By Jim Hayden
Saugatuck Town Crier Art Tolsma has been climbing ladders and fixing roofs for more than 30 years, so he’s right at home in high places. But 552 feet above the Straits of Mackinac, looking out from the main towers of the Mighty Mac?
“It sounds like the most fun in the world to me,” said Tolsma, all smiles Dec. 21 at the Felt Mansion. He had just won the Friends of the Felt Estate fundraising raffle for a certificate for two tickets to tour the Mackinac Bridge towers.
The Laketown Township estate was one of 25 Michigan nonprofits picked by the Mackinac Bridge Authority to receive a tower tour certificate to be raffled or auctioned for charitable purposes. The certificates can be used May 1 through Oct. 15 and are good for two people.
Tickets were sold from November through December to raise funds for the historic mansion. The event sold 165 tickets and raised $3,400, said Felt Estate operations director Patty Meyer.
“We appreciate the bridge authority doing this,” she said. “This is a great way to support Michigan non-profits.”
Tolsma is a founder of TNT Roofing, Inc., of Holland. “I’m used to being up in the air,” he laughed.
He wanted the trip so badly be bought 50 tickets for $1,000 and is glad the money is going to the Felt Mansion.
He’s not sure yet who will join him in the more than 500-foot trip up the towers on the bridge between the state’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas.
Tolsma’s ticket was the second winning ticket drawn.
On Dec. 17 Rev. Rod Brandsen of Gibson Church drew the first winner from the spinning cylinder at the mansion before a holiday tour. That winner, though, didn’t want the certificate.
“The first winner declined the prize, so according to the Michigan Charitable Gaming regulations, another ticket was drawn at random,” said Meyer. That was Tolsma’s ticket.
The Estate Friends is a 501c3 nonprofit bringing people together to protect, enhance and enjoy places that matter.
The Felt Mansion was built in 1925 by Dorr Felt, inventor of the Comptometer, a basic adding machine. After his death, the property was purchased by the St. Augustine Seminary for a school then, in the 1970s, by the State of Michigan to use as a prison.
After the prison and Michigan State Police post in the Mansion closed in the 1990s, Laketown Township purchased the property.
For the past 20 years, the Friends, led by Meyer, has restored the mansion to its 1920s splendor. For more information, visit feltmansion.org.
By Jim Hayden