If the sign for “Free Admission – Free Bathrooms” doesn’t draw you in, the massive chain saw on the side of the road should make you brake at Da Yoopers Tourist Trap and Museum on US-41 in Ishpeming. The roadside attraction honors the unique character—real and imagined—of Upper Peninsula residents (U.P.-ers=Yoopers) through the humor and observations of those singing sensations, Da Yoopers.
Yah, sure, it was a big deal earlier this year when Merriam-Webster added the word “Yooper” to the dictionary. What took them so long? Da Yoopers, as in the gang from Ishpeming, have been on the scene since 1975 when Jim “Hoolie” DeCaire and Joe Potila poked fun at demselves and udder Yoopers an’ dere funny way of talkin’, you betcha. They made a big splash many moons ago with their comedy sketches and original tunes like “Second Week of Deer Camp,” “Rusty Chevrolet,” and “Smelting U.S.A.” Astronaut Jeffrey N. Williams, who hails from Wisconsin, took da CD “21st Century Yoopers in Space” to the International Space Station in 2006. Among their recordings Da Yoopers claim to have produced the only album in history consisting of original songs about farting. The title, if you’re interested, is “Songs for Fart Lovers.”
Yoopheads (die-hard fans) appreciate the bizarre humor that drives the guys behind You Guys Records, but the sometimes risque and/or crude lyrics aren’t for everyone. Dat’s okay too, eh? Dere’s more to Da Yoopers than their musical genius. Dere’s dat Tourist Trap in Ishpeming consisting of a giant gift shop and two museums, one indoors and one out outdoors—kind of like The Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village (in Dearborn, Michigan), only different. The indoor museum is a showcase for Hoolie’s longtime hobby: rock and mineral collecting. The rockhound picks throughout Michigan’s Copper Country and mining areas near his native Ishpeming, as well as in Arizona, and displays and sells specimens in The Rock Knockers shop. The Tourist Trap store carries “Say yah to da U.P., eh! bumper stickers, caps, T-shirts and gag and novelty items—naughty and nice, as well as a selection of quality gifts, books and music by U.P. artists, cribbage boards, and Yooper flags.
Step outside and spend some time at the outdoor museum exhibits such as Da-2-Holer, an outhouse with a Yooper dummy sitting on the top of two “toilets” stacked vertically instead of the more traditional side-by-side arrangement, and two Guinness World Records-approved items:
- Big Ernie, the world’s largest working rifle at 33’4″ long, which has fired a duct tape-wrapped rock 2.5 miles
- Big Gus, the world’s largest operating chain saw, built by ironworkers for the July 4 parade in Onaway, Michigan. When the 22’11″ long, V-8 engine-powered “Big Gus” was installed on a cement pad outside of Da Yoopers store, “Close to a thousand people showed up, watched the chain go around, and went home,” recalls Lynn Bellmore, singer and keyboardist and business partner of Da Yoopers.
The latest addition is a contender for the largest motorized tricycle in Michigan.
Last time I was in the area it was about quittin’ time at the store so I just drove through the parking lot, admiring the displays. I stopped to take a picture of dummy sitting in a sawed off car labeled “Finnish Love Seat” and he started to move and talk to me. No, Da Yoopers hadn’t gone Disney, and this was no ordinary dummy. It was Jim DeCaire himself, watching the traffic on US 41 roll by and thinking about rocks. I got the impression that he’d really rather be poking around the countryside looking for chunks of copper, red jasper and other treasures. But there he sat, surveying Da Yooper kingdom. Check out the Yooperville U.S.A. section of Da Yoopers website and the Yoopers Hall of Fame, which sincerely recognizes “People who grew up or lived in Marquette County – Yooperland, Michigan and went on to realize their dreams!” It’s right there with Yooper Hunting and Fishing Tales and pictures of “butt naked Yooper dudes in 20 below weather” as they jump into icy water and ride snowmobiles across a frozen lake. Don’t say I didn’t warn you, eh! Da Yoopers Tourist Trap US-41, Ishpeming, Michigan (906) 485-5595 (800) 628-9978 Located in Area E of the map Visitor Info Clicks: Marquette Upper Peninsula Pure Michigan All stories and photos copyright Kath Usitalo unless otherwise noted