Michigan...Worth Another Look

Michigan…Worth Another Look
Adam Babcock
Wonder Michigan

This post was written by Adam Babcock, my partner with NxtGen Marketing.  Although Adam grew up in Michigan, he has been living out on the West Coast for the past few years, until his recent move to Chicago.

I recently decided to move back to the Midwest, from Los Angeles to Chicago.  While apartment hunting in Chicago, I figured I would just stay with my parents back in Michigan.  I thought, at the most I will be home for a couple weeks, and it would give me a chance to spend some quality time with my family (who all still live in Michigan), which is one of the main reasons I wanted to move back to the Midwest.

My plan didn’t quite work out as I had hoped.  It took me much longer to find an apartment than I originally thought it would.  However, I am glad it did, because during my time back home, something truly great happened.  Something completely unexpected, yet much appreciated.  I fell in love with Michigan…again!

I absolutely loved growing up in Michigan.  And I wouldn’t trade my 4 years at Michigan State University for anything.  But after I graduated, I can honestly say Michigan wasn’t exactly my favorite place.  More and more of my friends were moving away.  I was stuck in a job I didn’t like or want.  There were very few opportunities in Michigan to do what I actually wanted to do, and the years and years of cold, grey winters had finally taken its toll on me.   So I left and didn’t look back.

When you don’t live in Michigan, it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking nothing positive is happening there.  Detroit is practically looked at as a third world country by outsiders.  The only press we get is negative press.  Whenever I would go home to visit, they would be short trips focused on family.  I didn’t have time to get out and see what was going on around the community.  So when I recently came back, I came back with the same mindset I had when I left.  “I don’t want to be here.”

It didn’t take long for that mindset to change.  The very first weekend I was home, there was Arts, Beats and Eats in Royal Oak, the Detroit Jazz Festival, and Eminem and Jay-Z, two of the biggest names in hip hop, were putting on show at Comerica Park.  We played host to a number of high profile events, such as TEDxDetroit and 140 Conference Detroit.  I saw Transformers 3 being filmed in Detroit, and heard countless stories from friends and family of all the stars they have been seeing around town.  And as great as these things were, it was the little things that really helped me fall back in love Michigan.  Taking my dog on walks through all the beautiful neighborhoods.  Seeing the sense of community among the residents.  Even the fall foliage!  These are things you don’t necessarily get outside of Michigan.  And quite frankly, I didn’t realize how much I missed them until I came back.

There were two questions people always asked me when I met them for the first time after I had moved away:

1.)   Why did you leave Michigan?
2.)   Would you move back?

I do not regret my decision to move.  I learned a lot over the past 3 years and they have helped me grow to be the person I am today.  But my answers to these questions have certainly changed. 3 years ago, I would have told you, I left because I wanted to live somewhere I could have fun in the sun, and that I probably don’t see myself ever going back.  While the answer to the first question might be the same, my answer to the second question is dramatically different.  Would I ever move back to Michigan?  I not only hope to, but I plan on it!

My question to you is, have you taken another look at Michigan lately?
The Salvation Army of Metro Detroit and Channel 955 are issuing a million dollar challenge to the Clear Channel radio station’s listeners to help the nonprofit raise much needed funds for its annual Red Kettle Campaign this holiday season.

Beginning on Monday, Nov. 1 and running through Friday, Nov. 12 all Channel 955 on-air personalities will be asking the station’s estimated one million unique listeners to give at least $1 to Channel 955’s online Red Kettle at www.channel955.com.

 “We have a Red Kettle campaign goal of $7.8 million this year. With the Michigan’s unemployment rate at 13 percent, and the poverty rate at approximately 14 percent, the need has never been greater – and we need the community’s help now more than ever before,” said Major John Turner, general secretary for The Salvation Army of Metro Detroit.

“Every donation counts – no matter the size. The challenge that Channel 955 is issuing to its listeners will help us make a great impact in this community. In fact, just $10 helps feed one person for an entire month.”

All donations raised during Channel 955’s Million Dollar Challenge will go directly into The Salvation Army of Metro Detroit’s iconic red kettle to help provide a solid foundation for the nonprofit’s 119th annual Red Kettle campaign which runs from Nov. 12, 2010 through Jan. 31, 2011.

