Employee Spotlight- Sarah Hagen, Events Director

Sarah Hagen Events DirectorFamily has always been important to Sarah Hagen. Born and raised in Charlevoix, Sarah was in her junior year of high school when she was hired to work at the Castle. It was April of 2006, and Sarah’s responsibilities included “a little bit of everything,” she says. “I was hired as ‘event staff’. I set up chairs, did housekeeping, worked festivals, and greeted people. I was just a kid, and it was lots of fun. Being part of the Castle team was like being part of one big happy family.” Sarah’s abilities were obvious, and though she hadn’t yet graduated from high school, she quickly ‘graduated’ to helping out around the wedding office, too. Once accepted at Grand Valley State University, Sarah focused on a degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management. After a summer internship at the Castle, Sarah graduated, and was immediately offered a position as Event Coordinator at Castle Farms.

Sarah Hagen and BrideIn 2015, after two years spent working as Event Coordinator, and another two years as Lead Event Coordinator, Sarah assumed a leadership role of Events Director at Castle Farms. In addition to coordinating weddings, Sarah’s new responsibilities involved scheduling coordinators and wedding rehearsals, training assistant coordinators, as well as taking an active role in the overall decision-making process within the wedding department. “We’ve really stepped up our game,” she says. “Back when I first started working at the Castle, we had plastic deck chairs for wedding guests, and a tent out back. Now we provide quality equipment and beautiful, elegant event rooms. A Castle wedding is very nice.”

me and Andy“Calm, kind, and focused” are words often used to describe Sarah by those who know her. “I like to keep things simple,” she says, “and the Castle is the perfect place for me. I’m still growing, and I appreciate the opportunities I’ve been given to handle more responsibility, and to learn different aspects of the wedding business. I like the fact that we’re all important, and that all of us have a say in the way things are going. Linda and Richard Mueller (the current owners) are very supportive. They’ve kept the Castle a small, privately owned place… just like a family. And like when a family pulls together, we’re all involved in making it a success.”

renaissance festivalSarah’s seen a lot during her years at Castle Farms. She’s planned more than 80 corporate events, and helped more than 240 bridal couples on their special day. She loves working with bridal couples, reassuring them that their ideas will work, and stepping in when needed to offer her professional opinion. Sarah’s assisted at antique festivals, Renaissance shows, and more. Her favorite ‘Castle moment’ came during the Grand Bridal Expo of 2010. Two of her good friends (“they’re just like family!”), recently engaged, planned to get married on a $3,000 budget. They attended the Grand Bridal Expo, and much to their surprise (and Sarah’s), heard their names drawn as lucky winners of the Grand Bridal Giveaway, a wedding ceremony and reception package worth $10,000. The Fashion Show was held in the Knight’s Castle that year, but the crowd was so large, there wasn’t room for everyone. Sarah’s friends were outside sitting on the grass when they heard their names announced. “Of all the people they could have picked, my friends won the grand prize,” Sarah remembers. “They were so happy, and I was so happy for them. I got to coordinate their wedding, plus I was invited as a wedding guest. It was great!”

Sarah Hagen and family (2)What does the future hold for Sarah? For now, she’s enjoying life at the Castle, and living in her hometown of Charlevoix the Beautiful. “I love being able to spend time with my family,” she says. “We still get together for dinner every Sunday night.” A special young man usually goes along with Sarah to those Sunday night dinners. “We’ve been together since 2011,” she says with a smile. “For now, things are good the way they are. I don’t worry about the future.” Just as Sarah likes to remind the bridal couples she works with: “Things have a way of working out. Don’t fret about the details. Life is good. Enjoy the ride!”

Ask the Coordinators- Late Arrivals

How to Deal With Late Arrivals

The bridesmaids have made their way down the aisle. The flower girl has thrown her petals. The bride, ready to begin her processional, accepts her father’s arm as the music begins. With all eyes on the bride, she takes her first step forward. But suddenly there’s a commotion near her. She turns and sees some friends, who throw her an awkward wave as they quickly slip in front of her, walk down the aisle, and take their seats. Could this happen to YOU? Some of our Castle brides have been concerned about this, and have asked how to deal with guests arriving late for the ceremony.

