The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

History Prize event finalist in Jump Start competition


Cortney Ofstad/Daily Globe

HISTORY PRIZE project leaders Mara MacKay, Paul Kostelnik and Sandy Sharp look at maps to plan out a possible future "history district" outside the Memorial Building in downtown Ironwood Tuesday. History Prize is an idea for a history-themed competition to take place in Ironwood each year, starting in 2016. The idea is being presented at the 2014 Pure Michigan Governor's Conference on Tourism in Traverse City, March 9-11.

IRONWOOD - The Gogebic Range is being represented at the 2014 Pure Michigan Governor's Conference on Tourism in Traverse City in March, competing for $5,000.

Mara MacKay and Sandy Sharp of Old Wood LLC., submitted an idea to the conference called History Prize, an annual event focused on historical aspects of cultures not just on the Gogebic Range, but around the world.

According to MacKay, the idea was submitted for the conference's Jump Start competition, giving $5,000 to the best pitch to boost tourism in Michigan. History Prize is one of five selected projects to be featured at the conference.

The History Prize is a competition-based historical platform, allowing people from around the U.S. and the world to showcase their cultures in three categories.

The categories include fixed exhibits, living history and collections. If MacKay and Sharp's idea were to win during the conference in March, they would use the money to start looking for investors to help make History Prize a success.

"We're creating the largest world arena for a history competition for $150,000," MacKay said. "Each of the three categories has a $50,000 prize, and we hope that will attract competitors from all over."

The idea for History Prize stemmed from ArtPrize, an annual competition in southwest Michigan, started by Rick DeVos. ArtPrize started five years ago and awards more than $500,000 each year to competitors.

"Art Prize is the state of Michigan's No. 1 tourist event," Sharp said. "We took his idea, and emulated History Prize from it. They did it with art, we're doing it with history."


This is MacKay's second time competing at Jump Start, after appearing at the podium last year for the book series called History CPR - Cultivate, Preserve, Read.

"I learned a great deal last year, and I met many wonderful people who care passionately about the Michigan tourism and lodging industry," MacKay said. "We are already a winning event by being selected for the Jump Start competition. Yet, I want to see the event come to life on the Gogebic Range."

MacKay and Sharp will be joined by Paul Kostelnik and Sandy Harden at the conference, representing the area.

Thousands of people will attend the conference March 9-11 to discuss different aspects of tourism. Presentations will be given by the five Jump Start selections, and the winner will be selected by a popular vote of conference attendees.

If History Prize is selected, MacKay said she and Sharp will look to work with Start Garden, an online marketplace for people to invest funds in potential projects or businesses. They will also begin to search for potential investors to make the project a reality.

"We would be reaching out to pockets of history communities around the world," MacKay said. "The $150,000 prize money would be a combination of fundraising through sponsorships, private donors and corporations not just in this area, but all over the world. We will also be seeking grants. We feel there are people willing to donate to this."

History everywhere

According to Ironwood Mayor Kim Corcoran, History Prize can "showcase" the "rich history" in the community.

"Ironwood is a 'Gateway City' for Michigan, and I believe an event like History Prize will be a great wy to showcase and promote the rich history within our community," Corcoran said. "This event demonstrates progressive steps our people are taking to promote tourism and create jobs in our area. I'm proud of this effort."

Ironwood is also hosting The Way We Worked, a Smithsonian exhibit in 2015, something MacKay called a "springboard" for History Prize.

History Prize is being planned for June and July 2016, and continue as an annual event each year. The goal is to plan a "history district" within the community, covering the area within a 15-mile radius of Ironwood.

Both MacKay and Sharp believe at first the event will contain competitors from the U.S., but hope to expand to competitors from all over the world.

"Everyone has history, and everyone is invited," MacKay said. "We're shooting for international tourism."

Competitors can submit anything from fixed exhibits like statues, murals or art; living history like reenactments of the Civil War or performances related to pop culture or heritage; to collections including historical artifacts or vintage objects.

Locally, venues can be used and voted on during the event.

"For example, the Historic Ironwood Theatre could be a venue hosting a performance, or the football field at Luther L. Wright School could host a Civil War reenactment," MacKay said. "Then, there will also be a category for people to vote for the best venues."

While it is still early on in the process, MacKay and Sharp have the goal of creating jobs through "heritage tourism."

"We don't know what the jobs will be yet, or how many there will be, but our ultimate goal it to create jobs from this," Sharp said. "All through heritage tourism."

For MacKay, the goal is also to promote history, no matter where it is from.

"When History Prize opens in 2016, area residents will have a deer season, ski season and a history season," MacKay said.

For more information on History Prize, call Sandy Sharp at 906-364-1296.


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