This post was written by Alex Lowry. She and her family were Cherry Republic's millionth gift box recipients. Inside this box they found our Golden Ticket, which automatically earned them a trip to Glen Arbor and a peek into the inner workings of Cherry Republic. Here are her reflections on their trip:
I need to start with a confession. Last year I, a lifetime Cherry Republic faithful fan, unsubscribed from the Orchard Report. I know it sounds blasphemous, but after several years of unsuccessful attempts to make it up for a week of camping, Bob's eloquent way with words and beautiful depictions of life in Glen Arbor and Sleeping Bear was too much to bear (pun intended). I felt truly heartsick for the dunes, cherries, and crystal clear water. I was then out of the cherry loop. In December my mom called me to see if I had heard about the Millionth Gift Box Contest. I decided it was worth a shot and ordered a couple of small Christmas gifts. A few days later my husband, Kevin, called me at work. I believe his exact words were "what the heck did you order?!" He described to me the size of the box which seemed far too large for a couple of Boomchunkas and bags of chocolate covered cherries. My stomach did an excited little flip and I ran home for lunch that day. We unpacked the box to find that fateful golden ticket inside. From that moment on it's been quite the ride. Along with the Golden Ticket came a bunch of Cherry Republic goodies and an explanation of what being the Golden Ticket Winners would include. To our bewilderment we learned that we would be sent monthly gift boxes of goodies for a year and a week long trip up the Republic with lots of fun activities planned. We were honored to win such a generous prize and also thrilled for Bob and all of his staff for this huge milestone!
My parents started taking me on camping trips to DH Day when I was an infant. As an adult Kevin and I started vacationing there and it holds a very special place in our hearts. It is where we got engaged, honeymooned and now visit when we can. It has been several years since we have been able to go and we were chomping at the bit to get there. We were also thrilled to have our first opportunity to take our 20 month old daughter, Estella, to our favorite place. We just returned from our week's stay and are thrilled to report it was a trip like none other. We were able to see Glen Arbor and the park before the hustle-bustle of the vacation season. Instead of rushing from one activity to the next amid hundreds of other guests, we were able to slow down and get a real taste for what it's like to be there when it is quiet and still. As much as part of us missed the magic that comes from energy of all of those people, the calm of the locals made us feel so welcomed and at home.
Over the last week we laughed, cried and were inspired. We have been touched by the folks of the Cherry Republic in ways that will last a lifetime. The biggest joy of the trip was having the opportunity to get to know the staff of the Cherry Republic (you'd be surprised to learn how many people are "behind the scenes" making that place so magical) and celebrate this milestone in the growth of the company. We were so warmly welcomed with open arms. Literally. Stella hugged everyone. :) We quickly felt like part of a family. What this means is that we now have friends in our favorite place where until now we were anonymous. What a wonderful feeling!
There were many highlights throughout our stay it's hard to know what all to share! We had a great opportunity to share dinner with Bob, Stephanie, Colebrook, and Hawthorne. Estella and the boys spent the evening running loops around the outdoor bar at Boonedocks (I think she's in love:) ) while we got to chat with Bob and Steph. The next day we got to have lunch with Bob's mom, Mary, at her home. I'll let you in on a little insight here. Mary is an AMAZING woman. She is a beautiful person inside and out and appears to be superhuman. :) Her accomplishments seem to be endless. She proudly shared photos and stories of her six kids and served us a delicious lunch. The way she and Bob tease each other reminded me so much of my and Kevin's relationship with my own mother I couldn't help but smile. Jason (Cherry Republic's VP of Sales) and Molly who does marketing took us on a spectacular hike up the Empire Bluff trail. It was such a gorgeous view I couldn't believe we hadn't done it before! We also had the opportunity to go on a tour of the production facility. Seeing such large quantities of goodies under one roof made us swoon. It was also great to meet the folks that pack up all of the goodies for us all to enjoy.
We also had plenty oftime to work in all of our favorite vacation habits and some new adventures on our own. We shared a perfect Mother's Day breakfast at Joe's Friendly Tavern, played at the Empire Beach playground, hiked up Pyramid Point, and enjoyed several lunches and lots of ice cream at the Cherry Republic cafe. Stella made a new friend that she got to enjoy some time with. Ada is Molly's 3-year-old daughter and they had a blast running around the gardens and pit spit arena of the Republic. We also took the opportunity to hop on our bikes and try out the new Heritage bike trail that runs from town to the dune climb. It is BEAUTIFUL. We were very impressed with the quality of work and beautiful route. It will be a gift to anyone that discovers it. We were passing through a sunny dune section of the trail and the wind shifted in such a way that I got a big whiff of the sweet smell of the cedar trees along the path. That familiar smell instantly sent me back to my childhood and all of the summers we enjoyed surrounded by those trees. We also spent lots of time enjoying our accommodations and taking in the views. Stella got lots of time to discover sand and water and the joy of squishing sand castles.
When we would be asked what our favorite experience on the trip was, it was impossible to say just one thing. Much of our favorite things were in the small details: shop owners cleaning up the signs and windows for the upcoming summer visitors, the fact that Bob seems to go just about everywhere barefoot, the time that Stella took exploring the details of her new surroundings with such care and picking up every rock she found, and as this was our first trip that we didn't camp it was a highlight to have flushing toilets and showers! It was most definitely the cleanest we have ever been while in Glen Arbor! :)
On the way home we stopped through Ann Arbor and visited the folks at the Embassy (store) downtown. Stella did not disappoint and went right in and hugged the folks working there too. We picked up one last cookie for the road and hit the highway with our hearts full of joy.
This has been an opportunity of a lifetime. To be shown such kindness and generosity by Bob and his staff has filled our hearts with overflowing joy and gratitude. We are so proud and impressed by the growth of the Cherry Republic and what it has become and it was a true honor to be a part of it for a week. A quote I discovered on a Wonderbar wrapper said it best: "Gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder." -G. K. Chesterton
We won't be unsubscribing from the Orchard Report again any time soon.