All posts by Beverly Mapes

Whitetail Woods Regional Park Celebrates Grand Opening

Room to Roam: Whitetail Woods Regional Park Celebrates Grand Opening

Years of planning, strategy and preparation finally came to a head, as Dakota County, MN officials officially unveiled Whitetail Woods Regional Park—the county’s first regional park in three decades—on a sunny September afternoon.

As visitors flew kites, listened to live music, and enjoyed horse-drawn wagon rides, they described their impressions enthusiastically: “Beautiful.” “Great for families.” “Nature-filled.” “Big spaces.”

Emphasis on the “big”—456 acres, to be exact. Whitetail Woods offers over 10 miles of summer hiking trails and over 6 miles of ski trails traversing rolling prairie, pine forest, wetlands, and Empire Lake.

But an even more fitting descriptor for Whitetail Woods might be “one-of-a-kind.” Top of the List’s Audrey Flack attended the park’s grand opening festivities with her family and noted several standout features that make the park, in her words, “worth the drive.” Here are few of her top picks:

Fawn Crossing Nature Play Area

For kids, Fawn Crossing Nature Play Area offers a change of pace from the traditional playground, using the landscape itself to encourage creative play. Hills, hollows, and rock walls become places to build forts, play with sand, pump water, and jump across tree stumps and logs. Flack and her two young sons took full advantage of these opportunities:

And to help ease the wintertime doldrums, the hilly portion of the play area becomes a 915-foot lighted sledding hill. Post-sledding, groups can use a nearby king-size outdoor fireplace to toast smores beneath the stars.

“Treehouse”-style camper cabins

Open for just one month, Whitetail Woods’ one-of-a-kind camper cabins have made a big impact. When reservations opened at 10 a.m. December 1, there were 45 requests within the first 60 seconds. The three cabins have sold out completely through April 2015.

The cabins offer soaring views of the surrounding forest, while still remaining ADA compliant. Each cabin houses up to six people on simple full-size and twin day beds and can be used year-round.

Treehouse at Whitetail Woods

Looking ahead: A regional destination

At the Whitetail Woods grand opening, visitors learned of future plans for the park, including a paved trail around Empire Lake, an arbor for weddings, a dog park, disc golf course, visitor center, lighted ski trail, and up to 30 camper cabins. Programming for children and adults began in the fall, which attracts visitors from across the county and beyond.

A nature-lover at heart, Flack is eager to return. “Connecting with nature has been a key form of stress relief throughout my life,” she said. “I can’t wait to share the beauty of Whitetail Woods with my boys as they grow.”

Top Dog: Traverse City’s D.O.G. Bakery Celebrates 10 Years

True dog lovers regard their pets as family members–and Karry Barolo from Traverse City, Michigan is among these ranks. She felt guilty leaving her two dogs — Daisy, a Lab-Chow mix, and Oscar, a Beagle mix — when she went to work every day. “Dogs have such a pure love for their owners. And I was missing out on that relationship,” said Karry. So in 2004 she quit her corporate job to work full time alongside her dogs  at the business she and her husband Chris had started in their spare time: D.O.G. Bakery.

Hand made dog treats by D.O.G. Bakery
Last year, dogs everywhere gobbled up almost 8 tons of treats made by D.O.G. Bakery.


At the beginning, the Barolos’ new venture faced a skeptical audience. The media and potential wholesalers didn’t take the “dog bakery” concept seriously, doubting that such a niche business could survive. “In our early years, the articles written about D.O.G. Bakery had a silly angle that seemed to make fun of us,” Karry said. “Now we’re portrayed as a legitimate business and a resource for dog owners. It’s one thing I’m very proud of: the value is real.”

10 Years: Can you say “Dog Party!?”

To celebrate 10 years in business, the bakery planned a huge outdoor party for the community’s dogs and their owners, complete with games, dog treats, popcorn and grilled hot dogs. To top off the event, “Bisquit,” the ‘human’ dog, led a parade from the bakery to the local dog park.

