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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

As read on:

Despite Storm, Crowds Still Come Out to Woodward

Fans of the Woodward Dream Cruise weren’t deterred by the strong storms that rolled through Saturday afternoon, as hundreds of cruise fans packed the sides of Woodward Avenue Saturday night, watching the increasing number of cars still cruising despite the official closure of the Dream Cruise.

Birmingham Police Sgt. Michael Albrecht, the officer in charge of Cruise shutdown for Birmingham, said he called nine of his regular officers back in after the storms cleared up. Combined with the 12 auxillary officers, the police will continue to patrol Woodward Avenue on foot and bike.

Albrecht said Birmingham police aren’t encouraging anyone to go home, despite the closure of the Cruise after massive power outages struck Royal Oak, Berkley, Beverly Hills and parts of Birmingham after the storm. By 9:30 p.m., 950 DTE customers in Birmingham were still without power, though most were clustered in the southwestern corner of the city. Most of the homes without power borders Beverly Hills, where the majority of the outages occured.

Glen and Laurie Heuer and Barbara and Frank Carlesimo, all from Sterling Heights, were parked in their chairs in the 555 triangle around 7 p.m. Saturday. As Chevrolet packed away their classic and new car displays behind them, the Heuers and Carlesimos were ready to watch the cruisers rain or shine.

“We arrived right after the storm, but we come every year,” said Laurie Heuer.

As for whether they would be out cruising Woodward, Barbara Carlesimos said they could only wish.

“We’d love to have one of our (classic car),” she said. “We haven’t won the lottery yet.”

Another group of die-hard Cruise fans were the members of the Seaholm High School swim team, who were still selling water to passing cruisers for $1 to raise funds for their team. Caroline Filips, wearing a star costume, said they ran under cover when the storm hit but came right back out afterward.

The folks from Advanced Screen Printing, with a T-shirt booth south of Lincoln Avenue, also said they weren’t deterred by the closure of the Cruise.

“We’ll be out until 10,” said Jodi Williamson, who was working the booth.

Though a large portion of the Saturday night cruisers were hotrods, Tom Thomas from Lake Orion, who was watching from the back of his pick-up with his wife Kathy, said the rain drove many of the classics away.

As read on:

2011 Woodward Dream Cruise is THIS SATURDAY, August 20!

It’s the day classic car owners wait for every year and it is happening THIS SATURDAY, August 20th, 2011 from 9am-9pm!

There’s also plenty of activity coming up, with a Corvette parade down Woodward starting at 6:45 p.m. Wednesday, a Chevrolet Centennial parade down Woodward from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursday and a variety of activities on the eve of the official Dream Cruise from Ferndale, Royal Oak, Berkley and Pontiac, among other locations.

Click Here to see a complete map and more details!!