UPside of Life: Stephenson and Wallace are great stops on US-41

One of the best parts of traveling through the Upper Peninsula is getting acquainted with the little towns and villages that dot the land as you go.

Take, for example, a little stretch of US-41 in Menominee County. Unless you have a reason to be there, you're probably not just going to stumble across the handful of miles that lead you to the towns of Stephenson and Wallace.

Just six miles apart, these two towns are great little oasis to come across. Stephenson, which is lately the lesser known of the two stops, has some nice little amenities for a town that boasts less than 900 people.

In fact, a surprising feature of the town is the number of small businesses and features. Take, for example, that they have five churches throughout Stephenson, or that they boast three banks. They even have a grocery store, the swell Anderson Bakery and a feed mill.

The feature that is most noteworthy is the movie theater. The single-screen Tivoli Theater is a gem in a town this size and would normally be unheard of. Not only does this little movie house have a current feature film to show each week, but they let their customers vote on which movies will be coming next via their website.

When you drive through the area, it's easy to see why people settled here in the first place. The land is beautiful and agriculturally rich. There are a slew of nearby lakes and rivers and the Little Cedar River runs through the town itself, offering up some fishing. The area is also known for its excellent deer herd and turkey hunting, and is typically quite busy during those seasons.

Originally build as a stopping place for the Chicago and Northwestern Railway when they build a line between Escanaba and Menominee, Stephenson became a village in 1898 and a city in 1969. The city has its own water supply and modern sewage treatment system and also boasts a police officer and a volunteer fire department and emergency rescue and ambulance teams.

Just six miles down the road from Stephenson another US-41 gem waits. The town of Wallace isn't the biggest dot on the map, but it has some unique offerings of its own.

The most notable is the DeYoung Family Zoo, owned and operated by Bud DeYoung and featuring animals as exotic as tigers and hippos all the way to local favorites. The zoo has come under the limelight recently after being part of a reality television show called My Life is a Zoo on the National Geographic channel.

But the zoo isn't the only reason to stop in at Wallace. The former train stop also has its own building supply firm and a bar, as well as a post office. But the real treat is over at Gary's Quality Foods, which is located right on the highway. Gary Peretto is known for wowing his customers with his own homemade bacon, sausage and mouth-watering beef jerky.

If you're planning a trip through the U.P. and especially if you're going through Menominee County, a detour into both of these little towns along US-41 is recommended.

Sam Eggleston is the managing editor of the U.P. Second Wave and a full-time freelance writer. He was born and raised in the Upper Peninsula. His favorite part of traveling through Stephenson is the volunteer pride and beautification in the town. Eggleston can be reached via email.
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