Marsha Braun started her career at Castle Farms in 2006, though tours of the Castle had not yet officially begun. Construction workers were still on site, patching mortar and finishing up jobs. There was no Gift Shop (it wouldn’t be built until the following year). Lots of people who stopped by at the Castle were just curious, and wanted to take a look around. Marsha, a retired school teacher / high school guidance counselor, worked in the King’s Gallery selling postcards off a card table. She greeted people visiting the Castle, handing out bottles of water, selling the postcards, and answering questions. All those questions piqued her desire to learn more about the Castle. Soon Marsha was spending hours at the Charlevoix Historical Society, researching the Castle’s history, making copies of newspaper articles, plus pictures and photos referencing the time periods of each of the four different owners.
As visitors increased, Marsha became more involved with both the Castle and the Historical Society. Steeped in the Castle’s history, she assisted in helping develop a tour route and map which guests could use to guide themselves around the Castle. When the Castle’s then-Gift Shop/Tour Director approached Marsha with the idea of working with Circle Michigan to develop charter coach bus tours, Marsha was on board. Drawing on the premise of Mackinaw being the #1 tour destination in Michigan, they marketed tours as an ‘easy add-on’ for groups coming into Michigan. The result: the popular ‘Castles, Cruises & More’ package for tour operators, offering a full day Charlevoix package, including a tour of the Castle, a boat cruise on Lake Charlevoix, and a step-on city tour of the famed Earl Young Mushroom Houses. As charter coach bus tour operators began to take advantage of the offer, Castle Farms gained in popularity. Marsha was delighted to see tour numbers and traffic steadily increase.
“The Castle continues to evolve,” Marsha says. “It’s pretty remarkable to be able to remember the way it was, and to witness the level of success it’s reached today.” A winter snowbird, she has the luxury of returning each spring to find something new and different at the Castle. “I’m constantly amazed when I come back after the winter months and see the Castle with fresh eyes. It’s simply stunning.”
From her years spent as the Castle’s first and only tour guide, Marsha offers guests something she likes to call ‘Edu-tainment’. This former teacher loves sharing the beautiful property and its history, and she’s not above throwing in a few jokes along the way to make things entertaining. She wants people to come and have a good time at the Castle. “The best thing about being at the Castle is having fun with the guests,” she says. “It’s amazing to see their reaction when they walk into the King’s Great Hall for the first time, and take in the magnitude, the size and scope of the property.” Marsha has seen tremendous change in the Castle since she started in 2006. “There are now seven tour guides, and I think that’s a positive.” The biggest change? “Definitely the grounds,” she says. “The maturity of the gardens and the south lawn, with the addition of the King’s Grand Courtyard Garden, is breathtaking. Linda Mueller truly has captured the essence of a French Chateau.”
And Marsha should know. During the off-season, this educated and well-seasoned traveler loves spending time with her husband on jaunts around the world. One of their favorite places to visit? Castles!