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Double JJ Ranch & Rothbury Experience

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1:55 p.m. Feb. 16

I first visited the Double JJ Ranch in Rothbury, Mich. in November, 2006. The historic ranch was a gentle, rural escape from the madness of Muskegon, 25 miles south. I returned with my girl friend on New Year's Eve 2007 to find a new indoor water park and pizza parlor. The vibe was sort of Wisconsin Dellsy. We avoided soggy kids and came away impressed with the ranch's New Year's Eve fireworks show.
But now this?
ROTHBURY--a sustainable camping festival that features the Dave Matthews Band, Jakob Dylan & the Gold Mountain Rebels, Primus, Snoop Dogg, John Mayer and more than 60 other acts (www.rothburyfestival.com) is scheduled to be held July 3-6 around the ranch. Its like Burning Man for the Heartland. Besides the music, there's daily yoga sessions (one with Michael Franti & Spearhead) face painting and DJ master classes. Nearly 50,000 people are expected to attend and there's camping available on 300 acres of land that surround the ranch.
I'd check out Conscious Alliance's effort to get into the Guinness Book of World's Records for the "World's Largest Canned Food Sculpture," which will also generate 40,000 cans of food to be donated locally. The sculpture will be on exhibit all weekend. So if you're planning to go to ROTHBURY or some more tranquil time here's the backstory on the JJ Ranch, whose name is derived from Jack & Jill. Or now its Jack and Jerry as in Garcia....
This edited story appeared in the Nov. 26, 2006 edition of the Chicago Sun-Times:

ROTHBURY, Mich. -- The folks at the Double JJ Ranch & Golf Resort in wild western Michigan rope you in with the tagline "Outside the Ordinary."
Where do I sign up?
The 2,000-acre resort north of Muskegon celebrates its 70th anniversary next year. It features heated log cabins, hotel rooms, horses, three lakes and a natural cranberry bog.......


