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Tourism is a growing industry in the state of Michigan. By now, you’ve probably seen plenty of the state’s Pure Michigan ads. In the summer, the ads show beaches and sunshine. In the winter, it’s all about the snow.

This year, officials at Pure Michigan have also been pushing a winter sport that most people probably haven’t heard of: ice climbing. Meg Cramer went to the Michigan Ice Fest earlier this month to report a story for our partner station, Michigan Radio.

She took some amazing photographs we just had to share.

Click here, to listen to Meg’s full story on Michigan Radio.

And tell us what you think – would you climb a frozen waterfall?

If you want an honest opinion, ask a stranger, or so the saying goes. During the past couple of weeks, the political press corps has been spread out across Michigan, following Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul around the state, finding all kinds of things out.

Their stories have reflected a state that some Midwesterners might not recognize. So, here’s a list of what we learned through the Michigan primary.

1) We’re in a class war. The Michigan Republican party is divided between wealthy people and working class and middle class Republicans, or so writers told us.

Ron Brownstein of the National Journal found the latter at the Knights of Columbus hall in Lincoln Park.

They’re what he needs if Santorum is going to eventually beat Romney. He ” will likely have to reach more deeply into blue-collar, heavily Catholic, working-class white communities that have became central to the Republican electoral coalition, especially between the coasts,” Brownstein wrote.

Paul West of the Los Angeles Times found the same thing when he went to Troy. “The bitter Republican primary battle in Michigan has turned into an all-out class war,” he wrote.

Meanwhile, Romney received attention last week when he talked about his family’s four cars — a Ford Mustang, Chevrolet pickup and his wife Ann’s “couple of Cadillacs.”

He was steadfastly unapologetic. “”If people think that there is something wrong with being successful in America, then they better vote for the other guy,” he said on Fox News. “Because I’ve been extraordinarily successful and I want to use that success and that know-how to help the American people.”

2) Michigan has great trees and looks like Pennsylvania. Throughout his campaign, Romney kept remarking that Michigan’s trees “are the right height.” Nobody knows how he drew that conclusion, and we’re sure Massachusetts trees must feel kind of jealous. But it sounded a little bit like the Pure Michigan ads that the state’s tourism office runs.

Meanwhile, Santorum told a crowd in the Upper Peninsula that Superiorland reminds him of Pennsylvania, which he represented in the U.S. Senate. “I feel a great connection to the people up here,” Santorum said, citing the mining industry, timber, tourism and proximity to a Great Lake.

3) You can eat a pasty for breakfast. Pasties, the hearty hand-held pies eaten by Cornish miners, are a staple of Michigan cuisine north of Gaylord. But we’ve always thought of them as a lunch or dinner treat.

Not Santorum. He stopped in to Lawry’s Pasty Shop in Marquette, and later told a crowd in Kalamazoon that he had a pasty for breakfast — complete with Heinz ketchup from his native state, according to the Marquette Mining Journal. We don’t know what kind of pasty he had, but Lawry’s sells two varieties on line: the 12 ounce beef, and the 17 ounce beef.

4) Detroit is a pretty hip city. Well, we knew that, but now the New York Daily News thinks so, too. “Despite hard times, the Motor City is full of surprises,” the paper told its readers in a piece titled, “Great American City: Detroit.”

Wrote the Daily News, “Not many people pondering vacation destinations think of the Motor City — but they should.
Detroit surprises. So do its residents… They smile. They say hello. They are helpful and creative and work hard for what they have. It shows in everything they do.”

That’s a nice note to wave good bye to campaign staffers and journalists departing once the vote totals come in. But we’ll see you in the fall. And also, in Ohio. We’re sure we’ll learn a lot about the Buckeye State from you, too.

We admit it, we’ve been a little poll-obsessed lately. But last week, a poll caught our attention that had nothing to do with the upcoming GOP primaries in Michigan and Ohio. The poll was done by Public Policy Polling and it basically ranks U.S. states based on popularity.

Turns out, the Midwest didn’t do so hot. No Midwestern states were in the top 10, and Illinois had one of the lowest scores of all states. But buried deep in the data, we noticed that opinions of states varied hugely depending on who was being polled. And, since we spend a lot of time in the Midwest talking about how to attract young people, we wondered how the poll results would be different if you just looked at people aged 18-29. So we put together some charts. As you can see, the results are a little surprising. Tennessee? Really?


Republican candidates are wrapping up a busy weekend of campaigning before Michigan’s primary on Tuesday. But Rick Santorum is going where few have ventured — Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Santorum was set to hold a campaign rally at noon ET in Marquette, marking a rare visit by a candidate above the Mackinac Bridge.

The vast majority of candidate visits have been to southeast and western Michigan — not surprising, since that’s where the vast majority of Republican voters are located.

But, the U.P. has a Republican congressman, Dan Benishak. He took the seat vacated by veteran Democrat Bart Stupak in 2010. (You might remember Stupak for backing President Obama’s health care program.)