Assistant Coordinator with radio
Assistant with radio

At the Castle, we take measure to ensure this is a rare occurrence. Your bridal reservation actually includes an entire support team for events – housekeepers, set-up and tear-down staff, as well as staff placed in strategic places throughout the Castle prior to, during, and following the ceremony who guide guests to the appropriate locations. These team members directing traffic are set up at the entrances to the venue to ensure the guests coming in have arrived for the right wedding; other team members are in place, directing guests where to park, then guiding them on their way to the ceremony. Our Venue Coordinators, who facilitate the wedding and coordinate the bridal processional for the ceremony, are in direct contact with those staff members who direct traffic, especially as the ceremony time draws near.


Venue Coordinator on radio
Venue Coordinator on radio

Once the ceremony begins, the Venue Coordinator announces to the entire staff via radio head-sets that the wedding ceremony is starting, and that any late guests should be held back until the bridal processional has concluded. This ensures that no guest will be coming in as the bridesmaids and the bride walk down the aisle. Once the bride has entered and completed her processional walk, the Coordinator announces that any late guests can be directed to the ceremony. Our staff then assists those guests in finding seats along the sides or back of the ceremony area to help ensure their entrance will be less noticeable, without causing a disturbance”.

Employee Spotlight – Tracy Kelly

Tracy KellyEver notice how it seems that the biggest voices (and perhaps the biggest hearts) come from people small in stature? Tracy Kelly is one of those people. Originally from Hawaii, Tracy’s life journey brought her east until eventually she settled in Michigan. A background in business administration helped prepare her for a number of commercial sales positions. But quotas and corporate life took its toll. When Tracy joined the team at Castle Farms in April of 2015 as a Tour Guide and Gift Shop Associate, her heart found a new song to sing.

“I’d driven by Castle Farms many times before, but I had no idea of its history.” Once Tracy did her research, it was easy falling in love with the Castle. Still, Tracy figured there was a catch. Her background in sales had taught her to expect to meet daily quotas. But since she’s been at the Castle, Tracy has discovered that no such rule exists. “Working at the Castle is the perfect job for me,” she says. “I’m not trying to sell people a product. Rather, I’m trying to show people how amazing this place is.” Her time in the Gift Shop is also well spent. “Not only is it fun,” she says, “it’s the perfect opportunity to greet people. I love being the face of the Castle when people first walk in. My favorite thing about being at the Castle is getting to meet new people all the time.”

Tracy at Secret CourtyardTracy with group

And plenty of new people show up on a regular basis. Escorting guests on a charter bus coach on tour is now a routine part of Tracy’s day. She loves the opportunity to laugh and smile, and to share her knowledge with people on tour. “I love what I do,” she says, “and I try to have a lot of fun with tours.” They, likewise, have a lot of fun with Tracy. Her voice is filled with passion, and her laughter contagious as she guides groups around the Castle, showcasing the beautiful stone buildings, the gardens, the collections, and most of all, the stories.

Tracy at Castle FarmsTracy with Norm the Dragon

During off hours, Tracy can be found curled up with a good book, or indulging in her love of music. Voice lessons and training enabled Tracy to perform on a semi-professional level throughout her career. Groups escorted by Tracy around the buildings and grounds easily sense her passion for the Castle. It’s something that comes from deep within. We look forward to Tracy being with us for many years to come, singing her stories of the Castle in a voice that comes directly from the heart.

Evolution of a Gift Shop

Welcome CenterNext time you’re in the Castle’s Gift Shop searching for a stuffed dragon, princess fairy wand, Castle memento, or the perfect wedding gift, give a little thought to the story you’re about to read. Once upon a time (in the not-too-distant-past), the beautiful Gift Shop we have today didn’t exist. Originally, a long hallway filled with milking stanchions for cows, (Loeb Farms, 1918-1927), filled up the King’s Gallery. The cows were sold at public auction in 1927. By 2006, the Gallery was upgraded to a makeshift gift shop with a single table, which was stocked with postcards for sale to visitors who wandered in, curious as to what the Castle was all about. Peggy Kusina, hired in 2006, was the lady in charge of the postcards and zippered money bag. She operated off the long table with her inventory stocked on a rolling cart that was locked up at night. Soon after, a VHS historic video was added to the tour, plus a 1-page map. Eventually a booklet was printed to help guide people around the Castle. Postcards and the tour booklet were the first items available at the Castle’s ‘make-shift’ Gift Shop.

