Employee Spotlight – Walter Johnson, Chief Engineer

Walter Johnson | Chief EngineerMeet Walter Johnson III, Chief Engineer of the Castle’s Model Railroad. Walter, a designer by heart, never had the chance to play with trains while he was young. Now he’s making up for lost time. Combine Walter’s college degree in mechanical drafting and auto CAD with the Castle’s current 70+ train engines, and Walter’s having the time of his life living his dream job.

What’s it like to be the Castle’s Chief Engineer? Walter is responsible for keeping each of the 160+ G-scale trains chugging over the tracks, across bridges, and around the curves that make up more than ½ mile of the Castle’s railroad track. His technical and design skills are crucial. Many people visit the Castle specifically because of the trains, and Walter prides himself on being available to chat and answer questions. He loves giving personalized ‘mini-tours’ to guests interested in Michigan’s largest Model Railroad.

Model Trains at Castle Farms, Michigan

Walter’s passions include designing new train systems, and he’s excited about the upcoming 2015 train season. Since the weather broke early, some of the trains are already out. Walter estimates that by season end, there’ll be 80-85 engines running on separate tracks.

What else is new for 2015? Kids will now be able to ride small trains, and Walter thinks they’re going to love it. A layout addition in the ABC Garden will feature more of the children’s trains inside a train yard, as well as a turntable layout. More trains will be added to the 2nd tower roof. Meanwhile, the Lionel Room (under one of the towers) has been emptied out. We won’t spoil the surprise and tell you what Walter has planned. Come out and see for yourself what he’s doing with all that space!

Model Trains at Castle Farms, MichiganModel Trains at Castle Farms, Michigan

Interested in joining the Castle’s Train Club? We need new members. Joining the Club is free, plus you get an awesome Castle Farms Model Railroad T-shirt (also free!). Young or old, there’s no minimum or maximum age requirement to be a member of the Train Club. Be as involved as you want. The only thing required: bring your enthusiasm. You can run your own trains on the Castle tracks. Or, if you prefer to operate the Castle Farms layouts, that’s okay with us too. Plans are also in the works to provide Club members with the opportunity to build layout tables which connect to each other (making it easy to display them in winter and the off-season). The Castle will provide the blank HO-sized tables, plus all the necessary stuff (such as trains, track and scenery) to build your own layout. Pretty cool, right? We think so!

Chief Engineer Walter Johnson III… bringing the Castle’s Model Railroad to the next level. What does Walter have to say about all this? “All Aboard!”

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A Real Wedding Feature: Soft Colors and Snow

Ashley and Andy were married on February 28th in the King’s Indoor Chapel, and celebrated with a reception in the West Garden Room. It was a bright winter day, a perfect one to complement the soft color palette they chose for their décor. From their light pink and white floral arrangements to their beautiful cake adorned with tiny white sugar flowers on top of a stunning gold petal linen, their wedding helped us forget about the dark winter months and look forward to the sunshine and spring colors ahead!

Darrell Christie Photography Winter Wedding at Castle Farms
Darrell Christie Photography Winter Wedding at Castle Farms
Darrell Christie Photography Winter Wedding at Castle Farms

 

Darrell Christie Photography Winter Wedding at Castle Farms
Darrell Christie Photography Winter Wedding at Castle Farms
Darrell Christie Photography Winter Wedding at Castle Farms

Darrell Christie Photography Winter Wedding at Castle Farms

Vendor Applause:
Hair Salon: La Dolce Vita Salon
Clergy: Charlevoix Wedding Pastor Jonathan Mays
Photography: Darrell Christie Photography
Florist: Thyme Hill Designs
Entertainment: Rusch Entertainment
Catering and Bartending: BJ’s Restaurant, Rentals and Catering
Cake Design: Sugar Bean Bakery
Transportation: Mackinaw Trolley Company

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Cheers! To Bar Menus

Today we’re sharing a cute accessory to wedding décor that we see at Castle weddings every now and then: Bar menus! While not a necessity, bar menus are a fun addition and helpful to guests. They can list either all drinks available at the bar, or just specialty drinks. Bonus! Using bar menus gives you the opportunity to create fun and personal names for any drinks you’re serving. Do keep in mind that while shots can be a ‘go-to’ drink (with easy recipes and featuring fun names), shots typically aren’t allowed, depending on which bartending service you hire. No worries. It’s easy to convert a shot recipe into an ‘on-the-rocks’ drink with the same fun customization. Here are some photos of past bar menus we’ve seen to help you get inspired. P.S. We’re not responsible if your mouth starts to water and you want to try one of these delicious drinks!

