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Ashland celebrates a century of light

A century of light in the Chequamegon Bay and the newest light in the National Park System prompted the city of Ashland, National Park Service, Ashland Historical Society and Museum and Friends of the Apostle Islands to plan a celebration on the Ore Dock.

This is also a local kickoff for the National Park Service’s Centennial Celebration, which starts now and culminates in 2016.

“The addition of the Ashland Harbor Light to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore means two great things. It preserves an important piece of history for the benefit of this and future generations of Americans in their national park system. And since Ashland now has a national park in its front yard, it’s a welcome catalyst for the National Park Service and the people of Ashland to work together for the common good. This will be a wonderful event, “ said Bob Krumenaker, superintendent of the Apostle Island National Lakeshore.

The celebration starts at 3:30 p.m. Saturday with an opening ceremony hosted by Ashland Mayor Deb Lewis. Jan Cameron of the Ashland Historical Society will set the stage by describing what led to the light in Ashland in 1915. Richard Mitchell of the society will talk briefly about the dedication and service of the keepers. This will be followed by brief remarks from Commander Al Moore of the U.S. Coast Guard, and Krumenaker.

The half-hour long ceremony will followed with music by Warren Nelson and Friends, including flutist Michael Laughing Fox Charette, performing lighthouse and other music 5-7:30 p.m., then music by Acoustic Relapse 7:30-9 p.m. The day ends with an outdoor showing of the movie “McFarland USA” at 9 p.m.

In 1911, a light station was established to assist with iron ore shipping. At that time, Ashland had five ore docks. The present breakwater was completed in 1913. The Ashland Harbor Breakwater light station had four official lightkeepers from 1915 to 1962, when it was automated. Frank Mersy, the third light keeper, was the longest-serving Ashland Harbor Breakwater Light keeper, serving from 1925 to 1947.

The Ashland Historical Society hosts Richard Mitchell, Mersy’s grandson, portraying his grandfather in half hour intervals between 4 and 7 p.m.

Clarence Campbell hosts an event for the Amateur Radio Lighthouse Society starting at 10 a.m. and a display of the Lighthouse will be on exhibit from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Ashland Historical Society Museum, 509 W. Main St.

“The Ashland Historical Society is pleased to have the Ashland Harbor Breakwater Light included in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore collection. We feel confident the future of this important local landmark is now secure,” said Jan Cameron, museum manager.

To kick off the day, boats are encouraged to congregate by the Ashland Harbor Breakwater Light at 2 p.m. to help “Sail-abrate” 100 years with 100 sails.

If there is inclement weather, the event will be held at the Bretting Community Center in Ashland. Updates will be posted on the Debra Lewis Ashland Wisconsin Mayor and the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore Facebook pages.

For information, 715-682-7059 or visit