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Mackinac Island softly opens this weekend

TRAVERSE CITY — Mackinac Island ferries started to bring tourists to the island Friday to begin the summer travel season.

Island businesses joined northern Michigan regions a week after the region was allowed to open to limited commercial activity. Ferries will now run seven days a week, but capacity crowds are unlikely, said Executive Director of Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau Tim Hygh.

“We don’t anticipate the kinds of numbers that we would in a regular season,” said Hygh. “But we do think there’s a healthy appetite to travel, and to travel safely.”

Throughout COVID-19 closures, Star Line ferries continued to transport supplies, workers and even horses to the island as an essential service.

Both ferry lines, Star Line Mackinac Island Hydro Jet Ferry and Shepler’s Mackinac Island Ferry will be running from St. Ignace and Mackinaw City this weekend on limited schedules.

“As demand increases, as more people start to travel and need to get to the island, we will continue to expand our schedule as necessary,” said Jerry Fetty, CEO of Star Line Mackinac Island Hydro Jet Ferry.

Hygh said 99 percent of the businesses are privately owned. He said businesses have reinvented themselves to open during COVID-19.

Eight restaurants, six retail shops, one grocery store, and a public restroom are open, said Hygh.

Mary’s Bistro Draught House reopens today. Owner of the restaurant, Todd Callewaert said the restaurant will run at 50 percent capacity.

“It’s a great start because it’s baby steps,” said Callewaert. “We won’t have people that will come from all over and inundate us, the restaurant is going to hold about 75 people so it will be pretty easy to handle.”

He said menus are being replaced with QR codes for customers to view on their phone. Callewaert said tables are six feet apart and booths are separated by glass.

The official opening is scheduled for June 20, but these plans are contingent on Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s announcements to reopen the state, Hygh said.

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