Linda Mueller, the Castle’s current owner, thought it would be fun to showcase books that dealt with castle lore. A sales display cabinet was added, and soon Peggy was selling books, plus a few other castle-themed items. One showcase became two (though they were still using the original zipper bag for money purchases). In 2006, the idea of building a separate Gift Shop was bandied about. Though the original plans called for it to be built by the Blacksmith Shop, the decision was eventually made to incorporate it as a ‘Gift Shop / Welcome Center’ at the main entrance of the parking lot, in order to greet guests entering the Castle.

Construction on Welcome CenterConstruction began in the winter months, with a planned completion date of March 2007. A trip to Chicago to purchase inventory (January of ’07) proved fruitful, and merchandise for the shelves soon began arriving. Problem was, there were no shelves. It wasn’t until late April that the Gift Shop was completed. Peggy was unpacking boxes even as the workers were finishing up construction. When it finally opened, the Gift Shop wasn’t merely a store to buy souvenirs and trinkets; it also provided a bit of history in itself. The Shop had been constructed using local fieldstone harvested from Charlevoix’s downtown Band Shell and East Park Pavilion. Additionally, the architects were able to incorporate one of the original stone silo towers as a back wall of the Gift Shop, using the inside silo space for storage. Peggy put away the money bag for good once a cash register was added. The Castle’s Gift Shop was open for business!

Linda with dedication plaque

Linda and Peggy

From the beginning, the focus was never about selling items in the Gift Shop. Rather, visitors were greeted at the Welcome Center, where the focus was on promoting tours. Guests began requesting Castle-themed items, such as key chains, magnets, and prince and princess t-shirts. Later, wedding items, jewelry, and other fashionable items were added to the shelves. A few years later, a second cash register was installed to accommodate overflow customers.

Gift Shop ExpansionGift Shop ExpansionBy the winter of 2013, it was obvious that a Gift Shop expansion was necessary to enhance the guest experience. Plans were drawn up for a new addition into the existing King’s Gallery, with an estimated completion date for May 2014. Linda suggested including an enclosed Media Room as a place where guests could view the historic video in relative privacy. Elegant French doors with glass walls would highlight seasonal items. On May 26, 2014, the Castle’s newly expanded Gift Shop celebrated its Grand Opening. The Charlevoix Chamber of Commerce was on hand for the official Ribbon-Cutting ceremony.

French DoorsMedia Room

The Castle’s Gift Shop now offers a wide variety of products, including books, toys, trains, chess sets, house wares, etc. Fairy Garden items have increased in popularity. An on-line cyber-shop offers guests the convenience of shopping 24/7. Castle souvenir packages are now available, adding to a guest’s shopping convenience.

Welcome Center sign


Beginning with a zippered money bag and a table in the Gallery, the Castle’s Gift Shop has expanded to become the elegant Welcome Center and shopping center which it is today. Searching for mementos of your trip to Castle Farms? Now you know where to begin!

What is an Ice House?

Picture this: a bride walks down the aisle of the beautiful Knight’s Courtyard to meet her groom, who waits under the decorative stone arch of an Ice House.

Wait, an Ice House? What is an Ice House?

Loeb Farms Ice House

Before modern refrigeration, Ice Houses were used to store perishable food, especially in the hot summer months. While many households had small ice boxes to keep food cool, a working model dairy farm as large as Loeb Farms needed a substantially larger area to store enough ice to keep the farm supplied. Also known as the Octagonal Tower because of its eight-sided shape, the Ice House originally boasted a pyramid shaped roof, and was used as a storage facility for ice (Loeb Farms, 1918-1927). Large blocks of ice were harvested in winter from Lake Charlevoix, hauled up Loeb Creek, then stored in the Ice House to keep foods cool during the summer months. Visitors at Loeb Farms were able to stroll the grounds, buy milk, cheese, and ice cream (which was stored in the Ice House).

Loeb Farm workers sleddingIce House on the right

The Castle, which was built in 1918, was inspired by the architecture of castles found in Normandy, France. The decorative arches and buttresses of the Ice House are similar to ones found on castles throughout the French countryside. The center arch where the minister now stands with the bridal couple, was originally enclosed, just like the other arches in the tower. When the Castle’s current owner, Linda Mueller, decided to use the Ice House for outdoor weddings, she had the center arch opened to make a more attractive ceremony site. This earned it a new name: the Knight’s Chapel.