....The resort opened as the Jack & Jill Ranch and has been a getaway for generations of Chicagoans, including George "Cheers" Wendt. Late country singer Waylon Jennings stopped at the Double JJ to get
off the road.
I'm a dude who had never heard of this ranch.
But I knew this would be an unusual experience when I arrived at the ranch. I was lost. Sheriff Glen Pine approached my car singing Tom Paxton's "Can't Help Wondering Where I'm Bound." Well, he was
playing the role of a sheriff. He wore midnight black sunglasses and his baritone had the bottom of an empty wishing well. Pine turned out to be a former Chicago folk singer who appeared at Cal's Corrall at 78th and Ashland in Chicago, run by country singer Cal Starr.
Rothbury (population 438) is a mile-square town, only six miles east of Lake Michigan. It is definitely outside of ordinary and inside of nowhere.
In 1988 Detroiters Bob and Joan Lipsitz purchased the adults-only Double JJ dude ranch. They partnered with Wally Wojack, a 79-year-old Canton, Ohio, businessman who had been coming to the
ranch since 1950. The trio added a golf course and a family ranch. The Double JJ has been family owned for its entire 70 years.
This weekend the resort debuts its New Frontier complex that includes a 60,000-square-foot mining-themed indoor water park with a 57-foot-high water slide -- the tallest water slide in Michigan
-- a wave pool, interactive waterfall, row bridges and a family raft ride.
I can't wait to see Govt. Mule on the water slide during ROTHBURY weekend.
"We were the largest winter resort in the country that didn't have an indoor pool," Bob Lipsitz said over coffee at the resort's Sundance Saloon & Steakhouse. "Now we've gone way over the top."
The ranch also offers sleigh rides, a snow-tubing hill, cross-country skiing and horseback riding. The ranch makes its own snow for the tubing hill and snowboarding. Call ahead if there is snow on the ground because the ranch tends to fill up.
There is also daily horseback riding in the winter. The ranch houses 140 horses (110 private, 30 public), and equestrians can bring their own horses. The trail leads to Lake Michigan and people
can ride horses in the lake. The Double JJ is one of the largest horse resorts in America.
The ranch also has 120 new condominiums available for nightly rental along with 32 hotel rooms. The ranch is west Michigan's only four-season full-service resort. There's even a convention center that has hosted Kodak and Motorola out of Chicago. When the Double JJ Starbucks opens this weekend, I
bet it will be west Michigan's only Starbucks.
The ranch was founded by Michigan farmer Joseph Stousch and his wife Mary. The operation was taken over in 1939 by their sons George and Bob Storm, who were based in Chicago but owned a livery
in Whitehall, Mich. "They'd bring horses out for the weekend and the kids would ride horses through the cherry trees," said Wojack, the ranch's resident historian. "The ranch was named Jack and Jill in honor of those little kids. George and Bob also wanted a name that was more Americanized, which is how Stouch became Storm."
Wait. It gets better.
George's wife was a singer who went by the name Sunny Storm.
During the 1960s and '70s there were Double JJ Clubs in Chicago and the suburbs. "The first club was in Chicago," Wojack said. "At one time Chicago had 950 members. Cleveland, Detroit and Indianapolis
also had clubs. The ranch had no offical connection with the clubs. It stayed the Jack and Jill Ranch until 1973 when it became the Double JJ."
Lipsitz added, "In the early days a bus would take people from Chicago and Detroit into the Greyhound station in Rothbury. A horse and wagon would pick them up and bring them here. They had barn dances on Saturday night and the guys would line up on the road to be screened to dance with the girls. Up until the 1980s our population was 70 percent female. It wasn't necessarily 70 percent single female. The guys were going golfing outside of town. The women were riding horses on the ranch. When we built the golf course in '93, we started attracting more couples. We still have the gals weekend without the guys -- and the guys weekend without the gals."
And when there's lots of guys and gals there soon will be kids.
"In '98 we built the Back Forty ranch," said Lipsitz, while looking out a window at a dense grove of pine trees. The Back Forty has 41 family cabins, 23 log homes and kids-only 10-bunk log cabins, Conestoga wagons and tepees.
"Basically we provide grandma and the adults can go play," Lipsitz said. Men's Journal rated the Thoroughbread 18-hole championship golf course as one of the 10 most challenging courses in America. The course was built in the dune ridges, which account for its rolling hills. The rock band Hootie and the Blowfish has stopped in to play golf at the ranch.
Lipsitz is not a cowboy, nor is he a Double JJ veteran. He had been to the ranch only once before he became owner. His intention was to start a boys camp. "The land and the tradition was too valuable for that," he said. "I was in the kid's recreation business and at first ended up with adults here. But I've always appreciated horses and I rode horses as a teen." The Double JJ even presents public rodeos from id-May until mid-September.
Lipsitz, 51, builds the buildings and his wife decorates the interiors. He never hired an outside contractor until the water park/entertainment center expansion. The restaurant chandeliers are
adorned with the Double JJ logo and they are are made by the anch's blacksmith. The steakhouse seats 170 with panoramic views of the golf course and wildlife that includes bluejays, fox and hungry wild turkeys.
Nighttime activity on the ranch currently includes a small bar at the Sundance Steakhouse and the Silver Dollar Saloon on the shores of Big Wildcat Beach. (The bar is seasonal; it will reopen in May.) "We're western," Lipsitz said. "The Double JJ has a 70-year tradition of being a ranch. We want to keep that feel. Glen Pine has worked for all four owners. Where do you find that? This is history."

DIRECTIONS: By horse or car, from Chicago, take Interstate 94 east to Benton Harbor, Mich. Travel north on U.S. 31 and take the Winston Road/Rothbury exit east to Water Road, then turn left (north). The Back Forty is on the right (east) side; the Double JJ Ranch is just beyond that. Continue one more mile to reach the Thoroughbred Golf Club and Conference Center.
CONTACT: For more information, visit www.doublejj.com or call (800) 368-2535.

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10 Comments

HHHHHHHHHHHHHHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII
dave
from Jess
p.s. Angel says hi

Jessica will love the horses at this place.
Just don't go July 4th weekend,
Love,
Dave

This is the NEw Bonnaroo... what Bonnaroo used to be.

www.rothfest.com for free forums.

What Bonnaroo used to be? You mean an overpriced corporatist event veiled as a an environmentally friendly socialist event? On top of a $250 ticket that gets you into a decent lineup you get a small plot to set up a tent, port-a-potties that will inevitably be overused, over priced food, no free water, numerous asinine rules that will no doubt be enforced by power hungry gym rats who most can't perform long division, along with swat teams ready in the wait, and every hick on the west side of the state deputized and armed with tasers?

