1969 Stein-Ling Circus

1981 25th Anniversary Float

1978 Key Stein Cops

Ontonagon's Stein Club: Friendship, Fun and Floats

The Ontonagon Labor Festival, held over Labor Day weekend every year since 1957, is the one, annual event that draws people from all over the county into Ontonagon, draws them together for celebration, socializing, dancing, and game-playing, rest and reminiscing. The population of this rural “Yooper” town of 2,000 residents doubles, and sometimes, triples in size during the festival.

What is a Yooper?

A Yooper is a person who was born and raised or survives at least one complete winter in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. - Wikipedia

The pinnacle of the weekend is the Labor Parade held on Sunday afternoon. Typical participants include area marching bands, firemen and loggers, boy scouts, military veterans, Miss Ontonagon County contestants, commercial floats, and the favorite “open division” floats. In the open division, community, non-profit organizations or individual families enter floats to compete for the top monetary prizes.

A non-profit men's organization called the Stein Club entered some of the parade's most memorable and popular floats. The Club entered its floats consistently from 1957 to 2000, and their multi-media creations often parodied facets of pop culture or depicted current events, both political and social, through the lens of the local “Yooper” culture.

The following on-line exhibition invites you into the Stein Club, introduces you to its members, their friendships and their amazing float-building activities.

My own personal interest in the floats is tri-fold. One, as an art education specialist, I am captivated by the visual expression and aesthetic character of the floats and with the collective and intergenerational process in which they are created. Secondly, as a native of Ontonagon, I am proud of my Yooper heritage and would like to share this little slice of upper midwestern culture with others. And finally, my father George Hoefferle, Uncles Jerry and Mick Hoefferle, and maternal Uncles Stanley and Carl Domitrovich all are or were faithful members of the Stein Club. I dedicate the hours of interviewing, transcribing, researching, writing and the organization of this exhibit to honor their friendships -- those long, loyal and sustaining friendships.