Santorum’s schedule also includes a stop in Traverse City, as well as a rally in Davison, outside Flint.

Weekend campaigners also include Ron Paul, who spent his first day campaigning in Michigan on Saturday. Paul is set to wrap up his brief sweep on Monday, with a rally at Michigan State University in East Lansing.

Mitt Romney, who holds a narrow lead in polls going into Tuesday’s election, has been spending a lot of time on talk radio in Michigan.

Romney has gotten attention this weekend for comments he made about his wife’s “couple of Cadillacs” during his speech to the Economic Club of Detroit on Friday. He also is touching the nerves of many UAW members, who protested at the speech.


It snowed overnight in Michigan, providing an icy backdrop as Republican presidential candidates kicked off the final weekend of campaigning before Tuesday’s primary.

Things got off to a quick start. United Auto Workers members gathered on a downtown Detroit parking garage rooftop Friday morning, staging a protest in advance of Mitt Romney’s speech to the Economic Club of Detroit.

Our friends at WXYZ-TV are broadcasting Romney’s speech live. The lunch is scheduled to begin at noon ET.

Romney is speaking at Ford Field, normally home to the Detroit Lions, as polls show he’s taken a slight lead over Pennsylvania’s former U.S. senator, Rick Santorum.

The Five Thirty Eight blog says Romney now has a 67 percent chance of beating Santorum on Tuesday. Its calculations show Romney taking 41.1 percent of the vote, with Santorum getting 36.4 percent. The next closest candidate is Ron Paul with 11.9 percent, followed by Newt Gingrich with 9.3 percent.

Neither Paul nor Gingrich has campaigned much in Michigan, where Romney and Santorum have blanketed the airwaves with ads.

But Paul is swinging through the state this weekend, when the three leaders have all added campaign appearances.

  • Along with his Econ Club speech, Romney is set to be in Lansing on Saturday for an Ingham County Republican breakfast and speak to the Michigan Prosperity Forum in Troy.
  • Santorum hits a fish fry on Friday in Walled Lake, and a rally at a Knights of Columbus hall in Lincoln Park. On Saturday, he speaks to a Tea Party rally in St. Clair Shores, and speaks to the prosperity forum.
  • Paul is headed for Michigan, where he has events planned in Hudsonville and Mount Pleasant and a final event on Monday East Lansing.

Stay with Changing Gears through the weekend for final primary coverage.


About midway through Wednesday night’s Republican presidential debate in Mesa, Arizona, moderator John King of CNN turned to a topic that’s front and center in the Michigan primary: the auto bailout.

It momentarily turned into a free for all between Michigan’s native son, Mitt Romney, and Pennsylvania’s former U.S. senator, Rick Santorum, over what kind of help the federal government should have given the auto companies. You can read and see CNN’s coverage here.

On Thursday, President Barack Obama’s campaign jumped into the fray with a new television ad that began airing in Michigan, which holds its primary next Tuesday.

The ad, called Made in America, contends Republicans turned their back on the industry in 2008 and 2009, when the automakers went to Washington for federal assistance.

And, the campaign has a point. None of the Republican candidates supported the direct bailout of General Motors and Ford. And, Republicans in the Senate opposed legislation that would have provided Congressional assistance.

But Romney was the most vocal at the time, writing a now-famous op-ed in the New York Times in 2008 entitled, “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt,” and his answers have received the most scrutiny.

The new Obama campaign ad references that op-ed, and declares, “Now, a new, restructured industry is back because of the grit and sacrifice of Michigan workers.” It concludes: “Don’t bet against the American worker.”

As he explained Wednesday night, he felt the car companies should have gone through a “managed bankruptcy” or a more-conventional bankruptcy that would have been financed by banks, not the Treasury Department.

Banks, however, received their own bailout, and were not inclined to lend to the car companies. Plus, conventional bankruptcies could have taken years, not the quick trips that GM and Chrysler experienced.

United Auto Workers members are preparing to demonstrate on Friday, when Romney makes his highest-profile appearance ahead of the primary, a speech to the Economic Club of Detroit at Ford Field.

I talked about the Michigan race with Judy Woodruff of PBS NewsHour on Wednesday night. You can watch our interview here.


Jillian Jones Sisko of Michigan writes:

Letter-writing has always been an important part of my family’s legacy.

My mother discovered her family origins through letters written in the early 1900′s that were found in a desk drawer in an attic in Epernay, France. The letter was written by my grandfather and addresses to his brother. When my mother discovered the letters, she started communicating with her family.

When my oldest sister left for college in the 70′s, my father, Wayne Muren, began writing weekly letters just as my great grandfather did many years prior. The letters served as a source of inspiration for my sister and as well as a blanket of comfort.

After all five children grew up and graduated from college, several moved away. Wayne kept writing letters. To this day, 35 years later, I am blessed to still receive a weekly letter filled with newspaper/magazine articles. The no. 10 envelope that was once delivered to my college dormitory is now a large manila envelope packed with news and information.