Bar Menus at Castle FarmsBar Menus at Castle Farms

Bar Menus at Castle Farms
Bar Menus at Castle FarmsBar Menus at Castle Farms

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Winter Fun at Castle Farms

While the sometimes bitter cold temperatures of winter in Northern Michigan often keep us caught indoors, there’s still plenty to see and do on a visit to Castle Farms! Our gardens may be covered in snow, but our historical collections and unique items are ready to be explored. Today we’re highlighting a few of the things you can see while touring the Castle during the winter months:

Our historical collections are truly worth a visit. They vary from the finest of delicate china depicting European castles and royalty, to toys dating back to the 1900s. Some of the most interesting items will be found in our 1918 Museum, where you can view pieces that were available for sale in the original Sears catalog in the 1900s-1920s, plus historical artifacts and uniforms from WWI. The collections are on display throughout the entire property, making an interesting find for any guest.

European Castle Display at Castle Farms, Charlevoix MichiganAntique Toy Collection at Castle Farms, Charlevoix Michigan
After viewing the historical collections, children can pay a visit to Norm the Dragon and Sid the Sea Monster, who still guard their castle homes despite being surrounded by snow! In the King’s Grand Courtyard, our Four Garden Maidens look regal and inspiring against the winter white backdrop. And while the snow prevents you from entering the Hedge Maze, you can still see Bob the Bear peaking out over the top as he awaits springtime and the buzz of activity surrounding him once the Train Garden opens.

Toast to Literacy at Castle Farms
Can’t make it out for a winter self-guided tour? No worries! There are several events put on by the Castle and local organizations which are fun to attend. The Castle hosts Santa’s Train Wonderland, New Year’s Eve Modern Day Masquerade, and Snowman Story Time. Events such as the Charlevoix Hospital Foundation’s Holly Daze, Third Day Fellowship’s Winter Gala, Char-Em United Way’s Toast to Literacy, Rotary Club’s St. Patrick’s Day Party, Charlevoix Chamber’s Business Expo, Knights of Columbus’ Cash Party, or East Jordan High School Extravaganza are also hosted at the Castle. By coming out for an event, you can still enjoy part of what the Castle has to offer.Norm the Dragon at Castle Farms, Charlevoix Michigan

And if you don’t make it out for an event or don’t have time for a tour, our Gift Shop alone can make a trip to the Castle worth braving the cold. It holds jewelry, toys, games, books, clothing and accessories, and even kitchen and home accents! So, take some time inside to warm up, then come visit Castle Farms!

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He Gave up his Throne for Love

It’s one of the most famous love stories in history: King Edward VIII of England and Wallis Simpson, an American divorcee who caught the king’s eye and captured his heart. After years of courting the twice-divorced Wallis, Edward was deeply in love. Having taken the throne in January of 1936 upon his father’s death, Edward decided to marry Wallis and make her his Queen. He insisted to his advisors and leading British politicians that he and Wallis be allowed to marry. They refused Edward’s request, advising that his marriage to a commoner—especially a divorcee—would never be allowed. Forestalling the constitutional crisis that was looming, King Edward abdicated his throne on Dec. 10, 1936, in order to marry ‘the woman I love‘. Edward was King of England from January ~ December, 1936. He was never crowned.

Edward and Wallis Simpson married in June 1937. The couple, who were informed by Edward’s family following their marriage that they were not welcome in England, made their home in Paris. They developed friendships with many high-ranking members of the Nazi party. Edward and Wallis even socialized with Adolph Hitler. The British government feared that Edward and Wallis would become sympathizers with Nazi Germany. At the start of World War II, Edward was forced by the British government to take a position as Governor of the Bahamas, mostly to keep him far away from his German friends. Edward and Wallis spent the war years in the Bahamas. After the war, they returned to their home in Paris, where they lived until Edward’s death in 1972.

