigan is a place you have to experience twice.

This trip, I packed fleece and tried to bring a jar of thimbleberry jelly back home. I needed sunblock, and my jelly was confiscated at the airport because it was more than three ounces. Mistake.

(Soundbite of birds and waves crashing)

HANSEN: Daytime temperatures in downtown Marquette were near record high — low 80s. No wind, calm lake, Yoopers were flocking to the shore of Lake Superior. The summer had been colder than normal. So, as the days began to get shorter, it was beach week in Marquette. I got a sunburn.

(Soundbite of waves crashing)

HANSEN: The last time I came to town it was winter and wicked cold. Brisk gusts of wind slapped my face on the way down to the shore. The cafe patios were closed. The massive iron ore rail troughs stood silent guard over the harbor. And cross-country skis replaced bicycles on the paths hugging the shoreline.

Longtime residents advised me: If you want to live in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, get an outside hobby. I like skating.

(Soundbite of cheering)

HANSEN: One thing has put Marquette on the map: speed skating. Our visit coincided with the Olympic trials for short track — and the stars were out. Apolo Ohno made the team but came in second during our time there. The competition was held at the Berry Events Center, a venue which holds more than 4,000 spectators for skating, hockey, basketball and concerts.

Before the action began on the ice, this community wanted to welcome all the visitors. The theater department of Northern Michigan University was commissioned to put on a show.

CHORUS: (Singing) (Unintelligible)

HANSEN: On a balcony overlooking the skating oval, earnest performers in shades of red, black and white presented a pageant of the American experience in the Upper Peninsula. Playwright and composer Shelly Russell kindly sent a studio recording.

(Soundbite of recording)

Unidentified Man #1: Nothing but bare rock, gray sky, like I never left Scotland.

Unidentified Man #2: It's cold here, brother.

Unidentified Man #1: Not a field here, Joe. Not a bloody thing but trees. Nothing but raised rocks and trees.

Unidentified Woman: This place is not civilized.

HANSEN: Imagine then Finnish, British, Italian, Chinese families arriving in this stone-cold place making use of the natural resources to stake a claim in America.

(Soundbite of music)

CHORUS: (Singing) I thought when I got here I'd feel I've gotten somewhere, but all I feel is far away from home. I thought when I got here I'd leave the rest behind me. Papa, can we please go home?

HANSEN: The people who call this place home now are no-nonsense, hard-working, humorous welcoming, but wary. Yoopers want you to know how lucky they are to live in such a beautiful place and how hard it is to do that, how their jokes about themselves are funnier than anything you've heard — and why you shouldn't move there. Just visit. Anytime. Come again. And next time ship the thimbleberry jelly home.

(Soundbite of music)

HANSEN: You can see pictures and more from Michigan on our Web site,

Our field producers for these stories from the Upper Peninsula were Kimberly Adams and Ned Wharton. Special thanks to Brent Fockman(ph) for his help with research.

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of Liane Hansen reading credits)

HANSEN: I'm Liane Hansen.

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