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Michigan Heritage Awards

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Photo of Henry Engelhard with a Bay Port Fish Sandwich
Photo by Mary Whalen

Photo of a Bayport Fish Sandwich Festival t-shirt
Photo by Mary Whalen

Henry Engelhard
2000 awardee, Bay Port (Huron County), originator, supporter, and promoter of Bay Port Fish Sandwich Festival

Bay Port is a small community in Michigan's "Thumb" located on the shores of Saginaw Bay on Lake Huron. Bay Port's story is centered on fish and fishing, and one of the key persons in this story has been Henry Engelhard. He was "Mr. Bay Port." His entire life, until his death in 2001, was dedicated to the promotion of Bay Port and Bay Port fish.

In 1978 Henry and Edna Engelhard established the Bay Port Fish Sandwich Festival to attract visitors and friends to the town. They had been making and selling this very popular sandwich off and on since 1949. When the Bay Port Chamber of Commerce needed a fundraiser to promote Bay Port, Henry saw "the potential for the fish sandwich" with the boatloads of fish brought into the harbor daily.

Every August, the entire community comes together, presenting Bay Port and its attractions to visitors. The fish sandwich is the prime attraction. Mullet (herring was first used) is dipped in a secret batter, fried crisp, and served on a long bun with ketchup and mustard. Although not traditional, tartar sauce is also available. According to Henry, the fish should overlap the bun and the sandwich should be so large "it takes two hands to hold it." All day, the lines in front of the sandwich stand are long. It is not unusual to sell 12,500 sandwiches to people from as far away as Florida and the northeast.

Henry was the festival's primary inspiration, energy, supporter, and promoter. He wrote many stories regaling the fish sandwiches' power to please and to heal. Through his efforts, the festival has been featured on the Today Show, 20/20, and in many national magazines and newspapers. In recognition of their contribution to the Fish Sandwich Festival, Henry and Edna (she died in 1992) were honored as "Mr. and Mrs. Bay Port." Henry once said about the festival that it has been "the greatest thing for the town of Bay Port. What makes me happy . . .is we made use of an under-utilized species." (1)

(1) Engelhard, Henry. Personal communication with Yvonne Lockwood. 1997.

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