New year welcomed with torchlight parade, fireworks
January 2, 2021
By TOM LAVENTURE
Wakefield TOWNSHIP — The annual New Year’s Eve Torchlight Parade and Fireworks display on Thursday at Blackjack Mountain ski resort attracted hundreds of vacationing skiers and area residents to welcome 2021 or perhaps just to put 2020 behind them.
Pete and Jackie Cannon, of Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, said they are annual visitors to the area resorts and come to Indianhead often.
“It’s the snow and this is a good time of year to come between Christmas and New Year’s,” Jackie Cannon said.
The couple watched the torchlight parade and fireworks from the upper deck of the Blackjack lodge. They commented that it was a wonderful way to spend New Year’s Eve.
“I think it’s a great thing,” Pete Cannon said. “It brings the community together.”
Dave Suchanek and Grayson Savoie came all the way from Los Angeles to ski the Upper Peninsula and attended the New Year’s Eve events while staying at the Indianhead Lodge. Suchanek was raised near Ann Arbor and his parents now live in Escanaba, but it was the first time for both of them to ski the western U.P.
“I’m kind of a beginner to skiing,” Savoie said. “I’ve done skiing in California, which kind of has pretty tall mountains, and we thought it would be better to learn here on kind of smaller hills and mountains and so it’s a good place to learn.”
Another reason for the trip was to spend the holidays outside of L.A., where the COVID-19 restrictions of a large metropolitan area can weigh more heavily than the open spaces of a remote ski resort.
“We were staying up here and wanted to do some skiing and we heard about the ‘big snow country,’” Suchanek said.
The two noticed that fellow skiers were practicing COVID-19 prevention and wearing masks but it didn’t feel invasive for skiing which has a natural social distancing, he said. Having just arrived on Thursday the two spent their time exploring the Indianhead resort.
“It’s low key and charming in the best way,” Suchanek said. “It kind of feels like you’re in the middle of nowhere but it’s got a cool charm to it.”
The New Year’s Eve announcement was in the lodge and the two watched the torchlight parade and the fireworks from the upper deck of the Blackjack lodge.
There were changes this year to make the event more compliant with pandemic rules and the crowd was dispersed along a snow fence or on the upper deck of the main lodge. People were not allowed to observe from inside the lodge.
This year’s torchlight parade was named in honor of Mary Jendrusina, a former director of the volunteer ski patrol who passed away in December, said Misty Vander Wolde, events coordinator for Big Snow Resort, which included Indianhead Mountain and Blackjack Mountain resorts. The torchlight skiers lit their torches from one torch signifying Jendrusina, and left a single torch on the top of the mountain for the flame to go out on its own.
“When someone on the hill passes away that is the tradition,” Vander Wolde said of the volunteers and employees of the resort.
The torchlight parade was held at 6 p.m., where it normally would have been held at 10 p.m., she said. The fireworks followed immediately after the torchlight parade where they are usually set off at midnight.
“Normally we would have live music and the lodge would be open all night until 2 a.m.,” Vander Wolde said. “Normally we wouldn’t be done this early but it is still a really fun night.”
Lisa Trousil of Green Bay, said her family plans for skiing outings at the resorts around northern Wisconsin and the U.P. at this time every year. This was their first trip to Big Snow Resort and they also attended the New Year’s Eve events.
“We came to the U.P. for some variety and something to do,” Trousil said.
Her daughter, Alexis Trousil, said she enjoyed skiing the hills on Thursday. She plans to spend the weekend learning to use her new snowboard.
“We only ski a couple of times a year but I just started snowboarding and so that’s also fun,” she said. “I skied today but I want to snowboard tomorrow.”
Area ski resort managers are optimistic that more regional skiers will stay closer to home this season and help boost the struggling pandemic economy in the new year. The recent snow has helped but time will tell if the busy start of the season will continue past the holidays.
All the ski hills and cross country ski trails are open with adjustments to operations that discourage crowds and lines. Area cross country ski events were canceled or have gone virtual such as the Sisu Ski Fest that starts Jan. 4.