Chickens loose in Leelanau!


Celebrating County dispatch blotter at Glen Arbor Wines

Darci Ricker picks light-hearted entries from the Enterprise’s weekly dispatch blotter. Photos by Katie Dunn.

By Katie Dunn

Sun contributor

Winters in Leelanau County are magical: fields and forests blanketed in snow, lakes frozen and dotted with ice fishing shanties, the comforting redolence of fires roaring inside cabins and cottages. Winters in Leelanau County also can be a little lonesome and isolating. To remedy the winter blues, establishments across the county host unique events to get folks out of their homes and into the warmth and conviviality of the community. That’s precisely what Glen Arbor Wines provides with its Thursday Blotter Night.

Blotter Night is the creation of Darci Ricker, an historic Glen Arbor gal, whose family owns and operates the Glen Lodge on the western shore of Big Glen Lake. The venue for the weekly blotter reading is the home/business of Lissa Edwards on Lake Street in downtown Glen Arbor. Like Ricker, Edwards has deep roots in the Glen Arbor community, and is a senior editor with Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine where she has worked since 1989. Edwards converted the first floor of her historic family home into a commercial space back in 2017.

“I prayed and meditated to see what I could do with my property to monetize it after a huge and stressful life change,” she said. “I’ve had a lifelong interest in wine so one thing led to another.”

With that, Glen Arbor Wines was founded. Edwards serves up whites, reds, and bubbles—all of which are locally sourced—as well as local cider.

So, what exactly is Blotter Night? Every week, Ricker meticulously reviews the Leelanau Enterprise’s blotter section for light-hearted entries—only the innocuous ones are selected to be read aloud. At 6 pm sharp on Thursdays, locals and tourists alike gather at the counter of Glen Arbor Wines to listen to what Ricker has to offer. Her aim is to provide a bright space in which to share those blotter entries that are amusing (someone’s chickens are loose out on Bodus Road!?) or even perplexing (the mystery of the random maroon suitcase that was found half empty rolling down the street in one township, and then was found abandoned in the woods in a different township the very next week!).

Reading the dispatch blotter has long fascinated Leelanau County residents. During his regular Thursday night Round Up talent variety show at the Hayloft Inn on M-72, Bill Dungjen used to read the blotter from the Enterprise. Some he included on radio episodes that aired on Northwestern Michigan College’s station, WNMC. “People would say, ‘You can’t put that on the radio!’ But we did,” Dungjen told the Sun two years ago. In December 2022, the Enterprise published a “Best of the Blotter,” a compilation of the most interesting calls to the county 911 center since Leelanau County’s paper of record began publishing the blotter in 2011.

There are some rules to Blotter Night, and Ricker duly enforces them: a blotter entry involving Glen Arbor Township requires a lifting of the glass; whenever a dog is involved in the 911 matter, requisite woofing by the participants ensues; if the 911 call comes in after midnight, then a chorus of Eric Clapton’s “After Midnight” or Patsy Cline’s “Walkin’ After Midnight” erupts (Glen Arborite Tom Krause likes to lend his melodic, baritone voice). Most significantly, Blotter Night participants raise their glasses when the 911 call ultimately, and happily, settles without incident—”all is well” is recited (thank you, Leelanau Sheriff’s Department!).

The weekly blotter readings bring tremendous amusement and communality. As Ricker aptly states: “It’s a big community hug.” And that’s precisely what the Thursday, Jan. 12, blotter reading was. Once again, regulars and newbies congregated in the wine tasting room as Ricker held court. Even her 93-year-old dad, Ed, was in attendance. As was Weylon Jennings’ cousin, Larry Whitfield, who will be playing live music at Glen Arbor Wines from time to time. Corinne Cochrane, another Glen Arborite, kicked off the shenanigans with her signature two-fingered whistle—attention! Kathy Warnes, of the storied Warnes clan, jovially impersonated the 911 dispatcher: “911. What’s your emergency?” And, with that, the merriment commenced.

The blotter entries from that evening covered all parts of Leelanau County—from Bingham to Kasson to Empire Township. The nature of the 911 calls ran the gamut, such as: “Dodge Charger pulled into the park. The park is closed. Cannot tell if they are doing something wrong.” And: “Small black and white dog, seems viscous (sic). Chasing a walker. Man standing in driveway.” And, finally: “Ice cream vendor was trying to unload ice cream when a man bumped into her and jabbed his elbow into her ribs.” Lots of levity, and lots of head scratching!

Once Ricker made her way through reading the selected blotter entries, the fun continued. Next came “The Backstory.” Still at the helm, Ricker chose one entry from that week, and participants were required to deduce exactly what precipitated the reported event. Ricker passed out slips of blank paper on which the contestants wrote their answers. There was real tension in the crowd, which was amplified by Ricker playing the theme song of “Jeopardy” from her cellphone. All submissions were anonymous, and Ricker then read them one by one, assessing their merits. The submissions were quite imaginative—some even lowkey existential. Prizes were then doled out to the winners—Snickers, Milky Ways, Twix—and a photo of the winners’ circle was taken.

With that, the Blotter Night officially ended, but that didn’t mean that the crowd thinned out. Folks continued to enjoy their wine and one another’s company. Julie Zapoli, proprietor of Glen Arbor’s gourmet shop, Inn & Trail, explained her fondness for Blotter Night: “It’s a little community theater that pops up every week. It’s our own little Lake Wobegon.” Matt Kuncaitis of Maple City wryly explained what he thinks draws folks to the Blotter Night: “Everyone is here wondering if maybe they’re in the blotter!”

Consider swinging by Glen Arbor Wines on Thursday nights. The embrace of the community is warm and entirely sustaining. That’s why so many folks gravitate there. For Edwards, Blotter Night is “Glen Arbor incarnate: light and levity. Why would we want to be anywhere else?” Indeed!