Chris and Karry Borolo, founders of D.O.G. Bakery, sitting on bench at dog park with their 'human' dog Bisquit
D.O.G. Bakery founders, Chris and Karry Borolo, with their ‘human’ dog Bisquit celebrate at the dog park


Once at the dog park, the Barolos held a raffle for a year of free dog treats. Proceeds from the raffle were donated to a fund that helped provide landscaping and running water to the dog park. “We are so grateful for our supportive community. Donating the raffle funds to make the dog park better was the best way we could thank them,” said Karry.

From Simple Beginnings to Wow!

D.O.G. Bakery officially opened on May 1, 2004 in a small space in back of a retail strip mall. Low visibility prompted a move to Traverse City’s main street downtown in 2006.

“That’s when things really took off,” Karry said. The uptick in business led the bakery to expand: its original space now houses the bakery operation, and an adjacent space is used for retail.

D.O.G. Bakery Storefront in Traverse City, Michigan
In 2006, the bakery obtained retail space with a storefront on the main street in downtown Traverse City.

The boost in foot traffic is only part of the story behind D.O.G. Bakery’s growth: building a website their first year in business helped the operation develop a national customer base. The Barolos not only provide products to individuals with dogs, but also sell wholesale to stores and businesses across the country–including Hawaii. All this growth required employees, and D.O.G. Bakery currently has nine.

The Bakery

As the pet industry continues to grow, D.O.G. Bakery stands out for its focus on dog health and nutrition. “We want what’s best for the dog,” said Karry. “So we’ve worked very hard to come up with recipes that have no preservatives but have a longer shelf life.”

Frosted, baked dog treats in shape of bones
All treats are handmade, touched by loving hands as if they were being made especially for one’s own dog.

All treats are handmade without any machinery. “We bake 7 days a week, from 7 am in the morning until 9 pm at night,” Karry explained. “Our saving grace is that we don’t bake at 2 am like traditional bakeries!”  And of course there is R & D. With the aid of Karry’s current ‘spoiled rotten’ Tibetan Terriers, Rags and Lucy, the products–including gluten free dog treats, decorated treats, and cakes–receive a rigorous taste-testing so their canine friends can be assured of ultimate flavor in every treat. Last year, dogs throughout the nation gobbled up nearly 8 tons of D.O.G. Bakery treats.

Two Tibetan Terrier dogs with Halloween hats on in front of lit pumpkin
Rags and Lucy, official R & D case testers of the bakery’s dog treats

The Retail Store: Dog Heaven on Earth

D.O.G.’s retail space has never been just another store: it’s become the ultimate destination for dogs (and their human friends). For starters, not a dog enters the door without getting a free sample. Discerning dogs can even enjoy individual servings of dog ice cream (current special: peanut butter banana), made with low fat yogurt, local honey, and peanut butter and topped with sprinkles and crumbled cookies. While Fido savors his treat, owners can shop a complete line of dog and cat food, toys, and supplies of all kinds.

Interior of D.O.G. Bakery’s Retail Store
The retail store carries a complete line of dog and cat food, toys, and supplies of all kinds.

Rich With Experiences

Over the past 10 years of business, the Barolos have shared in the lives of their customers. On any given day, a visitor to the store might be over the moon introducing a new puppy, or overcome with sadness due to a beloved dog’s passing. Karry considers it a privilege to be part of her customers’ lives. “They know we get it,” she said. “They trust us with their real feelings without having to worry about feeling embarrassed.”

And that, ultimately, is the big payoff. “We’ve been a part of the journey with these animals,” Karry said. “I’m not rich making dog treats, but I’m very rich with experiences.”

Celebrating a dog’s birthday with birthday cake, ice cream, party hat
D.O.G. Bakery’s product line includes decorated treats for special occasions, cakes, and even dog ice cream!

Afton Apple Celebrates 25 Years

A good pick: Afton Apple celebrates 25 years

Welcome to Afton Apple

When September comes around, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more telling sign of the season than the ubiquitous trip to the apple orchard (the Pumpkin Spice Latte might be a close second, but that’s a story for another day …). And as urbanites and suburbanites alike prep for their annual orchard outings, it seems that everyone has a favorite.

