The Turtle Race Tradition

By Jean Alexander, Great Lakes Energy member. Jean enjoys sports, nature and going “up north” to Michigan as often as possible.


Every summer since 1986 our family travels to Six Mile Lake cottage for a week of simple, but magical, lakefront family fun and an interesting tradition—Turtle Races. The morning of departure from Indiana brings together: three sisters, one niece, four nephews, and grandma. Loading the car is always a hoot, as we fit suitcases, extra food, linens, treats for the trip, and even bicycles. The usual eight or nine passengers somehow all fit in, too.

What fun upon arrival it is assigning beds, cots and blow up mattresses.

Our lakefront offers a playground with sand, boats, a dock, badminton, floats, fishing rods, and a shallow lake. Days are spent fishing, swimming, floating on rafts, baseball games, catching crawdads, laughter, and days of splendid family togetherness.

Of course, one day is always chosen for the famous “Turtle Races.”

We scout for turtles along the lakeshore, spray paint the start and finish lines and assign everyone a turtle. Each turtle is then named. We hold many races—some long races, some short runs, “a sprayed box-shaped form” where turtles go in all directions to cross lines and continue racing has even been created by grandma for the day.

The longest and last race always ends with turtles racing back into the lake, and we bid our turtles goodbye. Our adventure then culminates with prizes being awarded to all the winning “turtle coaches.”

Each summer we are reminded how strange it is that turtles never seem to move in a straight path, but wander around going nowhere specific except to the water.

But, hopefully, next year we will each get a better, bigger and wiser turtle.