Ballard, Levin expected at celebration

ALPENA – The Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary will be having a celebration Sept. 6 to recognize the accomplishments of the sanctuary as it anticipates an expansion to increase protection of the Great Lakes and their rich history.

The event begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center and includes live music, a cash bar and hors d’oeuvres provided by JJ’s Catering. Tickets for the celebration are $50 each, and a limited number are available.

“It’s going to be a night of fun celebration of something that has been in the works for many years, and meals a lot for the entire region,” Media and Outreach Coordinator Stephanie Gandulla said. “We anticipate the final rule to be published Sept. 5.”

Gandulla said there will be a large tent outside of the building, the green roof deck will be open and local artist Katie Lewis will be providing live music for the event.

“Tickets are still available, and they are going fast,” Gandulla said.

Sanctuary Superintendent Jeff Gray said the event is a reflection of where the sanctuary was, where it is now, and where it hopes to go in the future.

“We are celebrating the accomplishments we’ve had over the last year, and wanted to thank the community for all of their support,” Gray said. “The persistant support of the community helped us accomplish a lot this year, such as the international (remotely operated vehicle) competiton.”

A short program with Sen. Carl Levin, representatives of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and special guest Dr. Robert Ballard will take place at the celebration.

Besides being among some of the most accomplished and well-known ocean exporers, Ballard also has helped locate some wrecks and document them within the sanctuary.

“Dr. Ballard helped us locate, document and do assessments of some of the wrecks in and around the sanctuary,” Gray said. “He helped us grow. He works around the globe, and has spent two or three years coming to Alpena to help wirh research. It really solidifies how significant the resources here are, and some of the shipwrecks he documented were outside the current sanctuary, so his work was a catalyst in helping us look at the expansion process. He is a huge supporter of ocean and Great Lakes preservation and we are thrilled to have him here for this celebration.”

Ballard has an impressive list of historic discoveries, including the R.M.S. Titanic, the German battleship Bismark, and the Yorktown.

“This will be a fun way to celebrate the sanctuary and help support the programs here,” Gray said. “The celebration is a fundraiser for the Friends group, and their efforts help us to keep the sanctuary and exhibits open year-round, and keep admission free. This celebration is also a great chance to meet Dr. Ballard and people from around the country who support sanctuary expansion and its education and outreach programs.”

For more information, or to purchase tickets, call the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center at 356-8805 ext. 18.

Nicole Grulke can be reached via email at ngrulke@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5687. Follow Nicole on Twitter @ng_alpenanews.