By Bill Diem

In the 19th Century, Americans here and there around the country established Utopias, communities in which people would live cooperatively and without conflict by following a certain set of rules. One had been in Ohio, near my Boy Scout camp. Zoar was founded by German religious dissenters. Another was on the east shore of Lake Michigan, famous for its baseball team. None of these Utopias really worked out. Zoar lasted 80 years. That of the baseball team had a rule against having children.

However, Sylvie and I lived in a Utopia for a short week at the Fayette Historic State Park on the Garden Peninsula. It was wonderful. Campers in nearly all the 55 sites all got along. There was no loud music, and talking was subdued. No one set off fireworks. Cars drove slowly, even when there were no kids doing laps on bicycles. People leaving early in the morning left quietly.

We talked to our neighbors. A father and son going to the Oshkosh Air Show. Parents and two kids going home soon. Another father and son going to Oshkosh. We were invited to look in their campers, and they looked in ours. We were all admirative.

This Utopian community worked because everyone, without a word to each other, wanted the same nice time and acted the Golden Rule. There were no rangers enforcing rules. The only posted rule that was often ignored was the 6-foot leash on dogs. Every dog had a leash, but they were usually the kind that stretches. The dogs were all quiet and well trained, which is what we see in France.

Perhaps Fayette attracts calmer people. Many sites are small and uneven, and they attract tenters and small trailers for that reason. Only a few sites can even accommodate big motor homes. The ghost town that is Fayette is fun for kids, who play roles as they visit the doctor’s office, the school, the theater. The harbor is beautiful. I caught two small bass casting. There’s a nice boat launch for serious fishermen. The sand beach is great for swimming.

Not all parks are like this. We were in Brimley State Park a few years ago, and it was full of noise, smoke, and perturbations. Brimley is near a casino, which may account for the sort of folks who camp there and the sort of fun they like.

The calm and wonder of Fayette was not necessarily a U.P. thing. Our camping neighbors were from down below and Wisconsin. However, a big party we attended on the weekend near Curtis was a U.P. thing, and it was similar in feeling.

All the people, mostly from Marquette, were there sharing time and space with each other, and everyone knew the hosts, but not everyone knew each other. Children were everywhere, taking care of themselves, while parents cast an eye in their direction. Unlike Fayette, there was food and drink, much brought by the guests, and there was music and dancing in the sand.

The spirit of sharing and harmony from these two events wash warm thoughts of pride over me. America has a lot of challenges, but it also has people who can live well with each other, even if they have very different ideas about how a country should be run.