Knight's ChapelStairs in Ice House

Look high up, and you’ll notice the crenelations topping the tower walls. Archers at real castles sought cover behind defensive battlements such as crenelations to shield themselves from arrows launched by enemy troops. History doesn’t tell us how, when or why the original pyramid roof was removed, but Linda added stairs and a topside viewing platform during her restoration. Photographers often capture phenomenal weddings photos from the top of the Ice House.

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From essential refrigeration to romantic ceremony location, the Ice House or Knight’s Chapel provides couples with a unique backdrop for their wedding day.

A Castle Couple, a Castle Family, a Castle Home

E.C. Campbell Photography- Hedge MazeBridie had no idea what to expect when she logged onto Facebook that night in 2010. Her mom had told her about a guy who was coaching Bridie’s brother’s basketball team; the kind of guy, her mom said, who would make the perfect guy for Bridie. She checked out his profile, thought he was cute, and sent him a message. Josh responded to Bridie, and they started chatting on-line. Soon they were chatting in person. In August 2011, Josh proposed, and they began planning their wedding.

E.C. Campbell Photography- umbrellasE.C. Campbell Photography- FountainE.C. Campbell Photography- Throne chairs

The couple, who live in Indiana, knew they wanted to be married in Northern Michigan. Josh had visited often as a teenager, and Bridie quickly fell in love with the area. Bridie searched on-line for wedding venues, but quit looking once she discovered Castle Farms. “It was the perfect place,” she says, “reasonably priced and gorgeous!” Their destination wedding was held on July 14, 2012 in the Knight’s Courtyard. A reception following in the Knight’s Castle. The week leading up to the event had been beautiful, but their wedding day dawned overcast with cloudy skies. “Naturally, that had to be the one day it rained,” Bridie remembers. “Even so, it turned out great. We got out the white umbrellas, and everything was perfect. After the wedding, our wedding photographer, E’Lisa Campbell, took us around the Castle. We frolicked and played, just like little kids. I remember dancing through the train garden with Josh and our umbrellas. It was so much fun.”

LeytonFast forward two years. On June 27, 2014, the young couple’s lives changed forever as they welcomed son Leyton into the world. They were no longer simply Bridie and Josh. With Leyton’s birth, they became a family. Bridie, a stay-at-home mom, also teaches dance choreography, while Josh, a real estate agent, still coaches basketball. And Leyton keeps them plenty active. “When he came along,” Bridie says, “the world became a playground again. We love taking him places, and letting him explore. It’s wonderful; like you’re experiencing the world all over again, but this time through the eyes of a child.”

Throne ChairsTrain TowersOne of the places they took Leyton was north to Michigan and Castle Farms. Though Bridie had visited the Castle once after their marriage, Josh had been unable to accompany her. This time, the family was all together. They visited on June 16th, and just like his mom and dad, Leyton fell in love with the Castle. Entering the Castle’s Welcome Center/Gift Shop, he was immediately taken with a Knight’s Cape and toy sword, which they bought for him. Leyton was delighted, and wore his cape all over the Castle grounds. They visited the Reflection Pond, where Sir Leyton helped feed the fish. Then Bridie and Josh took him to the Knight’s Courtyard. “It was so special,” Bridie said, remembering how they held their son as they stood in the exact spot where the couple had been married three years earlier. “We love being at the Castle. Even on a rainy day, it makes you happy inside, just like when you’re a kid. We were blown away by all the new things the Castle has gotten and put out since we were married. We can’t wait to see what’s here the next time we come.”

Family photo Fantasy RailroadTrain Towers

A return visit for this Indiana couple and their little family of three? “Absolutely,” Bridie promises. Leyton loves the Castle, and so do Bridie and Josh. The memories will draw them back. For them, visiting the Castle is just like coming home.

Knight's Castle

What’s the Secret Hiding Under the Castle?

Abandon hope, all ye who enter here,” a sign attached to the Castle’s basement door once read. The sign is long gone, but the basement remains. And what used to be in it (and is still under it) will probably come as a surprise.

Exterior of Queen's CourtyardLoeb Farms (1918-1927) was built exactly where it stands today for one specific reason: the Castle is located directly atop an underground river (known more accurately as an artesian well). Albert Loeb, the Castle’s original owner, had more than 200 head of Holstein-Friesian dairy cows at the farm, and they needed drinking water. The artesian well provided a ready source. When underground water is tapped by a well, the pressurized water flows up to the surface. Loeb’s workers capped the artesian well, allowing water to flow directly through pipes into the barns. A steady stream of water flowing in the basement also provided natural refrigeration for all of the milk the cows were producing. In 1922, one of the cows, Marion, was the second largest producer of milk in the world. ‘Queen Marion’ had to be milked four times a day. Marion and the other cows all had their own personal watering troughs in the cow stanchions, courtesy of the artesian well.

