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Petoskey Celebrates a Year of Ernest Hemingway

For the first 22 years of his life, Pulitzer and Nobel Prize-winning Ernest Hemingway spent his summers exploring the woods and waters of Walloon Lake, Horton By, Petoskey and the neighboring communities of Northern Michigan. It was here he discovered his love of fishing, hunting and writing. It was here where many of the scenes and characters for his future works would be shaped—most notably, those of Nick Adams.

Literary and history buffs are quick to reference Chicago, Paris, Spain, Cuba, Key West and Ketchum as locales where Hemingway made an impact. Yet, it was Northern Michigan which held what some consider the most treasured place in the author’s heart. Except for a single night in 1947, when he was passing through Michigan on his way west, Hemingway never saw this region again after his September, 1921 marriage in Horton Bay to Hadley Richardson.

“Hemingway had a very special place in his heart for Northern Michigan. The memories and images in his mind found their way into his works throughout his life, even when the stories were set in other locales around the world,” says Chris Struble, president of The Michigan Hemingway Society. “He remarked to his sister, Ursula, in a letter from 1943 that his time here was the clearest part of his life. But life changed him and he was afraid that if he came back, it wouldn’t be the place he remembered and he couldn’t risk losing what he had known and loved.”

Several events are planned this summer and fall to pay tribute to Hemingway and the impact he made on this region of the state.


The afternoon’s public festivities begin around 4pm with a statue dedication in Pennsylvania Park just south of Lake Street, near City Park Grill. Sculpted by award-winning artist Andy Sacksteder of Gladstone, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the bronze statue honors Hemingway’s youthful summer spent in Northern Michigan. The sculpture was commissioned and funded by the late Robert Dau before his passing in 2015.

Later in the afternoon, Stafford’s Perry Hotel will host its 3rd Annual Ernest Hemingway Birthday Celebration at 5:30 pm. Hemingway was born on July 21, 1899 in Oak Park, IL and made his first trip to his parents’ northern Michigan cottage on Walloon Lake at the age of three months. Years later, at the age of 16, he and a friend set out to hike their way from Illinois to Petoskey for the summer. His friend bailed at Traverse City, but Hemingway continued on and stayed night at The Perry Hotel (built the same year he was born), paying 75 cents for the room before heading down to the family’s cottage, Windermere, on Walloon Lake.

Hemingway historians, including University of Pennsylvania Professor and best-selling author Paul Hendrickson, who published Hemingway’s Boat: Everything He Loved in Life, and Lost (2012), are among the featured guests during a four-course dinner inspired by the author. Copies of his book will be available during cocktail hour, along with book signing.

Following dinner, the premiere of “Young Hemingway & His Enduring Eden,” written and produced by Dr. George Colburn, will be shown at The Perry Hotel. This documentary is scheduled to be televised on PBS in two segments in 2018, following a Europe World Premiere of the documentary in Paris in July of 2018.

Tickets for the Birthday Celebration are $65 per person and a portion will benefit The Young Hemingway Documentary & Education Project. To purchase tickets and make reservations, call Stafford’s Perry Hotel at 231-347-4000.


The Michigan Hemingway Society is once again hosting its annual literary and history conference, October 6-8 at The Terrace Inn in the Northern Michigan Chautauqua community of Bay View.

Founded on the shores of Lake Michigan in 1875, Bay View has maintained its historic buildings, homes and charm. Hemingway was very familiar with this community when he lived in Petoskey for that last time. Throughout the weekend, attendees will tour some of the old Victorian buildings and cottages, exploring their architecture and learn the detailed history of the community. There is a plan for a special event on Sunday afternoon, with attendees re-creating an infamous party that Hemingway attended in one of the Bay View cottages.

This year’s keynote speaker is Steve Paul, the author and editor of several books including Hemingway at Eighteen: The Pivotal Year that Launched an American Legend, due out this fall.

Paul recently retired from the editorial board of The Kansas City Star after 41 years. Starting out on the city desk, he was a longtime arts and culture editor, book critic, special assignment writer, projects editor and writer, mentor and coach to young writers and teachers, and producer of high-profile feature stories on culture, music, architecture, books, people and the city, as well as being the co-owner of a bookstore.

Hemingway himself started his writing career at The Kansas City Star. After graduating from Oak Park River Forest High School in 1917, he left the culturally-rich environment there in the Chicago suburbs as well as the freedom of summers in Northern Michigan when he moved to Kansas City to become a journalist. If all his trips to Kansas City were added together, he lived and worked in that town for a little more than a year—the longest stay, for six months, was when he was a cub reporter from October, 1917 until April, 1918.

From there he joined the Red Cross as an ambulance driver in Italy during World War I, returning the following year to the United Sates and finally Petoskey as a wounded and decorated war veteran. He then married his first wife, Hadley Richardson, in Northern Michigan and the two moved to Paris. While there, Hemingway began freelancing for the Toronto Star, writing fishing sketches, before becoming a foreign correspondent.

Membership in the Michigan Hemingway Society is $20 per calendar year for an individual, $30 for a family (two adults at the same address) or $10 for students. Benefits include a reduced fee for the annual MHS weekend conference, a printed copy of the MHS newsletter and periodic email updates of MHS news. If you are not a member of the Michigan Hemingway Society for 2017 you may join online now.

The Michigan Hemingway Society has been active since 1983 and was incorporated officially as a non-profit organization in 1993. Made up of university professors, writers, high school teachers, fly fishers, journalists and all kinds of other people who are interested in exploring the life and body of literature created by this Nobel prize-winning author, The Michigan Hemingway Society’s group volunteer energies have been focused ad hoc, on such events as its annual Hemingway weekend, the membership newsletter and maintaining the organization’s website and Facebook page.



Check out the Pure Michigan’s award-winning website for more information on Hemingway’s Northern Michigan Connection.