Ludington selected to host History Prize in 2016.

October 24, 2014

LUDINGTON — Ludington was selected among nine Michigan cities to host a new History Prize event – a historically-inspired, 19-day event of reenactments, collections and fixed exhibits competing for $150,000 in prize money. A social experiment inspired by Grand Rapids’ ArtPrize, the event will be a creative platform for everything history that will be free and open to the public.

“We are ecstatic to be selected as the host city of this innovative new event that complements our local efforts to develop and showcase cultural assets as visitor attractions,” said Brandy Henderson, executive director of the Ludington Area Convention and Visitors Bureau who spearheaded the bid process for Ludington. “This brings our region to a whole new level as a visitor destination – not to mention offering an enriching cultural experience for our residents.”

Ludington was chosen among nine cities to host the competition, including Sault Sainte Marie, Marquette, Traverse City, Muskegon, Holland, Grand Rapids, Bay City and Detroit. MacKay credited the city’s strong community collaboration, proactive approach to cultural enrichment through its Cultural Economic Development Council, and existing historic assets such as the S.S. Badger and Historic White Pine Village that will add to the visitor experience. She also noted that the Badger will serve not only as a historic visitor attraction, but also as a key transportation link for visitors and exhibitors in neighboring states in the Midwest.

“Ludington is an authentic community where history is a part of its every fiber – from maritime, to agricultural, to Great Lakes resort/tourism history. Its history is all encompassing, making it a natural fit,” said event founder Mara MacKay, a Michigan-based history author. “Plus, we were looking for community collaboration and enthusiasm in a host city – and Ludington demonstrated those qualities in spades.”

MacKay won the Jump Start contest by the Michigan Lodging and Tourism Association at the 2014 Pure Michigan Governor’s Conference on Tourism that funds the best tourism-related start-up business idea among five finalists.

“My vision of History Prize is to create an open platform – something that has never been done for history – where anyone can find a voice in the conversation about what is history and why it matters,” said MacKay. “My dream is that this event also will serve as an important catalyst for heritage tourism in Michigan.”

History Prize will feature three categories of historic expression where individuals can participate as exhibitors: Living History, Historical Collections and Fixed Exhibits. The event is open to any historical means of expression and any era, collection, culture, performance and innovation of heritage tourism.

“This history event will emulate the spirit of Art Prize in that it is a multi-day event with members of the public competing for a prize. We also hope it will spur conversations about history like Art Prize did about art,” said MacKay. “That being said, it is a separate, unrelated entity – in fact, the name most likely will change. But we can learn much from ArtPrize’s successes, and we are grateful to have Art Prize representatives on our statewide advisory committee.”

History Prize is scheduled to debut in the summer of 2016. It will feature approximately 1,000 exhibits throughout the Ludington area. Winners will be determined by a popular vote, with prize money totaling $150,000. MacKay estimates that the event will draw 100,000 people to Ludington over the 19-day event, booking up to 12,000 hotel room nights within a 60-mile radius. She also said the potential estimated economic impact to Ludington and the surrounding community could be $5 to $10 million.

Now that the location has been selected, planners will move to elect a governing board that will complement a statewide advisory group comprised of Michigan historians, directors of regional history centers and museums, members of the Historical Society of Michigan, artists and Art Prize representatives. Registration for exhibitors and venues will open around summer 2015.

Information about History Prize will be posted on its Facebook page at

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