All this doesn't even include the pro-corporatist (farcical) global warming cultist discussions that are slated to happen. Lets tax everyone because they produce carbon! Yipppeeee! We will save the earth! Not a single person at this festival will realize that the taxes that they promote will likely end up in the coffers of a financially irresponsible corporation that produces REAL pollution (not carbon dioxide) but must be saved because they provide 500 minimum wage jobs. Maybe the extra tax dollars from carbon taxes can pay for the Exxon Valdez cleanup that Exxon-Mobile is trying to get out of. Better yet maybe the poor and working class can pay carbon taxes and offsets so that we can fight MORE WARS!

I worked at the Double JJ for four summers in the '70s and '80s. I last visited in 2000. I would rather hang out for a beer in the Rothbury Tap and dig Johnny Buick and the Roadmasters than sit on a blanket in the sun and listen to act after act of noisy pop music. But I hope the event is fun for the participants. The fine folks of Rothbury have never witnessed such a convergence on their village, so I hope they're ready for the hoopla and for picking up the trash left behind. All in all, I am glad I was there when I was there when it was all much simpler and smaller. But that's just me.

Infobury.com is a message board created by fans of the Rothbury Festival. Chat, post pictures and videos, listen to recordings and get ready for Rothbury 2009!

I attended the Rothbury Music Festival and it was an epic experience. I know the 50,000 people that attended left satisfied, I know that every person wishes that the Double JJ Ranch had the money to throw it together again next year! All the comments I read were all bad. It is a beautiful place, and on July 4th it was filled with more magic and love than I have ever felt in my entire life.

and were back in business for 09 see you all there again soon

I just saw a notice about the Rothbury music festival. I was one of those guys who used to line up outside for the Saturday night barn dances at the jack and Jill Dude Ranch in 1962-64. We would drive up from Grand Rapids. It was a great time in a different era.

Rothbury 2008 has been the best music festival I have as of yet attended. I suspect it will only be topped by 2009's amazing line up. After having spent four intense days there last year (unlike Mr. Angus, I learned the difference between a festival with a heart and a festival that's gone down hill. The first difference that I noticed about Roth was that I got to park my own car. I didn't have some volunteer directing me into a predetermined slice of grass. My camp was as big as I made it.Food and drinks were comparably priced to other festivals, large and small. Water was provided free at refilling stations located across the property. Since the crowd was half the size of Bonnaroo I found it fairly easy to walk up and see a headliner from the front rows without having to wait in the hot summer sun for 8 plus hours (as many did to see Pearl Jam last year at Roo). I didn't have any encounters with negative persons who felt that they have some type of superior right. Unlike at Roo I was never shoved, or had two hundred people all of a sudden cut in front of us in line. Everybody goes to the festivals they like because of headliners and atmosphere. People who are interested in spending four days in peace and harmony with each other, looking to see bands put on amazing shows at an amazing venue, and treating people and the earth with respect will go to Rothbury. Douche Bags can go to their douch bag fests. Thus everyone is happy.
Here's to an even more unbelievable fourth of July in 2009!
To purchase 2 or 4 day tickets please be sure to visit Rothbury.com. To talk anything Rothbury, see pictures, watch videos, help with charitable causes, and make new friends be sure to visit rothfest.com.
Peace and Happy Rothbury 2009!!

in 1966 i graduated high school and my parents sent me to Jack and Jill Ranch. as a small town girl I had the best time ever! we sand around the camp fire,road horses, canoed,archery,swam ,had a boat race,and a good time on the beach. I fell in "love" with a man named Frisco who never knew i was there! we bunked in bunk houses and i cried when it was time to go home. what a precious memory you have given me in my senior years.thank you and may you continue to give memories to more young people.

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Dave Hoekstra

Dave Hoekstra has been a Chicago Sun-Times staff writer since 1985. His collection of Sun-Times travel columns, "Ticket To Everywhere," was published in 2000 by Lake Claremont Press. He was lead writer for "Farm Aid: Song for America" (Rodale Press, 2005) which commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Willie Nelson inspired effort.
He won a 1987 Chicago Newspaper Guild Stick O-Type Award for Column Writing. Hoekstra wrote and co-proudced the WTTW-Channel 11 PBS special: "The Staple Singers and the Civil Rights Movement," nominated for a 2001-02 Chicago Emmy for a documentary program/cultural significance.
He lives in Chicago.

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