It’s more than just boat rides at Pictured Rocks Cruises in Munising, MI.
Postcards and photographs display the great beauty of this national lakeshore, but the awe of philanthropy is seen through its people. John Madigan, owner of Pictured Rocks Cruises, speaks of a unique opportunity that began with the idea of “giving back” in mind. “About 6 years ago we wanted to do something to accomplish a number of things: 1. Give back to our area, 2. Create greater awareness of the national park and 3. take a slow time in the season and create economic development for our community and our region.” So it began—Yoopers Ride Free Day, the 2nd Saturday in June, where anyone with a valid Upper Peninsula address could ride on a Pictured Rocks Cruise for free.
Through this unique opportunity, people that could not typically afford to go ride were able to experience the wonder of this natural beauty. People came from all over the UP, with every Upper Peninsula county having people represented. At first, people assumed there was a gimmick or a catch, but there wasn’t. First come, first serve beginning at 8 am. Their goal of 500 riders the first year was nearly doubled…each being asked one question, “have you been to Pictured Rocks?”
75% had not.
Madigan noted the impact. “I noticed the little things—people were so thankful. The riders came to town early, went to restaurants, and toured the area. It was great for our community.”
Due to the large turnout, the second year brought “Pictured Rocks Day” festival. Along with free boat rides, there was also an event in the park with food vendors and artists. That year brought 1,500 people on the cruises and the park had about 50 vendors.
Each year brought more and more people, and the fourth year morphed into a 2-day event involving 2900 riders, CVB involvement, donations, clowns, a bird show, and bands.
“There were a lot of single mothers coming with kids and people that would have otherwise not have taken the boat ride. People said this was their family vacation, and that was special to us.”
This event has grown immensely over the six years. Bringing people to this area attracts visitors to restaurants, motels and campgrounds and it’s great for increasing business in that way. Combined with a sense of giving back to the community that has contributed added support to this tourist attraction, Pictured Rocks Days allows local citizens to appreciate and experience the wonder of the world near where they call home. It brings significant awareness to a national park. And, if nothing else, it makes 2,500 people go back to their town and talk about Pictured Rocks.
It’s more than just a boat ride.