Living in Leelanau invites the wearing of many hats, with individuals often finding themselves sitting on multiple boards, working more than one job, or filling numerous needs throughout our small communities. Many of the most successful businesses also operate in this way, meeting multiple needs under one roof: the coffee shop that is also a music venue, the vintage store with the art club, the restaurant with an inn above. At one such multi-functional establishment—Farm Club—writer Mae Stier sat down to talk with Elijah Nykamp, who is himself a wearer of many hypothetical hats. Owner of the clothing studio and shop Nykamping in Suttons Bay, Nykamp is the designer and sewist of all the clothing he creates. Not only does he design and create beautiful, wearable pieces, he is also a community builder, frequently partnering with other artists.

On the first Sunday in January, I pull into the Empire Village Beach parking lot to meet 10 neighbors for a swim. The air temperature is 35 degrees Fahrenheit; Lake Michigan is 37 degrees. The group is made up almost entirely of women with members spanning in age from their early 30s to 70 years old. Most of the people present this first Sunday in January, myself included, have been meeting once or twice weekly for cold water swims since October. Winter swimming, also called cold dipping or polar plunging, is an umbrella term for various ways of submerging in cold water. For this group of brave locals, cold dipping involves a measured entrance into Lake Michigan, partnered with calm breathing. Participants spend 3-5 minutes in the water up to their shoulders, often wearing neoprene booties and gloves to fight against numbness in their extremities. Most of us wear winter hats on our heads and do not go under, though a few brave souls will wear swimming caps and plunge their entire bodies under the waves.

Bikers and runners on the Leelanau Trail, which stretches 18 miles between Traverse City and Suttons Bay, encountered an extra thrill in the days after June 22. TART Trails—whose network includes the Leelanau Trail—and Michigan Writers teamed up to chalk poems by five writers: Lois Beardslee, Ari Mokdad, Jen Steinorth, Yvonne Stephens and Mae Stier. Created with stainless steel stencil sheets and marked on the trail with chalk dust, the poems left every few miles were expected to last two to four weeks, depending on the weather, and they may be reinstalled in August. Heavy rains on June 25 may have washed some of the chalk away and “gave some poems an ephemeral quality,” said Caitlin Early, TART’s campaign and development officer who also manages the “Art on the TART” initiative.

For more than 10 years, Wildsam has published books about great American places. The series delves into big cities, small towns, iconic American regions and cozier places better known to locals. Wildsam also hopes their field guides light up culture and history in ways that ring true in the places they cover. The series aims to celebrate landscapes that might surprise a few people with their cultural vitality and depth of heritage. Northern Michigan is Wildsam’s newest field guide. Contributors to this book include Glen Arbor Sun editor Jacob Wheeler and frequent writers, Anne-Marie Oomen and Mae Stier.

The Glen Arbor Sun won seven awards in five different categories from the Michigan Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest among local news media for stories published between August 1, 2021, and July 31, 2022.

Last month, I took swim lessons for the first time. Always a lover of the water and often the first person in Lake Michigan during a beach gathering with friends, this has been somewhat surprising information to share with people. Don’t I already know how to swim? But I want to do what I love better, perhaps with a bit more efficiency and definitely with better breathing techniques.

Empire resident Mae Stier has released a collection of writing and photography highlighting the region in her self-published book Lake Letters.

The topic of housing in Leelanau County––and the lack of affordable housing––is one that seems to come up often for those who live here. Among my peers––entrepreneurs and workers in their late-20s to early-30s––housing discussions are often filled with a bit of discouragement.

The idea of opening a small market in Empire dawned on Mae Stier last spring after Deering’s Market closed. Shuttered was a lifeblood business in this close-knit town. For decades, community members had come to Deering’s to buy food and daily provisions, to cross paths and interact.