Archive for the ‘hometownlife’ Tag

State fair ‘found its home’ in Novi – Labor Day weekend event’s attendance climbs to 75,000

From the VIP kickoff Thursday evening until the last visitor left Monday night, it was obvious that the return of the Michigan State Fair is here to stay.

“The fair has definitely found its home in Novi at the Suburban Collection Showplace,” said Blair Bowman, owner of the facility. “It will be back next year bigger, better and more fun!”

Attendance climbed dramatically from last year. The 2012 Great Lakes State Fair tallied around 50,000, while this year’s Fifth Third Bank Michigan State Fair hit between 75,000 and 80,000, according to Bowman.

That’s impressive given that the event is up against Arts Eats & Beats in Royal Oak and the Detroit Jazz Festival, which combined drew around 600,000.

Likewise, the state fair’s animal and agricultural livestock exhibits jumped 150 percent and there was nearly double the seating capacity for the circus.

“The customer feedback was overwhelmingly positive,” Bowman said. “Literally, we were being thanked by more people when leaving than we were thanking people for coming.”

As pleased as Bowman was with the turnout, he was equally impressed with the community giveback element of the Labor Day weekend event. More than 150 individuals volunteered, as did folks from the Detroit Shriners. Sponsors included Fifth Third Bank (presenting), Bright House (circus), Walmart (midway) and St. John’s Providence (entertainment stage).

“We could not have had better partners and provided a better experience than we did for this year’s event,” Bowman said. “The city of Novi community support was incredible as well with the fire department, police department and city administration all pulling together to help provide support for the event.”

Up-and-coming local acts provided music during the daytime, while established musicians – all with Michigan ties – performed during the evenings, including headliners Marshall Crenshaw, George Bedard and Stewart Francke.
A fair goer’s view

Leslie Adams flew in from Florida to attend a family gathering over the holiday weekend with her sons – Luke, 25, Fed, 24, and John, 23. They attended the fair Saturday night along with their four cousins, sampling corn dogs and elephant ears and hitching rides on Salt & Pepper, Pharaoh’s Fury, Bumper Cars, Orbiter and even the Big Slide.

“I have not attended a real state fair in years and this was just a lot of fun all around,” Adams said, adding that her group was impressed with the animals on display in the livestock area.

She and her brother and his wife enjoyed some beer and wine in the entertainment tent, catching Steven Mullan & The Toledo Kids.

“He was adorable with a fresh voice and was fun to listen to,” Adams said, “but the big draw was Marshall Crenshaw and his band, the Bottle Rockets. He is a great performer and they had a terrific sound. I was familiar with some of his songs, but really enjoyed the whole show. The kids even came in at the end and listened for a while.”

Adams said her overall impression of the state fair was that it was clean and organized and parking was easy.

“It reminded me of when I was a kid,” she said. “Plus, all of our kids (young adults) had a good time, too. I hope it continues to grow – and I hope I am in town next year.”
A family affair

For Mike Watts, the fair’s executive director this year, it was most gratifying to see all the families – including his own.

“My nieces stayed for eight hours,” Watts said, “and my neighbor’s autistic adult son had his caregivers bring him back for a second day because he enjoyed it so much.”

Watts said during the process of promoting the fair, he was interviewed by media almost daily and he encountered something that had never happened to him before.

“At the beginning of every interview or segment, they thanked me for bringing back the state fair and that made me feel very special,” Watts said. “I know that the thank you was to all of us who worked on pulling this event together and I expressed that repeatedly, but it was a wonderful experience for me.”

Bowman said it is a certainty that the Michigan State Fair will return again to the Suburban Collection Showplace in 2014.

“Plans are already under way for major new features, including significant new rides within the midway, a larger arena and an increase in our major scholarship initiatives that were launched this year,” he said

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Chili Contest, Motorcycle Show – 16th Annual Great Lakes Regional Chili Cook-Off

Enjoying weather that was more August than October, an estimated 20,000 people visited downtown Plymouth Sunday for the Great Lakes Regional Chili Cookoff.

The 16th annual festival, which netted around $40,000 for Habitat for Humanity of Western Wayne County, featured a motorcycle show, performances by dance troupes, live music by Steve King and the Dittilies, vendors’ booths — and chili: 90 different varieties in five competition categories.

The crowd went through more than 50,000 samples of chili, according to organizers Annette and Ken Horn.

“It was the smoothest-running event so far,” said Annette Horn, board president of Great Lakes Chili Inc., the nonprofit that runs the festival. “It’s one of the most fun days of the fall season for us, even though it is crazy and hectic.”

The chili ran out shortly before the event’s official 5 p.m. closing time.

“Usually a restaurant here and there will have some chili left, but we absolutely ran dry,” said Horn.

Returning cooks took some of the top honors in the cookoff at The Gathering.

“They’re getting a little tired of me here,” joked Richard Chauvin of Windsor after picking up his first-place award, in International Chili Society competition, for chili verde, or green chili.

It was the third straight chili verde win for Chauvin, who was fresh from the Oct. 1 ICS world championship in Manchester, N.H., where he (and about 140 other chili verde cooks) lost to Gary Ray of Livonia.

With his win Sunday, Chauvin, a master cook in both green and red chili, is guaranteed a spot in next fall’s world championship.

People’s choice

By contrast, Ron Smith of Novi took home top honors in the people’s choice category, a non-ICS competition, after competing in the Plymouth festival for the first time.

Smith had whipped up a little more than 10 gallons of his white chicken chili.

“This is great,” said Smith. “I know I have a popular chili, but it never dawned on me I would win the people’s choice.”

Smith is also a member of the Motor City HOG (Harley Owners Group) at Motor City Harley-Davidson in Farmington Hills, which sponsored one of two “chili rides” of motorcyclists into downtown Plymouth. The events — the other chili ride was sponsored by Dick Scott Classic Motorcycles in Livonia — brought about 400 motorcycles rumbling into town, the Horns said.

In addition, there were 146 motorcycles, parked on Ann Arbor Trail between Union and Main, in the festival’s motorcycle show, in which prizes were awarded in 18 categories. Motorcycle-related events raised money for the Penrickton Center for Blind Children in Taylor, and the proceeds were still being counted up Tuesday, Annette Horn said.

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