SOUTH HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — Some South Haven businesses have started offering red flag day specials — deals to incentivize families to visit them rather than Lake Michigan when conditions are dangerous.
Red flags were flying up and down the lakeshore Wednesday as wind gusts churned up large waves. A week prior, rough conditions led to the drowning of a 7-year-old Texas boy and 33-year-old Ohio man in South Haven.
“After what happened last week in town, we decided to do something,” Meredith Sherrod, who owns The Lodge restaurant, said. “Today, we’re doing a dollar off kids’ meals and a dollar off appetizers.”
She said the deals will change each red flag day, though the motivation will remain the same.
“People just need to be careful,” she said. “…They come here on vacation, they kick their shoes off and they think nothing is going to happen to them. But (Lake Michigan is) dangerous. It’s basically an ocean. They hear the word lake and they think that they can swim in it no matter what.”
Across town, the newly opened Mitten Children’s Museum was offering a buy one, get one free ticket for kids and their parents to “give families an alternative to swimming at the beach when it’s not safe,” Executive Director Wendi Onuki said. The museum is also building out its Great Lakes Room to educate families through play.
“We really wanted to focus on water safety for children and their families, for those who live here and those who are visiting who just might not be aware of how dangerous the lake can be,” Onuki said.
Beachgoers are reminded to stay out of the water when red flags are flying. You may be ticketed if you ignore orders to get out of the lake — South Haven police issued at least a dozen such tickets Wednesday, each carrying a $1,000 fine.
If you do find yourself in trouble in the water, remember to ‘flip, float, follow’: Flip onto your back to catch your breath, float to calm down and conserve energy, then follow a path back to safety that will not force you to fight the current.
The Lodge and the museum hope their specials will become a trend and that others will get on board.
“There’s plenty of things to do in this town that don’t involve the water,” Sherrod said. “So when the conditions aren’t perfect for the water, we have to get the word out there about all the other great things that they can do when they’re here.”