Afton Apple is one of the orchards in the Twin Cities Metro that’s gotten it right. Located a few miles north of Hastings, MN, the orchard celebrates its 25th season this year. Owners Frank and Cindy Femling purchased over 190 acres of unmaintained farmland in 1989, steadily transforming the property from a modest pick-your-own apple orchard to a well-known landmark that welcomes over 50,000 visitors during apple season.

You might think that such a large operation would give the orchard an overly commercial feel. Yet the Femlings have carefully maintained the orchard’s rural charm and down-home atmosphere. Top of the List staffer Audrey Flack discovered this firsthand when visiting the orchard with her family on a sunny September weekend. In addition to picking apples, her young sons took full advantage of the unique “retread hill,” petting zoo, and playground:

Afton Apple Kids' Activities

To celebrate its 25th anniversary, Afton Apple held a weekend-long extravaganza in mid-September. The event featured the famous Dock Dogs, music, face painting, and a beer tent, in addition to giveaways and a 25 percent discount on pick-your-own apples. It also designed its 15-acre corn maze to commemorate the event. The design theme, “Ears to 25 Years,” incorporates an anniversary cake and even the faces of the Femlings themselves.

But perhaps the best way for visitors to celebrate Afton Apple’s milestone anniversary is in the traditional way: with delicious goodies freshly made from the orchard’s harvest!

Enjoying a doughnut from Afton Apple

Hastings, MN’s Rivertown Days celebrates 35 years!

Rivertown Days Anniversary Celebration in Hastings MNAsk residents what words come to mind when they think of “Hastings, Minnesota,” and you might hear a few frontrunners: Historic. Friendly. Scenic. It’s true; the town of 22,000 on the Mississippi, Vermillion and St. Croix rivers is well-known for being all of those things.

But this year, you might hear a few more…less conventional terms: Creative. Artist-friendly. And maybe even….Neon?

With the newly-completed Highway 61 bridge, a downtown redevelopment plan recently approved, and a burgeoning theater and arts community, Hastings has a new energy that blends the community’s historic charm with the anticipation of a bright future. And nowhere was this energy more evident than at Rivertown Days, the town’s annual celebration.

You might even say it was “glowing.”


Glow Run at Rivertown Days

Yes, you read that correctly. 2014 marked the first year that the traditional Hastings River Run was revamped as the Glow Run and the official kickoff to the late-July Rivertown Days extravaganza. With a 2K fun run, 8K race, food trucks, children’s obstacle courses, face-painting, and a DJ, the Glow Run attracted a wider audience than the typical road race. Top of the List staffer Audrey Flack couldn’t resist bringing her family to enjoy the festivities—and from the look of things, they enjoyed themselves!

Family and Kids’ Activities

As a mom of two young boys under three, Flack sought out events suited to short attentions spans—and she wasn’t disappointed. “Sometimes I think twice about going to large events with kids this young because it’s so difficult to keep them safe and entertained,” she said. “But I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to get around Rivertown Days.”
Most children’s and child-friendly events centered in Jaycee Park, which lines the Mississippi River and offers a scenic view of the town’s new bridge—and a welcome breeze. A special performance by the Emmy-award-winning Zinghoppers was the highlight of the boys’ trip—rivaled only by the ongoing DockDogs Northern Stars competition!

Kid Friendly Activities at Rivertown Days Festival in Minnesota, including the Zinghoppers

Flack’s boys had so much fun, they couldn’t stay awake for the multitude of other family-friendly options at the park, including carnival rides, a BMX and skateboard stunt show, demonstrations from the Hastings Police Department’s K-9 Unit, waterski shows from the Shockwaves, and other children’s activities—all on the list for next year!

Painting the Town

Even while celebrating the new, Hastings hasn’t forgotten its rich history. With 63 nationally-recognized historic buildings and a bustling downtown district, Hastings blends the old and new in creative ways—and Rivertown Days is no exception. Levee Park, adjacent to the river and downtown, hosts an artists’ bazaar where passerby reflect on a riverside Veterans’ memorial and purchase goods from local artists. Downtown’s many clothing, gift, and specialty stops hold epic Sidewalk Sales, while bars and restaurants bring live music to the streets:

Live Music and Sidewalk Sales Lined the Streets of Hastings, MN at the Rivertown Days Festival

The annual Rivertown Days parade is an extravaganza of classic cars, local businesses and bands—and, of course, candy and treats for the kids!

