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The Grandest of Years

Mackinac Policy Conference venue celebrates 125 years of history
By Clair Charlton
May 2012: Page 64-65

It’s not every day that influential leaders, entrepreneurs and philanthropists meet to plan the future of one of the country’s most forward-moving regions. So when they do, it’s only fitting that a quasquicentennial celebration should be part of the festivities.

This is a grand year for both the Mackinac Policy Conference and its loyal venue, the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. Looking ever more beautiful than the day she debuted 125 years ago, the Grand Hotel is honored and pleased to welcome the Mackinac Policy Conference May 29 to May 31, 2012.

An idyllic island setting, the Grand Hotel offers old world charm blended with modern technology required for the Conference, according to Dan Musser, III, president of the Grand Hotel. The Conference pillars of innovation, collaboration and 21st century global market reflect perfectly in the majestic pillars that grace the world’s largest front porch, he said.

“The Mackinac Policy Conference has been held at the Grand Hotel for over 30 years, and our guests are consistently provided with a level of service and experience that is exceptional,” said Tammy Carnrike, CCE, chief operating officer of the Detroit Regional Chamber. “National and international guests, as well as our own Michigan participants, leave the Conference with a positive Michigan experience that bolsters our state’s brand and reputation around the nation and world.”

The world’s largest summer hotel has 385 rooms, each uniquely decorated, offering guests a wide range of accommodation choices. There are 95 deluxe rooms and 54 named rooms, including seven in honor of former first ladies. Recreational activities are abounding at the Grand Hotel with tennis, afternoon tea, saddle horses and even their very own 18-hole golf course, The Jewel. Live music entertainment happens nightly, whether its dancing or the Grand Hotel Orchestra or live bands at The Gate House.

Since its opening on July 10, 1887, The Grand Hotel has worked to keep its historic appeal. In 1957, the Michigan Historical Association recognized the hotel as a State Historical Building and in 1960 R.D. (Dan) Musser was appointed president. 2012 marks the 79th consecutive year the Grand Hotel has been under the stewardship of the Musser family. While the hotel’s original architecture and charm have been preserved, guests can still enjoy modern amenities and the hotel is recognized as one of Travel & Leisure’s 500 World’s Best Hotels.

“We are proud of the unique role Grand Hotel has played in the history of Michigan. It first opened its doors just 50 years after Michigan achieved statehood and has played host to state and national leaders on a consistent basis ever since,” Musser said.

The Grand Hotel’s picturesque milieu is only accentuated by its location on Mackinac Island. Overlooking the Straits of Mackinac, the hotel’s 660-foot porch makes a perfect first impression to those approaching the island by ferry. Visitors are taken back 200 years, surrounded by antique shops and historic sites like Fort Mackinac. A place where motorized vehicles are forbidden, bicycles and horse-drawn carriages are the only form of transportation.

“The Grand Hotel certainly matches the focus that the Chamber wants to accomplish for this conference,” says Musser, noting that the hotel has hosted all but the first one or two of the Conferences. “The hotel, like the island, provides a setting that promotes interaction inside the sessions and out, and the Chamber does an extraordinary job of providing quality content and working with us to build creative events that promote interaction among attendees of what is arguably the most important policy event in the state.”

Grant Hotel President Dan Musser III and Chamber President Sandy K. Baruah at an event commemorating the hotel’s 125th anniversary at the Detroit Athletic Club in March 2012.

For a destination that throughout 125 years has witnessed events large and small, welcomed five U.S. presidents and hosted thousands of memory-making celebrations, creating connections between people is what the Grand Hotel does best, Musser said.

“The Grand Hotel is a key element to the Conference’s success and are great partners each and every year,” Carnrike said. “The Grand Hotel has played a significant role in Michigan’s history, and is now positioned as a key asset in Michigan’s future. The Musser family and their team should be very proud of achieving such an impressive milestone.”

Claire Charlton is a Metro Detroit freelance writer.