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Finally, after the first nice weekend of the season, we can finally put thoughts of snow behind us. This past May has been the coldest rainiest “winter” I can remember. Many here on the island were still wearing hats, gloves and warm socks half way through the month of May, seriously. No tropical nights on this island. When I used to live in Vermont the local wisdom there was to leave your snow tires on from October 15th through May 15th and it felt a lot like that here this year.
I like to think of this as a weather experience bonus for the summer people however, because many of them really have no idea what they are missing here on the island during the winter months. For most coming to the island is a summer activity, one that builds memories of warm summer nights, festivals, family get-togethers, cool breezes off the lake, and wonderful nightlife. I can guarantee that with the exception of the cool breezes none of that happens here in January.
But if you have ever mentioned to a mainlander that you live here all year round, they invariably ask you about winter life, groceries, gas, and getting to the mainland. I have refined this response to a few informative sentences. “Island life is not for those with chronic health problems, we don’t have any doctors but we have a great EMS service and we use Life flight in emergencies. You need a freezer to stock up on groceries in the fall and if we need to get to the mainland we fly on and off in a small six-seater airplane, which costs $40 dollars per person each way for a 5 minute trip”.
Winter island life is defined by ice fishing. And if you like Ice fishing, winter here is really all about catching Walleye. As soon as the ice gets strong enough to support the shanties, fisherman migrate from Wisconsin, Minnesota and beyond to catch a trophy fish. Perch is my favorite to eat actually, and thankfully they just don’t look that great over the mantle. This was a good year for ice, not so much for fishing, but it still helped to provide some winter commerce here on the island.
With snow on the ground and ice on the bay Snowmobiles and ATV’s finally have real purpose. And when a new snow first falls, the main roads here become the perfect trails for the snowmobiles and cross-country skiers alike. The guys who plow have spent years perfecting “snow grooming” that helps transform our island into a winter sportsmen’s paradise. Snow tubing takes on a unique form as kids are seen trailing behind their parents ATV as they head down the road.
On one perfect winter weekend we decided to go golf carting. We have found that we can get just about anywhere on the island in our cart. This year we decided to follow go the next step further and venture out on the ice following the ATV tracks. Golf carts are amazing vehicles and with some knobby tires and careful driving we found we could navigate the ice no problem. You should have seen the reactions we got as we drove past the fishermen out by Green Island.
For many, winter evening entertainment is playing cards. Euchre at Tippers on Wednesday is always entertaining and poker and bridge can be found at the senior center and else where. And while you can play cards anytime of the year, the winter doldrums are chased away with a night out.
I guess what comes from the quiet of winter here is a time to foster the growth of “community” and build on friendships here in Put-in-Bay. Because the hectic summer leaves so many islanders over taxed and time challenged. I am thankful for the quiet enjoyment of our island in the winter and the time we get to spend with friends that disappears in the heat of the summer, so while the weather is now seasonally warm and business has begun to hum again, I will truly miss those cold days and nights of winter, even the ones in May.


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