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The holiday season is upon us, and while I wholly enjoy the festive decorations and family traditions, it sometimes feels like a whirlwind of gift buying, card sending and cookie baking that leaves me a little dazed. To find that necessary balance, I love to spend a weekend or two in Door County with my significant other for a few days of slowing down. We chose to kick off the month of December with a date night of dinner and a show, and it was just what we needed after a busy Thanksgiving and before the Christmas rush beings.
To start our Saturday, we decided to do some hiking in the northern peninsula. After coffee and a late breakfast, we headed to Rowley’s Bay Resort, which is located near the Mink River Estuary. The Mink is known for its abundance of wildlife and is an extremely popular area to canoe and kayak. During the summer, you can spot everything from painted turtles and fish to uncommon birds and dragonflies. From land in the fall and winter, you can watch for migrating birds from the Rowley’s Bay fishing pier or hike in to the estuary from the trail access on county road NP.
We started by taking a look over the bay from the fishing pier, and to our amazement, we came upon a beautiful snowy owl perched at the end. We could hardly believe our eyes and were able to capture a few shots as it flew from pier to dock and then disappeared over the bay. It was one of the most breath-taking moments we’ve had hiking in Door County yet! After the owl spotting, we hiked the winding trails located behind the resort, which were full of evergreens. At one point, we crossed through what must be a swamp in the summer, as the trees appeared “squiggly” at their bases due to the changing water levels. It was a sight to see!
Before losing daylight, we crossed the peninsula to the Door Bluff Headlands County Park for some more exploration. We carefully traversed the steep terrain down the bluff to the shore and spent some time marveling at the beautiful walls of rock. The foggy lake looked to be welcoming a cold front with flurries, so we hiked out as the light dimmed, and just as we were driving away, a great horned owl flew in front of our path and we were again stunned by the sight of such a grand wingspan. We weren’t able to get any photos, but could see the great bird flying amongst the trees, likely stalking supper.
We were getting hungry as well, and chose to dine at Wickman House, which was not far from the park in Ellison Bay. When we arrived just before dinner service began to an empty parking lot, we thought perhaps we’d be one of a few diners. But as soon as the clock struck five, the parking lot filled up with eager patrons. The hostess offered us seating to eat at the bar or bar tables, which we were happy to have, as the tables were fully reserved for the evening.
As always, we started with the fantastic cocktail menu. I enjoyed a whiskey rum punch and my significant other enjoyed the Le Tigre – a spicy cocktail with rye whiskey and cilantro. For food, we went with the house made paparadelle with lamb meatballs and the grain bowl with marinated pork shoulder. The dishes were very different in flavor, but both were simply outstanding. The grain bowl in particular was unlike any flavor combination we’d ever tasted, and we couldn’t get enough! Alongside the Le Tigre, this will be one of our new favorite dishes.
After eating our fill, we were excited to end our evening with the first annual holiday concert at the Birch Creek Music Performance Center. This concert brought together talented faculty from the summer session at Birch Creek, including Percussion Program Director Dan Moore, Symphony Session faculty Thomas Clark on trombone, Charles Schuchat on tuba and Kevin Wood on trumpet. The faculty was joined by Valerie Whitney on horn, Don Sipe on trumpet and the Sister Bay Moravian Church Handbell Choir, directed by Diane Ludwigsen.
I had been slow to buy tickets until the week before and found that the tickets had sold out more than a week in advance! I promptly put myself on the wait list, but special thanks to Michelle and Mona of Birch Creek for helping us attend. Next year’s event will surely sell out, so make note to buy tickets early.
The performance started with the hand bell choir, which was a sight to see as well as hear. The 61 beautiful bells ranged across 5 octaves and were rung by eleven members. The larger bells require two hands and likely some strong forearms! Listening to the classic “Carol of the Bells” in the beautifully decorated Juniper Hall was a truly magical moment. Dan Moore took center stage next, and wowed the audience with unique twists on the holiday favorites using the vibraphone.
In between songs, he reminded us how very unique Birch Creek is, and how attending concerts such as this helps to support the organization and its students. During the summer months, over 200 talented young musicians travel from near and far to attend the music academy to study and collaborate with peers and mentors. Nationally-known performers and educators help guide students on a successful path in their musical career. Ticket sales help to bring these musicians together and, in part, help students with tuition.
After a brief intermission, the second half was led by a brass section of trombone, tuba, trumpets and horn. We were entertained with selections of the Nutcracker, jazzy renditions of holiday classics and a few foreign Christmas arrangements. The musical talent was obvious and awesome, and transported us to a cozy place of Christmas spirit and cheer. The crowd gave a standing ovation, and was able to convince the performers to play an encore of Hallelujah.
The night ended as snow flurries began, and we were counting our blessings. It was a spectacular evening – from the snowy owl, to the distinctively delicious food, to the outstanding performances – and we are looking forward to more holiday shows hosted by Birch Creek. We’ve decided it will be our new tradition!
View the full December 2016 Newsletter here.
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