Margaret Beery offers up Interlochen history and a smile

On quiet days during the summer, if you walk along the pathways coursing through the Interlochen campus, you may catch sight of a slowly trolling golf cart, laden perhaps with a passenger or two, and piloted by a silver-haired, blue-eyed Interlochen institution: Margaret Beery.

Margaret gives the rolling tours here at Interlochen, taking visitors, guests, locals, parents and students on guided expeditions of the campus and its elaborate past. She speaks lovingly of each and every building, bringing to life Interlochen’s history with incredibly in-depth background and little-known insight. Give Margaret 60 minutes, and she’ll give you nine decades of fascinating facts.

Her title now is Coordinator of Campus Tours, but her own history with Interlochen stretches back a good 18 years, beginning with her work in Admissions in 1998. As a Green Vest Volunteer, she began working in the Information Booth in 2007, and became Coordinator in 2010. But no matter what her name tag may say, she still believes she has one main job. “I feel that it’s my job to get people to love Interlochen as much as I do,” she says with a trademark smile.

“You’d be surprised how many people, even in this area of Michigan, don’t really know the scope and the importance of this place,” she adds. And that importance goes back to before the Academy and Camp were even built, with Margaret happy to share stories and trivia from the historic “pre-Interlochen” years right up to the present day. She talks warmly about every nook and cranny of our campus, describing long-gone buildings or explaining the growth of Kresge Auditorium with such color and flavor that you feel you’re watching a movie about it.

“There’s a lot to talk about!” she admits. “Interlochen’s more than just a camp or a school. There’s no place else like it, really.” Her affinity for Interlochen comes from a deep connection to this entire area, and from its connection to her own life. “My mom sang in the first festival choir here,” she remembers, “and all three of my children have been campers and have had jobs here. In fact, my father-in-law was the head cook in the (Stone) Hotel in 1952.”

Her husband, John, worked here, too, first as a floor mopper in 1955 and more recently as Curator of the Greenleaf Collection from 1991 to 2013, with many of the collection’s rare instruments now showcased in the Fennell Music Library (Read more about the Greenleaf Instrument Collection). “I was also in charge of the archives,” says John, “and I was able to save a great many historic photographs when they had been stored in the basement of the Scholarshop.” So in love with the area are these two that they actually honeymooned here, camping close by.   

“This is a special place,” smiles Margaret, “and I just love telling people about it.”

So if you find yourself walking campus and wondering when the practice huts were built or how the Opera Field got its name, do yourself a favor. Go straight to the Information Booth and ask for Margaret. And bring some popcorn.

—Scott Miller, Editor & Copywriter, Interlochen Center for the Arts