(C. Proxmire, Oct. 15, 2012)
Tucked away on the third floor of the Community Arts Building is a business that helps people get out and explore their world. Step on Tours is a charter bus tour company that focuses on offering a variety of interesting bus trips in Michigan and beyond.
Led by small business owner and tour guide Rose Szwed, Step on Tours takes people on all sorts of adventures. Tour selections vary, as Szwed “likes to keep it interesting” for herself and for her many repeat clients. “I enjoy doing the research and learning all I can before creating the tour packages. Some examples of tours she’s offered include: Farmers and Fugitives: Travel the Historic Route 2 of the Underground Railroad, Art in the Strangest Places, Michigan Military Maverick, Militia and Marshals, Polish Pierogies and Polkas, Amish Art and Culture, and Michigan’s Southwest Sacred Sites, Shrines and Sanctuaries.
On October 4 a tour went down to Colon, Michigan and Marshall, Michigan for a Magical Experience. Colon is known as the Magic Capital of the World, a reputation that began back in 1926 when famous magician Harry Blackstone, Sr, discovered the quiet lakeside town to vacation in. Magicians and theatre performers had summers off as there was no air conditioning in theatres and the heat would be unbearable for performers and viewers alike.
Another famous magician and ventriloquist named Percy Abbot visited Blackstone there and decided it would be the perfect place to open a magic shop. Since then Colon has been visited by famous magicians through the decades, and the Colon Cemetery is the chosen resting place of over 30 of them.
Fab Magic is one of the town’s long-standing magic shops. After a scenic bus ride through the changing color of Michigan’s trees, the group stopped at Fab first for a special magic show. Magician Rick entertained the group, which was mostly senior citizens, with illusions and humor. He even posted a blog about the visit on the Fab Magic website – http://fabmagic.blogspot.com/2012/10/a-smile-on-every-face.html.
After the show, a tour guide joined the bus. The gentleman was an actor representing the great Harry Blackstone, Sr. He led the group through the town, passing famous houses and magic shops, and taking the bus to the Colon Cemetery to see the famous graves. The next stop was the Colon Historical Museum, which is housed in an old church. The museum had many magic-related items, including old puppets, posters and props. There was also a fair amount of Native American contributions and military memorabilia.
Then was lunch at historic Schuler’s Restaurant in Marshall, and a tour of the American Museum of Magic. After a full day of magic-making, the group returned to the Ferndale area, happy and exhausted from the 12-hour-tour.
“I got started doing tours about twelve years ago,” Szwed said. “I was working at a company where I had to arrange one for our corporate visitors. We’d drive to different locations and I learned to make it fun and interactive for them. I really enjoyed it and decided to do it on my own.”
She chose Ferndale for her headquarters because she liked the central location and said she “couldn’t ask for a better landlord than Tom Pearlman,” owner of the Community Arts Building.
Szwed said that seniors tend to be her most common customers. The Oct. 4 trip had about 30 people, with clusters from the Troy Senior Center, the Red Hat Club of Warren, and several church groups. Others came on their own or with their partner or friends. Tours can be done a la carte, or groups can contact Step On Bus Tours for more private excursions. To find out more about this Ferndale-based business, check out http://www.steponbustours.com.