Maureen Houston/BND.com

Jillian's mother and her father Wayne with a stack of letters

The letters are sent to not only his children, but also to his 11 grandchildren. The letters are now mailed in large envelopes which accompany 10-20 newspaper clippings to keep the family up-to-date with current events as well as comic strips from a local artist.

This gift of communication is one that I hope will never stop arriving at my door for many years to come. This ritual is now our family tradition.


A new poll by NBC News shows Mitt Romney taking a narrow lead over Rick Santorum in the race to win Michigan’s Republican primary next Tuesday.

The NBC poll, out Wednesday, showed 37 percent of likely voters support the former Massachusetts governor, while 35 percent support the former Pennsylvania senator. To statisticians, that’s within the margin of error, meaning a statistical tie.

“Michigan is neck and neck,” said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, which conducted the NBC survey.

That’s a big change from last week, when Santorum led Romney in two Michigan polls.

When it comes to the November election, President Barack Obama would defeat Romney by nearly 20 percentage points in Michigan, the poll found. He would defeat Santorum by 22 points.

Meanwhile, the Santorum campaign said a daily tracking poll  by the Gallup Organization showed the former senator maintaining a national lead of 36 percent to 26 percent among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents.

On Wednesday, Romney won the endorsement of the Detroit News, which said he had a “refreshing free market vision for restoring the nation’s prosperity.”

Romney, meanwhile, touched on one of the most-discussed issues in Midwest politics on Tuesday. He told an audience in Shelby Township, Mich., that he supports a Right to Work law for Michigan, according to our partner station Michigan Radio.

He hasn’t made any secret of his support for the legislation, which would prevent unions from charging mandatory dues if workers chose not to join. Indiana recently became the first Great Lakes state to enact Right to Work legislation, and the first in the U.S. to adopt it in a decade.

But his support of Right to Work puts him at odds with Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, who endorsed him last week. Snyder has said Right to Work is not a priority for his administration, and thinks the measure could distract from the state’s economic agenda.

You can read all of Changing Gears’ coverage of the Michigan primary here.


A new poll out Monday shows the Michigan Republican primary race is tightening. Public Policy Polling says former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum’s lead over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is down to four percent.

PPP’s earlier poll showed Santorum with a 15 percent lead over Romney, raising the prospect that the Michigan born candidate was in danger of losing his home state. It was one of two polls showing Santorum ahead.

Romney’s gain is coming as he spends more time in Michigan ahead of next Tuesday’s primary.

Says PPP: ”What we’re seeing in Michigan is a very different story from Florida where Romney surged by effectively destroying his opponent’s image. Here, Romney’s gains have more to do with building himself up.”

Santorum has double digit leads among Protestant voters, union members, evangelical Christians, Tea Party members, people describing themselves as “very conservative” and men.

Romney is leading with women, seniors, moderates, people who say they are “somewhat conservative” and Roman Catholics. Last week, Romney gained the endorsement of Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. On Sunday, he held a conference call with voters. According to the Detroit Free Press, he asked a woman from Franklin, Mich., if its cider mill was still there (it is).

Romney is set to be in Jackson, Mich., on Monday, while Santorum is campaigning on the west side of the state. Santorum picked up his own key endorsement although not in Michigan. On Friday, he drew the backing of Ohio’s attorney general, Mike DeWine, who used to be a Romney supporter.

Ohio holds its primary as part of Super Tuesday on March 6.


Michelle Guevara writes:

My great-grandfather migrated from Sicily. Like a lot of Italian migrants, he was poor but carved a name for himself and ended up having a large family.

I miss the big family gatherings. Most of us are grown now. Weddings and funerals are the only time the extended family gets together any more. The older generation held more of the old traditions together than we do now. I find that a shame. Those were some of my best memories.

I remember cannoli day, a tradition that my family and cousins continue to this day. Everyone brings a batch of cannoli dough and we set up an assembly line. A few roll the dough out then pass it along to those rolling the forms. They drop the rolls gently into the deep fryer.

Michelle demonstrates her cannoli rolling technique

Before the last batch is done, my cousins start dinner of spaghetti, meat balls or sausages, salad, and garlic bread. We fill our bellies to the point of bursting.

For dessert we eat…what else? Cannolis! By the end of the day, we pack the shells into boxes and divide them among the family. One day we made 700 shells.

-Michelle Guevara, Michigan

(In case you’re wondering—700 cannolis would add up to 4950 cubic inches of Italian dessert, or: one giant 3.5×1 ft cannoli.)

Most Americans have ethnic and cultural roots outside of the U.S. We’re asking you to share cultural traditions that are still important to you.

Changing Gears is looking for stories, recipes, songs, and pictures. We’ll be collecting these stories  on the Your Family Story page. They’ll also appear at changinggears.info and we’ll even put some on the air. You can share your story here.