This Sunday, June 8th, The Village at Grand Traverse Commons hosts the annual Traverse Colantha Walker Dairy Festival from 9 AM – 3 PM. The Smithsonian recently named this celebration one of 20 can’t miss summer festivals. Read on for the details of this family-friendly, TC original event including the astounding history of Traverse Colantha Walker.
“Work was considered a form of therapy. The farm afforded excellent occupation for a large number of men patients. The hours were confined to one to three hours in the morning and about the same in the afternoon. ..In time, both men,and women patients worked on the farm; the men performing the planting and cultivating of the crops and tending to care for the horses, cows and pigs and the women harvesting the fruits and vegetables.”
~ W. A. Decker in Northern Michigan Asylum: A history of the Traverse City State Hospital. (2010)
The first Superintendent of the Traverse City State Hospital, Dr. James Munson, set a guiding philosophy for the institution that “Beauty is Therapy” and that principle created one of the most humane institutions of its time. One of the key tenants was that access to light and fresh air was key to good mental health. One way they did that was by engaging the patients in their food production.
Of the 96 Holstein-Friesian cows that comprised the former Traverse City State Hospital’s herd, Traverse Colantha Walker was certainly the queen. In 1926, she produced 22,918 pounds of milk in a single year, making her the highest producer in the world! According to a Federal census during that same year, Michigan cows were producing an average of 3,918 lbs. of milk. In Colantha’s lifetime (1916 to 1932) her total production was over 200,000 pounds of milk!!
Colantha was so revered by hospital staff and patients that upon her death in 1932, a banquet was held in her honor, and a beautifully carved memorial stone was placed at her gravesite near the south end of the Commons property. That memory will be honored on Sunday with a procession/parade to Colantha’s gravestone.
Other highlights of the day include a Pancake Breakfast with the TC Fire Department, plenty of live music, craft fair and farm market, Grilled Cheese Grill-off and a slew of fun things for the kiddos including baby animals to feed and make friends with. There’s also a ton of vendors serving up tasty eats and drinks including Moomers, Roaming Harvest, Pig Eatin’ Ribs, Higher Grounds, The Underground Cheesecake Company, TASTES of Black Star Farms, Shetler Family Dairy, Pleasanton Brick Oven Bakery, Spanglish, & Cuppa Joe.