Mackinaw Memorial Parade &
Fort Michilimackinac Pageant
May 25, 2013
Linda & Keith Stokes

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Mackinaw Memorial Parade - Mackinaw City, Michigan
The Mackinaw Memorial Parade was led off by the color guard from the USCGC Biscayne Bay

Saturday - day 4 (continued)

We then made our way down the street to find a good spot to photograph the Mackinaw Memorial Parade, Michigan's largest Memorial weekend parade. As we waited for the parade to start, I realized how much sun I had been getting, with all the time we had been spending outside, but the damage was already done.

From growing up in Mackinaw City, I recognized a few people in the parade and probably knew many more, though they didn't look the same after all these years. The parade lasted about 90 minutes, and then we checked back into the Lighthouse View Motel and walked over to the Fort, stopping along the way to buy some sun block.

Watching the Mackinaw Memorial Parade
A French soldier from the pageant enjoying the parade

Mackinaw City Float in the Mackinaw Memorial Parade
Mackinaw City Float

Mackinaw City Comets marching band
Mackinaw City High School marching band

During Pontiac's Uprising in 1763, the Chippewa & Ottawa defeated the small British garrison at Fort Michilimackinac, killing many of the soldiers and keeping the British out of the Straits for nearly a year. In 1963 there was a four day celebration of the 200th anniversary event, including a pageant at the fort which depicted much of the fort's history. My father was in that first pageant as a fur trader and a couple of years later I was a little fur trader next to him. I continued to be in the pageant until my senior year in high school, when I videotaped the event using the school's early reel to reel Sony video recorder.

This was the 51st year of the Fort Michilimackinac Pageant and the following week was the 250th anniversary of the battle. Because an annual convention is in Kansas City on this same weekend, I had not been there for this weekend since the 1970s.

There is a cast of about 400 people and the audience this day looked to have about 2,500 people. There are performances all three afternoons of the Memorial Day weekend. While we were waiting for the start, I had a nice conversation with Roy Cole, who had been three years behind me in school. He is also a photographer and collector of Mackinaw history. Somehow, I have run into Roy during each of the past 3 trips home.

At the beginning of the performance, several WW2 veterans from Mackinaw City were asked to stand and be recognized. They were all people I remember from growing up in town.

The show is mostly unchanged from the 1960s. There were times the recorded soundtrack used different voices, but as near as I could tell, they still spoke the same lines. The most picturesque scene in the show is still there, even though it never actually happened in real life.

The only significant change is the depiction of the Native Americans. The costumes are much better and the language used to talk about them is much more sensitive.

At then end of the show, I talked with Jeff Alexander, who was a classmate and one of my closest friends in the mid 1970s. We have been Facebook friends for about 6 months. He is still portraying the same person in the pageant who he portrayed while we were in high school. 

Fort Michilimackinac Pageant audience
A large portion of the crowd waiting for the start of the Fort Michilimackinac Pageant

Mackinac Bridge and birch trees
There was a great view of the Mackinac Bridge from our seats (Prints & greeting cards of this image)

Fort Michilimackinac Pageant - surrender of the French to the British
This scene from the Fort Michilimackinac Pageant, showing the surrender of the French to the British, is unchanged since the 1960s -
in real life, this formal surrender of the troops never happened. The French troops left the Fort a year before the British forces arrived.

Fort Michilimackinac baggatiway
The Chippewa and Sac used a game of baggatiway to surprise and defeat the British at Fort Michilimackinac as a part of
Pontiac's Rebellion in 1763

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copyright 2013 by Keith Stokes.