The West Michigan Tourist Association (WMTA) is proud to announce that they have been selected as the recipient of a 2017 Michigan State History Award. WMTA was selected as the award recipient in the “Business” category for their efforts in researching, documenting, and celebrating the organization’s 100th anniversary this year.
Each year, the Historical Society of Michigan presents State History Awards to individuals and organizations that have made outstanding contributions to the appreciation and understanding of Michigan history. The awards are presented at the annual State History Conference and recognize the excellence of achievement by an individual or organization in the collection, preservation, and/or promotion of state and local history in a variety of categories.
Taken from the award application: “The West Michigan Tourist Association has worked non-stop since its inception in 1917 to promote the interests of travel and tourism in West Michigan. During 2017, the organization is celebrating its 100 year heritage in a wide variety of ways, both inviting the public to become involved in learning about the past 100 years of tourism in West Michigan, and publishing the rich history of the organization.”
To commemorate the organization’s long and varied history, the West Michigan Tourist Association worked together with Vintage Views historians (Christine Byron and Tom Wilson) to compile a timeline of the past 100 years with regards to WMTA. This timeline was accompanied by historic photographs and images from previous publications, and was published under the title “100 Years of Carefree Days In West Michigan,” with “Carefree Days” being a call back to the organization’s annual publication title for many years. Inside the book, readers will make their way through the past 100 years of promoting tourism in West Michigan, one decade at a time. The stories and images will take you through the founding of the organization in 1917, all the way to present day. The book concludes with a stunning visual journey through the West Michigan of today, featuring photos submitted by travelers to the region.
The West Michigan Tourist Association’s annual travel guide was designed for 2017 with strong ties to the organization’s history. The cover of the guide showcases a collage of past covers of “Carefree Days in West Michigan,” with further reproductions of old guide covers found throughout the publication. An abbreviated version of the same timeline found in the above “100 Years of Carefree Days in West Michigan” can be found in the travel guide, teaching travelers about the many forms which tourism in the area has taken over the years. The editorial throughout the guide calls back to the organization’s history as well, with information on “The Playground of the Nation” designation from the 1920s, the history of local restaurants, wineries, and breweries, and information on historic beaches still welcoming visitors today.
Published both as part of the 2017 Carefree Travel Guide and as a stand-alone piece, West Michigan’s 100th Anniversary Scavenger Hunt calls out “100 of the Best Things in West Michigan,” and ties in the history of many of these locations. The Scavenger Hunt encourages travelers to head out on the road this summer and visit places they may not have know about, while educating them on the history of the area. Even those who simply read through the Scavenger Hunt list will pick up some local history, such as learning that the Corkscrew at Michigan’s Adventure in Muskegon is the park’s oldest roller coaster (built 1979), that Chocolates by Grimaldi in Grand Haven uses an authentic 1950s chocolate enrober, and that the lighthouse at Whitefish Point at the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum in Paradise is the oldest operating lighthouse on Lake Superior.
By closely tying the history of the area into today’s attractions, WMTA is working to educate travelers on the beauty and diversity of the region, and on the area’s rich history, and is proud to accept the 2017 State History Award.