The Rivertown Days parade included Fire Trucks, Local Businesses, Classic Cares and More!

Flack’s advice? “Set up camp early!” she said. “Preferably somewhere shaded!”

After Dark

Lest you think that Rivertown Days is just for kids, Flack is quick to note the many activities she “would have loved to attend, but just weren’t feasible for the toddler set!” A riverside beer and wine garden, concert by country super group Hitchville, and Gal Pal Soiree were only some of the festivities best left to the adults.

“Next year,” Flack said, “We’re getting a sitter!”

Planned Parenthood of West and Northern Michigan-50 Active Years

Planned Parenthood of West and Northern Michigan (PPWNM) is celebrating a half-century of service this year. Like their 25th anniversary celebration, they have some big-time events —  past and planned — to recognize their achievements and to pump even more motivation into their supporters to accomplish future goals. This years events include:

  • A 50th Anniversary luncheon at Meijer

    Planned Parenthood Leaders: Katherine Humphrey and Cecile Richards
    PPWNM President Katherine Humphrey and PPFA President Cecile Richards

    Gardens. Held on May 6, the event’s speaker lineup included PPWNM President Katherine Humphrey, and a keynote speaker from the national front, Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) President Cecile Richards.

  • Culmination of StandingTall, a 3-year capital campaign that exceeded its $3 million goal by raising over $4 million. The funds are being used for facility renovations, technology upgrades, and for an endowment fund to ensure sustainability for those who depend on Planned Parenthood’s services.
  • A ribbon cutting ceremony and open house in the Fall to celebrate a building renovation to the tune of $2 million at the Grand Rapids’ Cherry St location

To provide a glimpse of how far planned parenting has come, birth control was not even legal for unmarried women in 1964 when Planned Parenthood’s grass roots efforts began. It wasn’t even legal for married women in all 50 states. As a result, it was common for women to have 10 or more children in their lifetime. Following are some other major milestones in Planned Parenthood’s history.
1964:  With the goal of helping low-income women access family planning services, pioneers Mary Kindle (Mrs. Thomas Kindel) and Helen Martin (Mrs. John Martin) worked feverishly to coordinate meetings and community forums, eventually founding Planned Parenthood Association of Kent County (PPAKC). Mrs. H. B. Shaine was its first board president. Mary Kindle, H.B. Shaine, Helen Martin, founders of Planned Parenthood Planned Parenthood founders Mary Kindle, H.B. Shaine, Helen Martin This landmark event required coordination and participation by numerous established organizations and community leaders. United Community Services (now United Way), Detroit Planned Parenthood, Michigan Department of Public Health, Kent County Health Department, Senior Minister Duncan Littlefair (Fountain Street Church) and Dr. James Riekse, M.D. were some of the key organizations or leaders involved. Outreach back then was not privy to the use of today’s technology and speed to deliver the message. Instead, supporters spread the word going door to door, established mobile work units to visit workplaces, promoted their mission on college campuses, and intercepted moms in the hospital shortly after delivery. It was truly a major effort.
1965: The first Planned Parenthood center opened, located at 50 Ransom NE. The center held evening hours only, since it was used as a medical facility during the day. It was typical to see 80 women waiting in line outside to access their services. A second clinic opened that same year at 917 Jefferson SE.
Continuing Years: Numerous developments took place over the years, including moves, expansions, locating clinics on college campuses, and closings of clinics as well. Some highlights, lowlights, and major developments during these years include:

  • 1976 – First Lady Betty Ford served as honorary chairwoman for the local fund drive. The drive surpassed its goal of $67,000.
  • 1980 – A major expansion added three more counties — Lake, Newaygo, and Oceana — to the three counties already covered (Ottawa, Mecosta and Kent). This brought their number of centers to a whopping 86.
  • 1989 – 25th anniversary celebration along with a major capital campaign resulted in renovation of their Cherry St. Building — the same one that is being renovated once again for their 50th anniversary.
  • 2002 – “Gimme Some Sugar” dessert auction for LGBT youth. Grand Rapids is one of the first cities of its size to have had an ordinance outlawing discrimination against LGBT, which helped ensure the success of this well-received event.
  • 2007 – Planned Parenthood of West Michigan merged with Planned Parenthood of Northern Michigan to become what it is known as today: Planned Parenthood of West and Northern Michigan (PPWNM). Their area covers 52 counties.
  • 2007 – A major government funding cut resulted in closing numerous facilities including Grand Rapids, Muskegon, and Mt. Pleasant. Both the Oceana, and Newaygo Health centers also closed due to the Title 10 funding reduction. Despite these setbacks, the merger is what allowed many of the health centers to remain open. By consolidating expenses, operating only one board instead of two, and lowering overhead with volume purchases, PPWNM continued on.
  • 2011 – A threatened government shutdown over Planned Parenthood funding of $300 million per year. The tactic did not succeed, but was a hard fought issue.

Future Challenges Julie McKeiver, Communications Manager at PPWNM, had a laundry list of challenges she sees in the coming years:

  • Electronic health records – cost and privacy issues
  • Complacency of previous generations – Once Planned Parenthood became a success, women started taking it for granted and many stopped or slowed their efforts. The 2007 reduced funding wake-up call, followed by the 2011 threat has renewed the need for more participation
  • The political climate – especially difficult when conservatives are not in office since their strategies to win the next election often attack Planned Parenthood initiatives
  • Affordable Care Act – getting the word out that Planned Parenthood accepts insurance and offers a top quality standard of care. They also go out of their way to help people not only with medical issues, but also with life issues that affect their medical health.

“There will always be opposition,” according to McKeiver. “I sometimes question why we must fight so hard in this enlightened age though.”  
Educate – Advocate – Provide Health Care

Headquarters of Planned Parenthood of West and Northern Michigan on Cherry St. in Grand Rapids
Grand Rapids Planned Parenthood Headquarters, April 10, 2014

With a primary focus on prevention of unwanted births, sexually transmitted diseases,  breast cancer, and other women’s sexual health issues, the PPWNM of today is targeting teens to educate, advocate and remove barriers to health care. Considering the past political climate, they have their work cut out for them. As Cecile Richards mentioned in her keynote, “I believe we will live to see the day when women’s health is no longer a political issue … but it’s been a really tough time.” She later added words of encouragement, particularly in reference to Planned Parenthood of West and Northern Michigan, “For fifty years, you have been helping women plan their lives and follow their dreams. Today let’s launch the next 50!”

CEW Celebrating 50th Anniversary

black business woman at laptopCEW, Center for the Education of Women, is part of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. This group has come a long way since their establishment in 1964 as a pioneering university women’s center. Yet their mission remains the same: to encourage and enhance the education and careers of adult women through programs and services, advocacy and research.

CEW Celebration of Women and Film
While plans for celebrating CEW’s 50th anniversary are just beginning, they are kicking things off with a free program including film and festivities at the Michigan Theater on January 14. Included is a program of short films by and about women. Cynthia Wade, Oscar-winning director, will discuss her documentary, “Mondays at Racine.”

Additional Anniversary Year Events

  • Women and Economic Security: Changing Policy and Practice, May 14-16, 2014
    3 day interdisciplinary, multi-sector conference that focuses on removing barriers for women living in poverty as they seek economic security and mobility.
  • Friends and Scholars Weekend, Oct 17-18, 2014
    A recognition of the 2014 CEW scholars that also provides opportunities for former scholars and fellows  to reconnect.
  • Zora Neale Hurston Lecture: Alice Walker, November 5, 2014
    Alice Walker will explore justice issues from both a womanist and black feminist angle. Sponsored in conjunction with the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies.

CEW’s website includes diverse information about their programs and services, including one-on-one counseling, a circulating library collection, current research on work and women’s lives, and information on important issues that affect women both on the UM campus and in Michigan.

