The Strand to offer hayride tour of Sister Lakes

SISTER LAKES — The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has forced businesses across the country to be creative and think outside the box, and The Strand Brewery and Restaurant is no different.

The Strand, 93415 County Road 690, Dowagiac, announced on its Facebook page plans to offer a hayride tour of the Sister Lakes area this winter. The restaurant is looking for a tractor, a hay trailer and possibly someone to drive it.

Owner Matthew Weil said the idea was the result of a brainstorming session he had with his team regarding the future of the restaurant, which has experienced a 40 percent decline in sales in recent weeks.

“We live in chaotic times,” Weil said. “Things are pretty miserable. We were trying to figure out what we were going to do. We thought about closing down due to the restrictions. We needed to come up with things to offer to the public, and we wanted to utilize the beauty of Sister Lakes and stay within CDC guidelines.”

That is when the idea of a trail ride was floated, and Weil jumped on it.

“I rent a house on Little Crooked Lake,” Weil said. “We decided to do a hayride tour because this is a beautiful area and the roads aren’t busy. We wanted to get people included, talk about local history like the Dewey Lake Monster, local orchards, Round Lake and what’s going on in the area. The goal is to attract people and get them out of the house. They can have some beer on the trip and maybe they will come in and eat at The Strand after.”

Nothing has been set in stone, but Weil envisions a 35-minute hayride trip around the lakes Saturdays from noon to 6 p.m., costing $10 to $15 per person. The trailer will provide heat for customers to stay warm, with hot chocolate and cider available as well as beer and wine for patrons over the age of 21. Depending on the success of the endeavor, Weil would like to expand into Sundays from noon to 6 p.m. and possibly Fridays, from 3 to 6 p.m.

“We’re looking for family history, cabin history and local community history to put into our ride,” Weil said. “We’ll have a speaker on the trailer so the person driving will be able to give fun facts about the area, like how big each lake is and so on.”

According to Weil, he has already heard back from interested parties regarding the tractor and hay trailer and added that he has a trailer being built that is a few weeks from completion.

“We’re looking for someone to be part of the team,” he said. “You will be paid for the shift. We’ll give you a meal and maybe a beer after your shift.”

Weil hopes the project can give his restaurant a boost in revenue amid uncertain times.

“I thank everyone for the support,” he said. “We will be following CDC guidelines. We hope people will take in the beautiful scenery here. I understand the severity of the pandemic, but I don’t think people should cower in fear in their homes. We can enjoy Sister Lakes in a safe and exciting way.”

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