Peter Payette

Executive Director

Peter Payette is the Executive Director of Interlochen Public Radio and has managed the news department since 2001. For more than a decade, he hosted the weekly program Points North and has reported on a wide range of issues critical to the culture and economy of northern Michigan. His work has been featured on NPR, Michigan Radio, Bridge magazine and Edible Grande Traverse. He has taught journalism and radio production to students and adults at Interlochen Center for the Arts. He is also working on a book about the use of aquaculture to manage Great Lakes fisheries, particularly the use of salmon from the Pacific Ocean to create a sport fishery in the 1960s.

Peter has vacationed in Benzie County his entire life. His wife Sarah is his biggest fan. They have three children, Isabelle, Amelia and Emmet, and live happily in Traverse City's Kid's Creek Neighborhood. 

Many of his favorite stories are about obscure fish in the Great Lakes or the new arrivals changing the food web.  He also admires the people keeping the rock 'n' roll revolution alive in the woods of northern Michigan and enjoys any story that reconnects the past to the present.

Ways to Connect

Peter Payette

When Sue Ann Round decided to move her art gallery from Suttons Bay to Traverse City, some of her friends urged her not to do it.

“In general, galleries have not made it very well in Traverse City,” says Round, who has owned Michigan Artists Gallery for 14 years.

But Round figured the city was ready, since there had been so much cultural development in the past decade, with new restaurants and events like the Traverse City Film Festival.  


Jeb Bush has upset a popular musician here in northern Michigan. Bush has been using the song "The Workingman's Hymn" on the campaign trail. It was written by Joshua Davis, a singer from Traverse City.

Davis actually wrote the song in 2008 to protest the policies of Jeb's brother, George W. Bush. He says he can’t believe Bush is using it.

“If [Bush] would look into the song a little bit and realize what it's actually about, he wouldn't want to use that song," says Davis. "It makes him look ridiculous.”

Aaron Selbig

Meet Travis Duncan, manager of the Swamp of Suffering. That's the main attraction at Screams In the Dark, a big haunted house set up on the county fairgrounds near Traverse City.

Duncan plays a zombie that’s dressed as a member of a SWAT team. He and his small army of volunteers see themselves as something resembling a theatre troupe.

“This whole idea is to set up an illusion that you’re actually in a swamp," says Duncan. "You’re in a mausoleum, you’re in a graveyard. So we try to keep people in character so they can give that illusion and keep that illusion up.”

Wikipedia

Mykl Werth grew up as the art form he now loves was being abandoned in the U.S. He was a boy in the 1950s when dances like the Twist were popular and left people dancing next to each other. The ecstasy of the 1960s enthroned individual expression and led to the typical social dance we see today: a bunch of people shuffling around solo.

Mykl didn’t start dancing himself until he was 38. When he did, he quickly took an interest in partner dancing, which meant ballroom dancing. But he says it was no fun memorizing all those steps and people in the classes looked grumpy to him.

“I found it pretty laborious,” he recalls. “I wasn’t enjoying myself and if I wasn’t going to enjoy myself I wasn’t going to keep doing it.”

So he decided there had to be another way and he came up with a method all his own that he calls “co-creative.” It begins with dancers leaning away slightly from their partner. He says that creates a shared balance point a couple can move around naturally.

Peter Payette

One of the phrases sometimes used to describe what is great about life Up North is “small town character.” What that means is a little vague, but the real estate market generally proves it is valuable: homes in many villages and cities up here are worth more every year.

Acme Township is a rural community that has no village. In fact, it is not much of a destination at all, unless you are going to the Grand Traverse Resort. Acme is mostly farmland with a few businesses along US-31 and M-72 and, of course, that glass tower reaching 17 stories into the sky.

Jeff Henley says it’s too bad people think of Acme as a gateway to Traverse City.

“Why can’t we make Acme a place to stop?” he wonders. “Instead of having to go through a gateway to get to something. Maybe you’re already there. Just look around.”

Community Newspaper Holdings

The executive editor of northern Michigan’s largest newspaper has been ousted. The publisher of the Traverse City Record-Eagle, Paul Heidbreder, confirmed that Mike Tyree is no longer with the paper. Heidbreder would not discuss the situation further.

Last year, the Record-Eagle’s owner, Community Newspaper Holdings, had honored Tyree by naming him to its President’s Circle.

Peter Payette

(This is our first story in a new series on IPR.) 

Around the time Ben Davila was thinking about leaving San Francisco, a friend sent him a BuzzFeed article about nine private islands you can buy for less than an apartment in San Francisco.
 
Davila was well aware of the problem. He had a small recording studio in his apartment that he wanted to expand, but there was no way he could afford it.
 

Aaron Selbig

Do you live in Paradise? How’s it going?

Those are questions we want to explore this fall on IPR News Radio in our series, Which Way to Paradise: Struggle and Promise Up North.

Parts of northern Michigan are booming and we are constantly told Traverse City, in particular, is a top 10 place to live, work and play. Who is coming here and why? How has the region changed and what is missing?

Our first two stories illustrate both sides of the coin. Ken Daniels just moved his family to Texas. He says he can’t make a living at $13 an hour with no benefits.

Bill Dungjen

For years, the Roundup Open Mic has produced live music and a radio show from The Hayloft Inn, west of Traverse City. There's a new act at The Hayloft. Mike Campbell is known as Digger and says he learned music in the school of hard knocks. During Interlochen's Transom workshop, Jen Altschul (producer of The Dirtbag Diaries) visited Digger and prepared this story.

Steve Stinson

An environmental group is warning the new Meijer east of Traverse City could cause more trouble for Grand Traverse Bay.

The Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay says the system to catch storm water runoff from the Meijer parking lot is deficient. The organization sent a letter to the township last week saying the system doesn’t meet basic state requirements to protect nearby Acme Creek.