The royalty collections on display at Castle Farms include memorabilia honoring Edward and Mrs. Simpson, as well as other members of the British royal family. Taking a Castle tour allows your guests to enjoy viewing these and other fascinating collections during their visit to Castle Farms.

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Snowman Story Time A Success

Castle Farms Snowman Story TimeWe had a successful Snowman Wonderland Story Time at the Castle last Saturday, and we wanted to share the event with all of you! Though the snow didn’t cooperate for great snowman making, guests had lots of fun exploring the Castle decked out in all its winter splendor, while also enjoying interactive train displays, hot cocoa, and cupcakes by Cre8tive Cupcake of Charlevoix. When the activities concluded, children were invited to gather for story time, and listened raptly as five different snowmen stories were read. We were excited to have so many guests join us at Story Time despite the snow and cold. We’re looking forward to next year’s Snowman Story Time event!

 

Castle Farms Snowman Story TimeCastle Farms Snowman Story TimeCastle Farms Snowman Story TimeCastle Farms Snowman Story TimeCastle Farms Snowman Story TimeCastle Farms Snowman Story Time

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A Real Wedding Feature: ‘Burch’ Wedding!

As a fresh layer of snow falls on us today, we thought we’d think back to the warmer days of summer and feature this cute Castle wedding that took place at the end of June in the Knight’s Courtyard and Knight’s Castle. With the last name of Burch, Katelynn and Troy thought it only fitting to have a birch themed wedding! They cleverly incorporated birch tree branches into almost every aspect of their wedding: from seating card holders and table centerpieces to the cake and cupcake holder. The best part? Every decoration was hand cut and created by the bride, groom and their family! Take a look at these photos to see how crafty Katelynn and Troy were with their birch wedding decorations!

Paxton Photography at Castle Farms, Charlevoix MichiganPaxton Photography at Castle Farms, Charlevoix Michigan

Paxton Photography at Castle Farms, Charlevoix MichiganPaxton Photography at Castle Farms, Charlevoix Michigan

Vendor Applause:
Ceremony Musician and Reception Entertainment: A+ Event Entertainment
Photographer: Paxton Photography
Officiant: Reverend Ed Remaly
Catering and Bartending: BJ’s Restaurant, Rentals and Catering

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Newly Engaged? Now What?!

Paxton Photography at Castle Farms

Photo: Paxton Photography

Along with food, gifts, and time with family, the holidays often result in another joyous moment: proposals! And after you’ve taken the time to enjoy the celebration and share the engagement news with family and friends, you probably start to wonder “what do I do now?”. The wedding team here at Castle Farms, including our certified professional wedding planner Johanna Alexander, is happy to share tips for the first steps to take in your wedding planning journey!

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Color of the Year – Pantone’s Marsala!

Pantone recently released their 2015 Color of the Year – “Marsala”! This rich reddish-brown hue is a versatile color, especially for weddings. Pair it with black and white to create sleek elegance, or combine it with pastels and greens for a rustic theme. Here’s some Marsala wedding inspiration from past Castle Farms weddings and past designs by Castle Farms Wedding Planner, Johanna Alexander!

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A Real Wedding Feature: Rustic Elegance – A Fall Castle Wedding

Kaitlyn and Daniel were married at Castle Farms this past November, and we were so captivated, we just had to share their charming wedding photos! The couple combined tree branches with delicate roses, transforming their Queen’s Tavern ceremony and West Garden Room reception into the perfect combination of rustic and elegant. During the reception, guests had the opportunity to write “Notes of Advice” to the newlyweds. Wedding guests received favors of customized candles chosen personally by Kaitlyn and Daniel. Their fall wedding day was blessed with sunny weather, allowing for stunning photos and great fun for their friends, family and loved ones!


 


 


Vendor Applause
Hairstylist: Last Tangle Salon and Tanning
Clergy: Reverend Jonathan David Mays
Photographer, Videographer and Entertainment: Mike Staff Productions
Catering: BJ’s Restaurant, Rentals and Catering
Cake Designer: Cake Connection TC

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