After Loeb Farms closed, the buildings Queen's Courtyard - John Van Haverwere abandoned. John VanHaver, the Castle’s 2nd owner (1962-1969), installed the ornate fountain which graces the Queen’s Courtyard today. He placed benches and other seats in the Courtyard so guests could enjoy the ambiance of the French castle. By 1969, out of money and time, VanHaver was forced to sell to 3rd owner Art Reibel. After Reibel erected the massive concert stage, legendary rock groups flocked to the Castle for live performances. The beautiful Courtyard fountain also was the scene of some live performances, depending on who you ask. Stories are still told about the various entertainers who used to cavort in the fountain once they finished performing on the Castle’s concert stage. That might be one reason Reibel decided to shut off the fountain.

But an artesian well can’t be shut off for very long. The water has to bubble up somewhere. And as current owner Linda Mueller discovered in 2001, water doesn’t necessarily flow where you want it. When Linda bought the property, the basement was submerged under 5 feet of water. Her workers began the messy task of pumping out the basement, only to discover one foot of mud underneath the water. After months of hard work, the basement was finally cleared. Since it was impossible to keep the water out, Linda’s crew installed sump pumps. Keeping the basement dry, repairing the well pipes and installing a major draining system was one of the biggest projects of Linda’s restoration. She needed a solid foundation to make the buildings last for generations to come.

DredgingLinda’s crew (and anyone else on property at the time) struggled to open the pipe that would allow the fountain to begin flowing. It took a four foot wrench with a six foot extension and every man leaning on the lever to get the rusted pipe to budge. Next, a trench was dug across one hundred feet of the north lawn to replace the overflow pipe. The result of these repairs? The beautiful artesian well fountain is finally running again, flowing continuously day and night. Even in the winter, with snow and icicles covering the fountain, a steady stream of water bubbles from the top.

Queen's Courtyard now


Nowadays, the Queen’s Courtyard Fountain provides a dramatic backdrop to the French architectural features of the Courtyard, as well as a lovely setting where bridal couples can exchange vows.

The Top 10 Weirdest Questions from Guests at Castle Farms

With so many people visiting the Castle (nearly 50,000 in 2014), people ask our staff all kinds of questions. Most are easy to answer. When did the Castle open for tours? How many weddings can you host in one day? But every now and then, an oddball question comes along that throws even the most knowledgeable staffer. We thought it might be fun to have a countdown of the Top 10 Weirdest Questions asked by guests visiting the Castle. Ready for some fun facts? Enjoy!

#10 I thought this was a dairy farm. Where are all the cows?
Loeb Farms operated as a working model Loeb Farm cow, Mariondairy farm from 1918-1927. At that time, 200 head of Holstein-Friesian purebred dairy cattle called the Castle home. One of the cows, ‘Marion’, was 2nd largest producer of milk in the world, and had to be milked four times per day! After Loeb Farms closed, all the livestock, including Marion and the other cows, were sold at auction.

#9 Is this where you keep all the butterflies?Butterfly Garden
(asked by a visitor admiring the Butterfly Garden). The Castle’s Butterfly Garden, designed in 2006, features boxwood hedges, butterfly bushes, and butterfly chairs. While our staff would love to keep the butterflies confined to this area, those pesky butterflies have minds of their own. They flit in and out of other gardens at the Castle, so keep your eyes open and you might see one!

#8 Why is the Castle facing backwards?
Original entranceOriginally, the road into the Loeb Farms Estate looped north around the property. A long driveway ran up to and underneath the Queen’s Arch into the Queen’s Courtyard, which was the main entrance to Loeb Farms. That driveway is long gone, and most of the property is now part of a private homeowners association. M-66 highway is now located on the south end of the property, giving it the backwards feel.

#7 Are there tunnels under the Castle?
We’re not sure if the man who asked this Norm the Dragonwas actually looking for a place to hide, but it’s an interesting question. No, there are no tunnels underneath the Castle, and there are no dungeons, either. However, we do have a dragon. His name is Norm, and he guards the Castle from the Dragon’s Lair garden.


