Da Yoopers Tourist TrapJim “Hoolie” DeCaire
About the Artist/Site
The term “Yooper” - a term derived from the initials U.P., for the Upper Peninsula – refers to the idiomatic English argot spoken by people of Finnish heritage in this remote area of Michigan. This site includes a souvenir shop, a rock museum, and a field of idiosyncratic sculptures and kitschy displays, all of which claim to be related to the local culture of Yooperism. Among the displays is a deer camp where the deer are the hunters throwing back beers and the hunters are strung up as prey, and a “Bicycle built for two old farts,” with the tandem bicycle five lengths apart so that the nagging wife can’t be heard by her husband. There is a Chiquito – the Yooperland state bird – that is a cross between a chicken and a mosquito: “in case of attack,” visitors are advised in Yooper-speak, “trow da wife at ‘um and run like hell.” There are signs and displays with a variety of bathroom humor that poke fun at farting, belching, and beer-drinking locals, as only a local could do.
Beyond the kitschy tourist displays are a series of sculptures made from found objects. A car sawed in half is painted in the colors of the Finnish flag and made into a love seat; a bird is created from garden implements; a yellow oil barrow serves as the body of a coyote-like creature. There is Big Gus, the 23-foot-long world’s largest working chainsaw; Big Ernie, at 35 feet long the world’s largest working rifle; Gravel Gertie, the largest motorized tricycle in Michigan (and maybe the world!); these, along with wacky vehicles bolted together from a variety of junked auto parts – including the “Yooper Assault Vehicle,” with a straw-stuffed mannequin sporting a helmet ornamented with deer antlers – are described by DeCaire as “Yoopervations,” idiosyncratic one-offs built on a base of financial necessity and the creativity that comes with imposed time indoors resulting from extended periods of inclement weather. A selection of chainsaw sculptures by local artist George Barasko also appears on the property.
Store hours vary by season, but most of the exterior sculptures and vehicles are always available for viewing.
~Jo Farb Hernández
Map & Site Information
490 Steel Street
Ishpeming, MI, 49849 us
Latitude/Longitude: 46.492295 / -87.697945
Green Bay, Wisconsin
Harbor Springs, Michigan
Maple City, Michigan