U.P. ramping up for winter events

What's happening: It's the start of the winter festival season in the U.P., events helping boost snow tourism. Heikinpaiva Heritage events began January 17 in Hancock, showcasing the importance of Finnish immigrants to the Upper Peninsula. Along with the Michigan Tech University’s Winter Carnival, they are the first major winter event in the U.P. for 2023. Thousands are expected to participate in more than 20 events over the two-week stretch. 

Why it's important: Outdoor recreation is the cornerstone of U.P. tourism, but festivals also encourage local interaction. Embracing a variety of winter sports and activities, as well as Heikki Lunta, the snow god, the festivals promote economic development and benefit communities far away from popular trail networks. They are also used as educational experiences, teaching skills or cultural practices that are no longer shared generationally. 

What they're saying: “Coming here during the wintertime is a reward unto itself,” Travel Marquette CEO Susan Estler said. “You can have a great time doing all the different fun activities or coming here for the U.P. 200. All of those activities are things we look forward to.”

Weather impact on schedules: Despite the snow dances, the Upper Peninsula has experienced warmer than usual temps in between major snowfalls, leading to more melting than usual for this time of year. Snowmobile associations across the central and eastern U.P. have reported less grooming in the hopes of keeping the base. The unusual weather has prompted some cancellations.

Advertising the future: While immediate events are getting plenty of attention, those arriving later in the season are getting increased recognition. A heavy advertising campaign for the Negaunee Heikki Lunta festival is airing on local television to help kickstart the festival in western Marquette County. The Escanaba Tourism Bureau has posted social media videos about the 30th Annual Trenary Outhouse Classic, which has been featured on television stations like Travel Channel, Discovery and multiple Japanese stations. Michigan Ice Fest is also receiving high traffic for one of the premier ice climbing events in the Midwest.

All of these events are scheduled different weekends in February with the goal of getting more people to experience the winter tourism boom in the Upper Peninsula.