#6 Can you shut off the fountain in the Queen’s Courtyard?Queen's Courtyard fountain
No pump is involved. Rather, the fountain’s source is an artesian well, which taps into an underground river flowing directly beneath the Castle. The water flows from a higher elevation south of the Castle and north into Lake Charlevoix. The fountain was capped for a time by the third owner, but the well kept flowing and water filled the Castle basement 5 feet deep.

#5 When’s the next concert?
Many who arrive at the Castle remember it Castle Farms Summer Music Theateronly as a rock concert venue from concerts they attended in the past. Castle Farms Summer Music Theater operated 1976-1993, with big name bands such as Aerosmith, the Doobie Brothers, Led Zeppelin and the like. Visitors who enjoyed concerts in the past are amazed at the transformation of the property. The West Garden Hallway is filled with concert memorabilia, which allows guests on tour to relive some of their best concert memories.

#4 Is there anything that Linda Mueller can’t do?
Anyone who knows the Castle’s current Linda Mueller | Center of Attention Photographyowner will answer with a resounding “No!” This tongue-in-cheek question was asked by a woman on guided tour, probably after hearing about how much Linda actually does. But Linda truly is a Renaissance woman. Her commitment to restoring the Castle, her passion for detail, and her willingness to do any and all tasks, great and small, are just a few of the things that make her so special. Linda designed and fashioned the Album Quilt (on display in the King’s Great Hall Foyer) entirely by hand. She also can be found in the gardens on her knees, her hands filled with mulch and potting soil. A scrap of paper on the floor? Linda stoops to pick it up. She’d even pitch in and clean a bathroom if need be. Is there anything Linda can’t do? “That’s easy,” she says. “I don’t know how to cook!”

#3 Are you setting up for a small wedding reception?
People often ask this question when theyDisplay Table reach the end of the King’s Gallery and see the single table decorated to seat six. Johanna Alexander, the Castle’s Wedding Planner, uses this table as a permanent display. She often swaps out the linens, stemware and floral arrangements to showcase different color schemes and ideas for brides. This table is all about wedding inspiration.

#2 Did they bring the Castle over from Europe?
It would have had to have been a very1917 Barn Construction big boat! Seriously, the Castle was actually built on site by 35 skilled stone masons who trained more than 100 local men on how to work with the stones, which were harvested from fields across Northern Michigan. Mr. Loeb loved castles, and instructed his architect, Arthur Heun, to design the buildings based on the architecture of the stone castles found in Normandy, France. Construction began in 1917, with laborers working concurrently on both the main residence (located about one mile from the Castle) and the farm. The buildings were completed in 1918. We’re already in the planning stages for our centennial celebration.

And now, the top Weirdest Question Ever Asked at Castle Farms… (drumroll, please!)

#1 How many stones are there in the Castle buildings?
The gentleman on guided tour seemed Castle Farmscompletely serious when he asked this question. The tour guides got together for a little powwow, but none of them knew how to answer him. As his group headed into their event room for a catered luncheon, we told him we’d have an answer before he finished dessert. Then we headed straight to the smartest person we know: Linda Mueller herself. If anyone knew how many stones had been used to construct the Castle, Linda would be the one. When questioned, Linda merely laughed and shook her head. “You go back and tell that man that when he finishes counting them all, I want him to come back and tell me the answer… because I’ve always wondered the same thing myself!”

Heroes Military Wedding Giveaway recap

Paxton PhotographyThe brave men and women who make up America’s military armed forces are heroes to us all, at home and abroad. When Castle Farms decided to pay homage to our troops, we couldn’t think of a better way than to honor one special military couple with a dream wedding, Castle style. The Heroes Military Wedding Giveaway, sponsored by Castle Farms and Preferred Service Providers, was open to couples all across northern Michigan and the U.P. with one (or both) active military or veterans of the United States Armed Forces. The winners were announced on Nov. 11th, Veteran’s Day. Crystal Holmes and Isaiah Hope of Kincheloe, Michigan were stunned when they learned they’d won their dream wedding. Read more about the lead up to their big day.

July 10th dawned, a beautiful summer day at the Castle. Photographer Meg Paxton of Paxton Photography was on hand to capture all the special memories which will last a lifetime. Guests gathering in the Queen’s Courtyard for the late afternoon ceremony were greeted by musical interludes and ceremony music performed by harpist Sylvia Norris. The Courtyard was decorated with wildflowers and yellow roses designed by a Touch of Spring, who also provided the bouquets and boutonnieres.

