Full stomach ahead

By Allan I. Ross

Michigan Princess serves dinner and a show

Janice E. Joyce, “B” Hollywood movie star, has just boarded the ship with her manager, Ace Hamlin. We know she’s a movie star, because Hamlin announces her as one (“She was Dead Person No. 5 in ‘Titanic!’”), and because she has a celebrity stalker, who comes aboard shortly afterward and introduces herself as Nicole Purlington. The three of them ham it up in the middle of the dance floor, making sure to physically interact with the crowd of about 100 who have assembled for what is promised to be a murder mystery dinner. Joyce is presented with two feather boas and a choice of two glasses of water. She makes some oblique references to her sister in the other room, and then drops dead shortly after taking a cell phone call. And the game is afoot!

Or not, really. Hamlin and Purlington drag Joyce’s body out of the room, and then Capt. John Chamberlin strolls out to announce that dinner is on. First things first, it seems. This evening’s action is taking place on the Michigan Princess, an oldfashioned paddlewheel boat tethered to a dock in the Grand River. It’s all part of the boat’s summer weekend series, which includes Jimmy Buffett-themed parties, Big Band performances, disco-fests and blues cruises. “This is a fun thing for people in the Lansing area who want to try something new,” Chamberlin said. “We’ve got music, we’ve got dancing, we’ve got food, and we’re on the water — there’s no place like this. This is a great way for people to slow down and see the city in a completely new way.”

Chamberlin and his wife, Karla, used to own some pizza and sub shops before getting into the mini-cruise line of business. He works the steering wheel and the crowds, while she heads up galley duties with Debbie Taylor, the resident chef. Karla Chamberlin and Taylor coordinate the menu and work with groups who rent out the boat — like high school proms, weddings, and reunions — to customize the food to the audience. On this night, it’s a buffet-style Thanksgiving dinner, with turkey, vegetarian lasagna, veggies and plenty of starches. For other events, barbecue ribs, prime rib or chicken Florentine are available. Dinner cruise tickets for adults typically range from $35-$64. Some non-din ner cruises are available for as little as $15.

After dinner, the ship embarks on a slow trudge up and down a stretch of the Grand River between Grand River Park and the Waverly bridge. Hamlin, Purlington and Joyce — oops, I mean her twin sister Q.V. — come back out, and Inspector Youbet leads the audience in a game of 20 questions to pick out whodunit. And the culprit is … the twin sister Q.V., who had poisoned the cell phone! (What, no one uses a lead pipe anymore?) The audience erupts in applause, then everyone is dismissed to explore the ship. The boat has a liquor license too, and it just so happens that an ice-cold Corona goes quite well with a sunset on the Grand River. Just keep an eye on your drink if you set it down — it’s a little-known fact that iocane powder is odorless, tasteless, dis solves instantly in liquid, and is among the more deadlier poisons known to man.

The Michigan Princess. Docks at Grand River Park, about five minutes from Downtown Lansing. (517) 627- 2154. www.MichiganPrincess.com for a list of upcoming events.

New market

The South Lansing Community Farmers Market is now open at Benjamin Davis Park every Saturday through September. Last Saturday, the market officially kicked off, along with the introduction of a threequarter-mile paved path. From all early indications, it was a smashing success. “We had a full stream of people all day,” said Catie Parker, market manager and health initiative coordinator for the South Lansing Community Development Association. “This event means so much to the community, because it brings a variety of fresh vegetables to a part of the city that doesn’t have it. And starting soon, we’ll be able to accept food stamps for fresh produce. This is a fun place to be and a beautiful park.”

The market offers food from local farmers, as well as community growers and urban yard gardeners. It allows south Lansing residents to meet the people who are growing their food, learn about food preservation, shop for perennials and other plants and try new recipes. There’s also a children’s activity table to keep the young ones from getting restless. The market will expand its offerings of fruits and vegetables as they come into season, as well as other products, like dips and sauces, jams and jellies, honey, maple syrup, baked goods and soaps.

South Lansing Community Farmers Market. Benjamin Davis Park, 5614 Pleasant Grove Road (between Jolly and Miller). 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays, June through September