If you’re looking for a last-minute family getaway before school starts, say a sweet sayonara to summer at the 9th annual Mackinac Island Fudge Festival, Aug. 23-24. Leave your car — and diet — behind and catch a ferry from Mackinaw City or St. Ignace to this dreamy isle between Michigan’s two peninsulas, where horses and bicycles rule the roads.
From butter pecan, cranberry and chocolate espresso to peanut butter and maple walnut, dozens of tempting flavors beckon from the windows of 18 island fudge shops, making it a great place for “fudgies” to indulge before hitting the books and settling into the annual back-to-school routine.
From 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 24, you can join festival-goers in the search for the “Golden Ticket” hidden in one of 40 special boxes on sale at six different fudge shops. The shopper who purchases the lucky one-pound box will win a two-night stay for four, ferry tickets, carriage tour and butterfly house on a return visit. Entry forms also are available at the island’s tourism bureau for those who don’t want to binge on fudge — but who in the world would that be?
Other festival activities include a “Fudge-ilicious” happy hour from 3-5 p.m. Aug. 23, featuring cocktails created by island bartenders, as well as history boat tours, kite-flying and musical entertainment throughout the weekend. And don’t miss family-friendly tours of Fort Mackinac to learn about its history before and during the War of 1812 through military re-enactments, cannon and musket firings, mock court martials and kiddie dress-up sessions — all while munching fudge, of course.
Obviously, you don’t need a fudge festival or a special weekend to sample the sweet stuff on Mackinac Island, where tons of fudge are made fresh year-round, through all four seasons (though the majority is gobbled up during high season, between the 4th of July and late August).
Bob Benser Jr., president of the Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau and owner of Murdick’s Fudge and several other island ventures, says business is booming this summer on the island, which welcomed more than 700,000 visitors last year, including overnight guests and day-trippers.
On a busy summer day, the original Murdick’s shop, which opened on Main Street in 1887 and lays claim to being the island’s oldest fudge shop (but, for complex reasons, not the longest operating), turns out more than 500 pounds of fudge. Each batch is expertly tended by fudge-makers such as Carnel Samuels, a 10-year veteran who says the secret is “in the wrist” and the timing. Each 30-pound batch takes about 15-20 minutes, he says, and notes that vanilla is the trickiest (it may take longer to set up because of its lighter texture).
Temperature is crucial, too. Each night, for example, they cover the marble table tops with an electric blanket so they’re not too cold in the morning when the first batch of fudge is transferred from copper kettles.
For information on the upcoming fudge festival, check www.murdicks.com or call (906) 847-3530.