A festive celebration of the arrival of the New Year on Mackinac Island, called the Great Turtle Drop, will take place once again this year on Main Street. The Great Turtle will be lowered from the top of the Lilac Tree Hotel at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve.

Why Drop a Turtle?

Located just beyond the tip of “the Mitten” and positioned comfortably in the chilly waters of Lake Huron is a small but unique piece of land called Mackinac Island. Just under 4 square miles in size, the island is a favorite travel destination for Michiganders, tourists from neighboring states, and even a handful of people from outside of the United States.

This beautiful land was once inhabited by the Anishnaabek people, which include the Ojibwe, Odawa, Potawatomi, Mississaugas, Nipissing, and Algonquin tribes. They called the island Michilimackinac, a Native American word that represents “the Great Turtle.” As the Native American legend goes, the island was formed by the body of a single turtle that left its bale in Lake Erie and set forth on a lone journey north through Lake Huron.

Approaching Mackinac Island by ferry boat offers insight into ancient geological forces which shaped the landscape that many visitors enjoy today. As the last glaciers retreated about 11,000 years ago, a tremendous amount of meltwater filled ancient Lake Algonquin to a depth of about 220 feet higher than current Lake Huron. At that time, only the highest point of Mackinac Island stood above the water, being about ½ mile long and nearly ¼ mile wide. For many generations, Native Americans have referred to this high point as the Turtle’s Back, as its domed shape creates the perception of a giant turtle floating on the water.

An Eleven-Year Tradition

The Great Turtle Drop was first held on December 31, 2011 under the guidance of Rich and Marge Lind of the Cottage Inn who wanted to create a festive “Times Square” event with a unique Mackinac Island twist.

Star Line Mackinac Island Ferry Company offers ferry service to the island, with multiple runs throughout the day. While not every store and hotel on Mackinac Island is open during the winter, there are still places for lodging, eating, and shopping. See a full list here: https://www.mackinacferry.com/about-us/winter-information/

Ring in the New Year with the Turtle Drop. 3-2-1…join in all the island fun! Happy New Year!

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