Their blog states that someone is working on the 50 year history of CEW, so we’ll be sure to update that reference when it becomes available. It is only through the perseverance of organizations like CEW that women of all color have gained their current social standing. There is so much farther to go, so here is to another 50 years, CEW!

Steamboat Celebrates 50th Anniversary

Ready to Ski at Steamboat
Beverly Mapes with ski buddies Vicki Ven Huizen, and Kathy Weber from the Greater Grand Rapids Ski Club

One of the largest business anniversary celebrations we’ve seen occurred this year at Steamboat, also known as Ski Town USA and the home of Champagne Powder. Although yours truly didn’t make the January 12 to 21 celebration dates, my ski buddies from the Greater Grand Rapids Ski Club and I made it to the after party last week as shown in the photo.

Crew from Steamboat Today TV
The crew from Steamboat Today, Local TV18

We also got to chat with the nice folks at Steamboat Today, who put on a very informative morning show on TV 18, shown in the other photo.

Promotions Galore

This post would be miles long if it listed all of Steamboat’s promotions for their big celebration, so here is a shortened summary:

  • An ESB beer brewed by Anheuser-Busch and labeled with a custom Steamboat 50th Anniversary tap at participating bars. Note: we did not see this at their outdoor “ice bar,” but the bar was sure cool.
  • A new cocktail called “Golden Antler” made with Barenjager Honey Bourbon, peach schnapps, orange juice, and ginger ale. I don’t remember anything after trying this!
  • Their official celebration (which we missed)
    • Live music from the Yampa Valley Boys
    • 50th Anniversary merchandise tent
    • A time capsule opening from their from their 25th anniversary
    • Several Bud Light free concerts featuring area bands
    • A Texas sized birthday cake: 3 layers, 700 lbs, 30” deep by 80” long by 3’ tall – use your imagination!!
    • Lighting of the 50th Anniversary Cauldron
    • Torchlight Parade (Vogue, See Me, Lower Valley View runs)
    • Fireworks synched to music – the largest display in resorts history
    • Prizes hidden in gondola cars
    • 39th Annual cowboy downhill
  • Many, many prizes, including
    • Steamboat ski vacation for 4
    • Heli ski trip for 2
    • 4 monthly prizes: Rossignol skis and bindings, Burton Snowboard, Steamboat summer vacation for 2, Rossignol skis and bindings
    • 50 days and 50 daily prizes including lift tickets, ski and cowboy apparel, sleigh ride dinners, and massages
  • On site improvements
    • new Bison Groomer
    • expanded and upgraded snow making capabilities
    • new 4-stroke energy efficient snowmobiles
    • foot rests and restraining bars on Morrningside chairlift (thank you, thank you!)
    • new chairs with foot rests for the 4 Points chairlift
    • ski rental inventory revamp
    • facility enhancements at the Steamboat Grand, Thunderhead, and Rendezvouz

Steamboat’s History

Steamboat was founded by Jim Temple and John Fetcher, local ranchers with a love of skiing. The town reflects this today, with its shops touting both ski and ranch sundries, apparel and supplies.

Scouting began in 1955, when Temple enlisted some of his best skiers to determine the best routes down the mountain. After much planning and work, the ski area officially opened Jan 12, 1963 with Storm Mountain Express, a double lift with an A-frame warming hut. Revenue on their opening day was a whopping $13.75 which may not have been that bad since the temperature was 25 degrees below zero.

Today Steamboat encompasses 2,965 acres, with 165 runs and 23 lifts. Not sure on their daily revenue today, but a local saying is that if you want to make a million in Steamboat, come there with 2 million.

A Michigan Recommendation

Steamboat is definitely the place to go for powder, at least it was on our ski trip. Many of us from Michigan also like groomed corduroy runs to take a break from learning how to ski on the powder. Although grooming there is top notch, it is only done at night. When it snows all day, it means powder all day, on every slope. So for your next anniversary Steamboat – or even before then – why not groom some runs during the day for us “sissy” corduroy skiers?

Join us in congratulating Steamboat on their 50th anniversary!