Fudge Capital of the World - Mackinac Island (2024)

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Ten thousand pounds! That’s how much world-famous Mackinac Island fudge gets handcrafted daily during peak tourism season. Five tons of fudge every day!

All that fudge begs the question: How did little ole Mackinac Island become such a huge producer of the sweet treat?

The History of World-Famous Mackinac Island Fudge

The history goes back more than 100 years and features hard-working entrepreneurs whose creativity and showmanship turned Mackinac Island’s fledgling candy industry into a multi-million-dollar global phenomenon, according to Phil Porter, author of “Fudge: Mackinac’s Sweet Souvenir.” Here are some highlights:

  • As Mackinac Island evolved from a center of fur trade into a summer resort destination, Victorian-era vacationers began to identify the island with sweets. At first, the most common candy was maple sugar harvested by Native Americans. Other treats, including fudge, soon followed. “The idea of enjoying sweets while on vacation was rapidly becoming part of the Mackinac Island tourist experience,” Porter writes.

  • In the 1880s the Murdick family came to Mackinac Island and opened the first real candy store. Not only did the store sell candy, but it gave visitors a chance to see the sweets made right in front of them. Rome Murdick was the first person on Mackinac Island to make fudge on marble slabs, which gave the product a unique flavor and created a show for customers. He realized that the process of making Mackinac Island fudge was just as important as the fudge itself.

  • Mackinac Island fudge-making became a public event where Murdick and emerging competitors demonstrated their craft, mixing ingredients in a kettle and using wooden paddles to stir them. After heating the mix to about 230 degrees, they poured it onto a marble slab and worked the liquid into solid fudge as it cooled and hardened. “Here the theatrically-inclined fudge man could really put on a show,” Porter writes. “He allowed the gooey mass to nearly ooze off the side of the slab. Mesmerized visitors gasped in delight as he swept along the edge with his long-handled trowel and folded the mouth-watering candy back into the center of the table.”

  • Mackinac Island Fudge had ups and downs during the first half of the 20th century, amid two world wars and the Great Depression. Faced with sugar rations and declining tourism, some of the island’s fudge shops closed. To drum up business, Rome Murdick and his son, Gould, used the kitchen-cooling fans to blow the scent of fudge into the street. “Gould even went so far as to pour vanilla flavoring into a bubbling cauldron of candy,” Porter writes. “The vanilla instantly dissolved, adding no flavor to the fudge but creating a sweet-smelling aroma that wafted into the street to lure unsuspecting passers-by.”

  • After World War II, the country’s economy took off and the expanding interstate highway system made it easier than ever for people to visit Mackinac Island. Fudge shops proliferated, and by the 1960s the island’s visitors were known as “fudgies.” Shops experimented with new flavors of fudge and worked to make Mackinac Island synonymous with the treat. “Fudge was not invented at Mackinac, but it was here that a particular style of fudge gained great popularity that spread across the nation,” Porter writes.

Fudge on Mackinac Island Today

Today, there are 13 fudge shops on Mackinac Island, and they’re making so much fudge that the island imports 10 tons of sugar per week! Sampling Mackinac Island fudge remains one of the favorite activities of visitors, with chocolate being the most popular (although when President Gerald R. Ford came to Mackinac Island in 1975 he opted for vanilla pecan.)

Whether you visit Mackinac Island on National Fudge Day in June or any other day – maybe during the Mackinac Island Fudge Festival in August – come find your favorite flavor and experience the fudge capital of the world!

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Fudge Capital of the World - Mackinac Island (2024)

FAQs

Why is Mackinac Island famous for fudge? ›

In the 1880s the Murdick family came to Mackinac Island and opened the first real candy store. Not only did the store sell candy, but it gave visitors a chance to see the sweets made right in front of them.

Why is Mackinac Island so famous? ›

Readers adore Mackinac Island's car-free roads full of horse-drawn carriages and bicycles, the island's historic sites including Fort Mackinac and the outdoor recreational activities you can enjoy in Mackinac Island State Park. More reasons why USA Today recognized Mackinac Island: World famous Mackinac Island fudge.

Where is the fudge capital of America? ›

Mackinac Island, between Michigan's Upper and Lower Peninsulas, is the self-proclaimed "Fudge Capital of America." The car-free oasis has more than a dozen fudge shops. During the summer, fudge-loving tourists (affectionately called "fudgies") flood the island.

Where is the best fudge in the world? ›

Mackinac Island Fudge – The Best Fudge on Earth.

What celebrities own property on Mackinac Island? ›

Do any celebrities live on Mackinac Island? Yes, celebrities have houses on Mackinac Island. A few are actor Vince Vaughn, Director Ron Howard, and Michigan's own Bob Seger.

Who owns most of Mackinac Island? ›

While all of Mackinac Island, the landform, is located within the corporate limits of the City of Mackinac Island, today 82 percent of the island's landmass is owned by the State of Michigan and managed by the Mackinac Island State Park Commission (MISPC).

How long is Mackinac fudge good for? ›

How long is Mackinac fudge good for? Fudge is a perishable delight, and its longevity depends on how it's stored. For optimal freshness, we recommend consuming your fudge within ten days of purchase.

How is Mackinac fudge different? ›

The Island House was renovated and reopened in the 1970s. Over the years, it has gone through several more renovations and is now a registered Michigan historic landmark. Ryba's offers ten flavors of fudge to choose from, all made by hand on marble slabs so it is smooth, unlike other fudges.

What state is famous for fudge? ›

In 1954 — Gould Murdick and Jerald Murdick bequeathed the Mackinac Island store to Jerome, and opened their own fudge shop in Charlevoix, Michigan, using the trademarked name: Murdick's Famous Fudge®.

What Michigan town is known for fudge? ›

On Michigan's world-renowned Mackinac Island, the sweet aroma of fudge wafts out onto the street from four unique Ryba's Fudge Shops. Passersby stop to watch as confectionary artists handcraft the…

What is the oldest brand of fudge on Mackinac Island? ›

May's Candy

There is only one shop on the Island that can tout itself as the oldest offering genuine Mackinac Island Fudge, and that is May's. Harold May started his business in Atchison, Kansas in 1881. He came to the Island to work for Murdick's, and when they left, he brought his family business to Mackinac Island.

What kind of fudge is on Mackinac Island? ›

Chocolate. Ryba's Classic Chocolate Fudge is a flawlessly decadent experience using the recipe that the Ryba family has been perfecting since 1945. Made by hand using traditional copper kettles and marble slabs to create the richest and creamiest fudge on Mackinac Island.

Why is fudge a beach thing? ›

Though it contains no saltwater, taffy—and fudge, its sister seaside treat—may benefit from being made in a beach climate. Perhaps the salty air simply gives people a hankering for something sweet; it's also possible that the candies' decelerated drying and oxidation in humid air give them a unique “coastal” flavor.

Why is fudge a tourist thing? ›

So maybe fudge—like Dippin' Dots or cotton candy—became a tourist dessert because it was a novel way of making sweets. Fudgeries provided both the entertainment of watching something new and unusual being made and the happy junk-food rush of eating a filling, sweet candy.

What is the mystery on Mackinac Island about? ›

Thirteen-year-old Hunter Martineau lives on the island year around and knows everything about the place. Well, almost everything. When bikes start to mysteriously disappear all over the island, Hunter is determined to catch the thief and claim the reward money.

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