I harbor a secret suspicion the reason Rooster wanted us to make the trip to Michigan to attend the Icebreaker Festival at South Haven was the Crow’s Nest restaurant in Kalamazoo. The proof I have for this notion is the fact he passed up the free hotel breakfast to travel forty-five miles out of our way to eat. (We all know Rooster is cheap.) The Crow’s Nest is his favorite place to grab breakfast in the entire state of Michigan. I’m not sure what it is about the place that holds his fascination. I can vouch for the fact they have delicious food. The atmosphere is definitely enticing. The people who gather at the eatery on Saturday morning are remarkable. I never fail to have a pleasant conversation with one of the Crow’s Nest patrons during our wait to get a seat. It can take as long as forty minutes to get a table, but nobody seems to mind.
The sleet falling from the sky hit me in the face as soon as we stepped out of the Hotel. It made me think it would be a good idea to go along with the Kalamazoo plan. It was too early in the morning to stand in the wet. The precipitation turned into light snow by the time we reached the outskirts of Zoo City. The Crow’s nest is located at 816 S. Westnedge Avenue in the Vine District of Kalamazoo. It is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the municipality. It has a reputation as party central since it is close to the university. Many of the stately older homes are divided into rental units college students can rent for cheap. The Crow’s Nest is located on the top floor of a storefront on Westnedge Avenue above the Fourth Coast Cafe. On our previous visits, customers were required to wait on the stairs for a table. They directed us to the Café downstairs while we waited for this visit. It was a pleasant addition to our experience at the Crow’s Nest. I enjoyed a tasty cup of Chai and had a conversation with a young man who reminded me of my son. He was so full of ambition and plans on how he was going to get to the life goals he made for himself. It gave me a positive impression he would get what he wanted out of life. The food at the Crow’s Nest is always top-notch. I stuck to one of their standard morning meals. Rooster ordered a breakfast burrito. We both thought the meal we ate was delicious. Rooster’s burrito was so large he said we could share next time. Once our stomachs were full, we were ready to head back to South Haven for the Icebreaker adventure.
The hotel where we stayed gave Rooster a flyer with a schedule of events in downtown South Haven listed in the order in which they would occur. We found a parking space right outside the ice skating rink. It was fun to stand at the entrance and watch people twirl around while we looked at the brochure and decided what we wanted to do first. We made the decision to walk down the crowded street lined by unique shops and search for ice sculptures. We discovered images of Olaf from the movie Frozen, blocks of ice with business logos, Yoda, a tugboat, and other images carved into the ice.
Rumors were circulating the cardboard sled race wasn’t going to be held this year, due to the apparent lack of snow. Thank you, global warming. Rooster and I didn’t get to witness the race, but we were able to look at the cardboard sled’s participants brought to the staging area to be judged. These people get creative with cardboard boxes. They go all out dressing the part of the theme they select for their sled. I saw one group of Vikings I wouldn’t want to meet up with on a battlefield or come across in a dark alley.
Once we were denied the experience of watching the Cardboard Box Sled Race, the only alternative left to us was to go in search of the Frozen Fish Fling. We followed a lady carrying two buckets loaded with stinky white fish. Our reasoning was she would be the one to know where the event was taking place. The path she chose was the sidewalk beside a marina, which is filled with every type of luxury boat in the summer. The entire harbor was emptied out for the winter. It looked like an angry child had turned it over and dumped all the ships into Lake Michigan. The dark skies and the wet mist hovering in the air reinforced the deserted look of the harbor. We discovered the Frozen Fish Fling wouldn’t happen for another hour. Rooster and I decided to stroll to the red lighthouse at the end of the path. The wind blowing off the open waters of Lake Michigan sent a chill coursing through my body. By the time we reached the end of the trail, my fingers and toes were frozen. There was a great deal of water and mud to cross before we could reach the tiny lighthouse. The only option open to us was to turn around and make our way back in the direction from which we came.
The Frozen Fish fling was in full swing by the time we made our way back down the marina walkway. We noted the festival organizers wisely chose plastic fish for the kids to toss. The adult fish throwers stood around, discussing fish flinging techniques for what seemed like a long time. No festival would be complete without a queen and her court. The contest was put on hold while pictures were snapped of the newly elected royalty. The mothers of the young ladies stood to the side discussing how they typically avoided this festival like the plague. I guess if I lived in the area and didn’t have a nose trained to sniff out the next great adventure, I would avoid this festival too. The Frozen Fish Fling had a serious set of rules. The lady we met carrying the fish told Rooster and I the committee learned from last year’s mistakes. From what we could see, they were stringent about adhering to these fish flinging ordinances. This was especially true regarding the one about no whining. The wet weather and the stiff, smelly fish made flinging a challenge.
After we had our quota of watching people toss frozen fish around, Rooster and I decided to visit the retailers lining the downtown streets of South Haven. We discovered the Rock Shop, where they had anything a person could ask for made out of rocks. There were tiny rock animals, rock trees, rock jewelry, and a coffee table Rooster wanted to throw into the Spark and carry home with us. South Haven is big on blueberries. They grow a lot of this delicious fruit in the area. We came across a store, which sold stuff made from blueberries. It was an enjoyable experience strolling the streets of this fantastic community. The organizers of this festival thought of everything. A chili cook-off sent participants to eating establishments and within walking distance to sample small tastes of different versions of this spicey concoction. They had a marshmallow roasting area where participants could make Smores. There was a spot where giant fake logs were fed fuel from a propane tank, which served as a warming station.
Rooster and I had a fantastic time in South Haven, Michigan. We made up our minds to travel back next year if there is enough snow to have the cardboard sled race. It’s something we want to experience. I’m sure we’ll make a side trip to Kalamazoo and eat at the Crow’s Nest. I know it sounds like an adventure do-over, but sometimes we roll like that. Rooster and I came to appreciate this community as something more than a marina with fancy boats in the harbor during the summertime. We came to know it as a place where the people throw a great party even in the wet and cold, proving these Michiganders let the good times roll despite the weather.