By MIKE NORTON There's no sense in denying it. Although it's a beautiful, balmy day in Traverse City, with the promise of more gentle end-of-summer warmth to come, the weather over this past Labor Day weekend served as a stern warning of cooler days ahead. I'm not doing anything desperate like taking the boat out of the water - in fact, I'm pretty sure the best sailing weather of the year is still to come. But I have to admit that there was a certain autumnal tang to the air this morning as I rode my bike in from Old Mission. The sun came up over East Bay through a cottony mist, I could smell ripe apples in the orchards blending with the aroma of woodsmoke, and I passed groups of kids standing at the edge of the road waiting for the first schoolbus of the year.
Don't worry-- there are still a few days like this left!
Don't worry-- there are still a few days like this left!
Soon there'll be leaves changing, and football games, and the wild geese winging south. It's a sweet, sad thoughtful time of the year. My favorite time. I only wish it lasted longer - though if it did, I'm sure it wouldn't be half as poignant. But September is a busy month here in Traverse City, and this coming week is no exception. Food lovers know that it's the week of the Epicurean Classic, the premiere "foodie event" that first put this town on the culinary map. Starting Thursday, the city's Warehouse District will be the scene of tastings, dinners, demonstrations and other events geared toward those who love good food and drink --- culminating in Sunday's new "Tour de Terroir". It's also the week of the Leelanau Vintners' Associations annual Harvest Stompede, a two-day event that includes a spectacular foot race through the vineyards of the Leelanau Peninsula,  and a self-guided wine tour of the area's wineries with local food/wine pairings.
Manitou (left) and Inland Seas in the 2010 Parade of Sail
Manitou (left) and Inland Seas in the 2010 Parade of Sail
But the most visible event of the week will undoubtedly be the Michigan Schooner Festival, which arrives in West Grand Traverse Bay on Friday afternoon with the Grand Parade of Sail, where 10 schooners and other talls ships will sail majestically down to dock at Clinch Marina. Saturday events include ship tours, food, entertainment, the Ring of Steel pirate reenactment troupe, artist vendors, kids games, and ticketed two-hour sailings aboard the Friends Goodwill, Appledore V, Armed Sloop Welcome, Denis Sullivan, Inland Seas and Manitou. (The $50 ticket is a pretty good deal under any circumstance, but it also includes a three-day pass to the festival.) One new attraction this year (as if I needed one!) is a wine and beer tasting with wines from Leelanau Cellars, Black Star Farms and Chateau Chantal and a "Schooner Ale" from Right Brain Brewery. A three-day weekend pass is $5 per person. ( Children 5 and under are free.)
(Wait for it!) Fall colors from last year at Shanty Creek
(Wait for it!) Fall colors from last year at Shanty Creek
And here's one more sign that autumn is on the way - over at Shanty Creek Resorts (where fall arrives a week or so before it reaches us pampered coastal residents) they've developed what they call the "King of Color Tour," an itinerary that showcases the towns and sights of the Chain of Lakes region. It's an area of rare beauty in any season, and where many of us locals go to get an early peek at the fall colors. The folks at Shanty Creek have put together several lodging packages that include unlimited golf, meals or spa treatments. For more information, call them at 855-UP-NORTH.