The center’s executive director, Christine Crissman, says the permit for the development calls for an “innovative” system to address this issue.

Drilling for oil and gas in Michigan is down to levels not seen since the Great Depression.

And so far, newer methods of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, are not producing a new boom for the industry.

The number of permits issued for new oil and gas wells so far this year is on track to be the lowest in more than 80 years.

Bob Allen

Drilling for oil and gas in Michigan is down to levels not seen since the Great Depression.  And there is no reason to expect the industry will get a boost anytime soon.

Mark Snow handles permits for new oil and gas wells at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and says they are on track to issue about 120 permits this year. That would be the lowest number since 1931 when 111 were issued. As recently as 2008, more than 900 permits were issued.

Michigan Wines

Bernie Rink had been growing wine grapes on his property overlooking Lake Leelanau for more than a decade when he opened his tasting room in 1976. His vineyard was the first commercial vineyard in the region.

Aaron Selbig

Highway M-22 has reopened near Glen Arbor. It had been closed since Sunday after a storm left hundreds of trees blocking the scenic highway.

Most businesses in Glen Arbor were open Thursday, even without power. Jacob Wheeler publishes the Glen Arbor Sun and says the town wants people to know it is ready for business.

“Glen Arbor business owners and the chamber and The Homestead and the powers that be do not want tourists, potential tourists, dissuaded from coming here,” says Wheeler.

Peter Payette

Traffic over the Mackinac Bridge last year was down more than 20 percent compared to the late 1990s, and there is no single explanation for the trend. But there is one region where residents say they know what happened to their tourists and have a plan to rebuild.

Susie Keirns has been coming to the Les Cheneaux Islands area her whole life. She’s sitting next to a cabin on the beach in Hessel that her mom stayed in 70 years ago when she was expecting Susie’s sister.

“My sister’s 70 now,” she says. “So that tells you how many years we’ve been coming up.”

Peter Payette

For many families in Michigan, high summer means a trip to the Upper Peninsula. But the number of people who cross the Mackinac Bridge has been declining steadily for almost twenty years.

It looks like that trend could turn around this year. But it also appears that many longstanding ties between visitors and the U.P. have been lost along the way.

Taleen and Marshall Jackson live in Mt. Pleasant but their hearts are in the U.P.

“We try to get up here as much as we possibly can,” says Taleen at the end of a June weekend in St. Ignace.

Alan Newton / NewtonPhotography.us

For more than 30 years, Stone Circle has been a gathering place for poets, storytellers and musicians around the campfire on Saturday nights. Terry Wooten says the event, held at his home north of Elk Rapids, was inspired by his parents.


A pot of money used to clean up abandoned pollution sites in Michigan is just about gone. So in Antrim County, where a plume of contamination threatens drinking water, commissioners recently decided to spend $250,000 on the problem to partially match $750,000 the state offered in return.

It's a deal that could signal a new approach to environmental clean up for the state.

Great Lakes Exploration

The head of underwater archeology in France is still interested in a site in Michigan he visited in 2013, looking for the remains of the Griffin.

Michel L’Hour is listed as the project director in a proposal to the State of Michigan to take wooden samples from beams on the bottom of Lake Michigan. The beams, and other debris, were found off the Garden Peninsula near an area that was excavated two years ago.

Amelia Payette

It didn’t look like an attack at first when American Indians in the Straits of Mackinac joined the rebellion against the British. Ojibwa and Sauk Indians started a game of baggatiway – renamed lacrosse by the French – in front of Fort Michilimackinac.

Indian women watching the game kept hatchets under their garments and passed them to the warriors when they rushed the fort. They quickly killed more than 15 British soldiers and held the fort for a year. One observer reported seeing the attackers "furiously cutting down and scalping every Englishman they found."
 

Peter Payette

The State of Michigan is weighing whether to open the door to commercial fish farming in the Great Lakes.

Millions of rainbow trout are raised for food by Canadians every year in Lake Huron and promoters of the business say Michigan should follow suit and could even become a world leader in aquaculture.

State officials are trying to figure out what the risks are and the idea is likely to face opposition from sport fishing groups and other conservationists.

Northwest Michigan Horticulture Research Center

May 17th, 2002 was the official date when tart cherry trees reached full bloom in northern Michigan that year. The orchards looked normal but most of the cherry buds had been destroyed in April by freezing cold.

The Leelanau Enterprise ran a headline that summer that said “No Cherries.”

Ben LaCross is a second generation grower on a farm north of Cedar. He says nobody could recall a cherry crop failing so completely.

Peter Payette

A tribal councilor in Leelanau County is accused of criminal sexual conduct. The charges against Derek Bailey involve girls under the age of 13.

Bailey is a council member for the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians. He was formerly the chair of the council and also ran for state office in 2012.

Now he faces five counts of criminal sexual conduct and the most serious charges, first degree, could get him a life sentence. Bailey’s attorney says he plans to plead not guilty.

This piece is the first for The Living Memory Project, an occasional series connecting the past to the present in Northern Michigan.

On May 7th, 1979, Judge Noel Fox ruled in favor of three Indian tribes in a dispute with Michigan over fishing in the Great Lakes.

Judge Fox’s decision was blunt. He called the history of government dealings with Indians a “shameful record of broken treaties and unfulfilled promises.”

William L. Clements Library

Fort Michilimackinac opens today in Mackinac City. The original fort was built 300 years ago by the French during their war with the Meskwaki Indians.

Only a few pieces of the original Michilimackinac remain, but a reconstructed fort is open to visitors. Brian Dunnigan is a historian at the William L. Clements Library in Ann Arbor and says there is a fair amount of documentation detailing what the fort looked like in the latter part of the 18th century.

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