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The bride walked down the aisle in a shimmering strapless gown, her hair flowing over her shoulders in a stunning design created by Chello’s Salon. Crystal and Isaiah’s two young sons were there to witness the wedding, which was officiated by the Rev. Judy Grimes.

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Following a cocktail hour, dinner was served in the King’s Great Hall. Crystal and Isaiah chose a décor of rustic elegance, with bits of burlap and lace. A birch-tree cake, complete with the bride and grooms ‘carved’ initials, and cupcakes by TasT Creations, provided a sweet ending to the meal, a delicious farm-to-table style dinner catered by A Matter of Taste. The evening reception’s entertainment was provided by A+ Event Entertainment, which kept the couple and their guests dancing well into the night. Photobooth from Shutterbooth was on hand to catch all the fun. Transportation was provided by Mackinaw Shuttle & Limousine. Crystal and Isaiah’s wedding night suite accommodation was courtesy of AmericInn Lodge and Suites.

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Congratulations to the happy couple, Mr. and Mrs. Isaiah Hope. We wish them every happiness in their married life together!

Employee Spotlight – Marsha Braun, Tour Guide

Marsha Braun | Michael Murphy IV Photography  Marsha Braun started her career at Castle Farms in 2006, though tours of the Castle had not yet officially begun. Construction workers were still on site, patching mortar and finishing up jobs. There was no Gift Shop (it wouldn’t be built until the following year). Lots of people who stopped by at the Castle were just curious, and wanted to take a look around. Marsha, a retired school teacher / high school guidance counselor, worked in the King’s Gallery selling postcards off a card table. She greeted people visiting the Castle, handing out bottles of water, selling the postcards, and answering questions. All those questions piqued her desire to learn more about the Castle. Soon Marsha was spending hours at the Charlevoix Historical Society, researching the Castle’s history, making copies of newspaper articles, plus pictures and photos referencing the time periods of each of the four different owners.

Marsha on tourAs visitors increased, Marsha became more involved with both the Castle and the Historical Society. Steeped in the Castle’s history, she assisted in helping develop a tour route and map which guests could use to guide themselves around the Castle. When the Castle’s then-Gift Shop/Tour Director approached Marsha with the idea of working with Circle Michigan to develop charter coach bus tours, Marsha was on board. Drawing on the premise of Mackinaw being the #1 tour destination in Michigan, they marketed tours as an ‘easy add-on’ for groups coming into Michigan. The result: the popular ‘Castles, Cruises & More’ package for tour operators, offering a full day Charlevoix package, including a tour of the Castle, a boat cruise on Lake Charlevoix, and a step-on city tour of the famed Earl Young Mushroom Houses. As charter coach bus tour operators began to take advantage of the offer, Castle Farms gained in popularity. Marsha was delighted to see tour numbers and traffic steadily increase.

Chatting with guests“The Castle continues to evolve,” Marsha says. “It’s pretty remarkable to be able to remember the way it was, and to witness the level of success it’s reached today.” A winter snowbird, she has the luxury of returning each spring to find something new and different at the Castle. “I’m constantly amazed when I come back after the winter months and see the Castle with fresh eyes. It’s simply stunning.”

From her years spent as the Castle’s first and only tour guide, Marsha offers guests something she likes to call ‘Edu-tainment’. This former teacher loves sharing the beautiful property and its history, and she’s not above throwing in Marsha and Steve Brauna few jokes along the way to make things entertaining. She wants people to come and have a good time at the Castle. “The best thing about being at the Castle is having fun with the guests,” she says. “It’s amazing to see their reaction when they walk into the King’s Great Hall for the first time, and take in the magnitude, the size and scope of the property.” Marsha has seen tremendous change in the Castle since she started in 2006. “There are now seven tour guides, and I think that’s a positive.” The biggest change? “Definitely the grounds,” she says. “The maturity of the gardens and the south lawn, with the addition of the King’s Grand Courtyard Garden, is breathtaking. Linda Mueller truly has captured the essence of a French Chateau.”

And Marsha should know. During the off-season, this educated and well-seasoned traveler loves spending time with her husband on jaunts around the world. One of their favorite places to visit? Castles!