Summer heat brings holiday crowds to villages and lakes

Linda Gallagher

REGION — Temperatures in the 90's brought thousands of visitors into Antrim and Kalkaska counties over the long Fourth of July holiday weekend, many of whom were undoubtedly seeking refuge from the heat of urban environments and the growing threat of the coronavirus. 

Although traffic was heavy in villages like Kalkaska, Bellaire, Alden, and Elk Rapids on both Friday, July 3, and Saturday, July 4, where people packed area grocery stores, party stores, and gas stations,  many spent the majority of the weekend on the beaches and open waters of the area's many rivers and lakes, including the popular and often notorious sandbar area of southwest Torch Lake. 

As expected with the hot weather, many out of work, and a lack of other holiday attractions, the sandbar, called Torchfest by area law enforcement, drew a larger crowd than last year on both Friday and Saturday, with hundreds of boaters anchored in the area. Others waded out from several nearby road ending accesses to enjoy the waters of the lake during the day and traditional Fourth of July fireworks on Friday evening, one of the only fireworks displays in the region.  

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