"All seven Clear Channel Detroit radio stations share an ongoing and dedicated commitment to serving our community and The Salvation Army,” said Til Levesque, president/market manager of Clear Channel Detroit. “Channel 955/WKQI is honored to be supporting The Salvation Army's 2010 red kettle campaign and its mission to bring needed relief to the members of our community who need help."

Red Kettle donations are used throughout the year to help provide vital services such as food, shelter, utility assistance, free legal aid, after school programs, counseling, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, disaster aid and so much more.

The Downtown Detroit Partnership (DDP) today announced the launch of a new photo contest for metro Detroit amateur photographers that invites them to find and showcase hidden gems and unique destinations of Downtown Detroit. The contest will run now through Friday, November 12, 2010.  During that time, entrants may submit photos to digdowntown.com or the Dig Downtown Facebook page. The public will vote on the best photo from each of the five districts (Downtown, Midtown, Corktown, Eastern Market and New Center).

The winning photograph from each district will be featured on digdowntown.com and the photographer will receive a $100 gift certificate. One grand prize winner will receive a $250 gift certificate in addition to having their photography featured on digdowntown.com and Dig Downtown promotional materials.

The contest is part of an overall campaign to raise awareness of the depth and quality of events and activities taking place in Downtown Detroit every day. Dig Downtown gives definition to greater Downtown Detroit, and for the first time gives a cohesive identity to its five districts (Downtown, Midtown, Corktown, Eastern Market and New Center) – all while showcasing the unique assets and characteristics of the individual districts.

Dig Downtown’s website, www.digdowntown.com provides unique itineraries with insider tips for families, groups and individuals of all ages. The brochure lists a broad sampling of all of the food, fun and events taking place, as well as maps to help people get around in each district.
About Downtown Detroit Partnership:

 The Downtown Detroit Partnership (DDP) is a private/public partnership of corporate and civic leaders.  DDP engages business, government, and civic leaders in developing initiatives to strengthen Downtown Detroit’s employment, entertainment and residential assets, as well as advancing diversity, vitality and economic health for Southeast Michigan’s urban core.  For more information, visit www.DowntownDetroit.org.

Theatre Bizzare Gets A Nod from the New York Times


Detroit Reins In an Annual Halloween Revelry
Mary M. Chapman
New York Times

The arts community here is abuzz over the potential dismantling of the site of Theatre Bizarre, an 11-year-old party and macabre neighborhood carnival that is part Ringling Brothers, part “Dawn of the Dead,” and features makeshift rides, punk rock bands, over-the-top costumes, a haunted house, burlesque sideshows and other performances, some of them involving fire.

Its success may have been its undoing.

Each year for the past decade on a Saturday just before Halloween, as many as 3,000 revelers have clogged an east side residential neighborhood — whose blight and desolation complement the leitmotif — all for a funereal fantasy festival. Advertised by word of mouth, the outre masquerade has always danced under the radar of official Detroit.

That is, until this year. On Oct. 22, the day before the party, its founders, Ken Poirier and John Dunivant, learned of possible ordinance violations, including the failure to obtain a temporary liquor license. The event was moved to the Fillmore Detroit, a mixed-use entertainment site downtown. Mr. Poirier, an out-of-work home renovator, said the place was packed.

“People appreciated the fact that we didn’t quit,” he said. “We didn’t give them the environment that we have at the Theatre, but we gave them a show.”

A few days later, citations for other code violations were issued, requiring quick compliance. Otherwise, the site will be razed.

“It’s a pretty unusual situation,” said Kimberly James, director of the city’s Buildings, Safety Engineering and Environmental Department. “There are electrical wires all over the place. Somebody could get hurt on a carnival ride.”

To some residents, Detroit’s move to shut down the popular underground bash signals a commitment to law and order. To others, it symbolizes a disconnect with a burgeoning creative class in a city battling to reinvent itself.

Mr. Poirier, 45, said that he had always tried to be lawful, but that he would not fight the orders. Instead, he plans to pull the all-night party above ground, moving it across the street to the State Fairgrounds, which lost its fair last year because of state budget problems.

A permanent location could help the venture become profitable, Mr. Poirier added. As it is, the proceeds from ticket sales pay about 300 entertainers and 100 other workers.

“It’s sad that it had to happen this way, but it was inevitable,” Mr. Poirier said. “We pushed it as far as we could, the way we were growing.”

Some 700 people attended the first Theatre Bizarre, which was financed mostly with credit cards. Now, the site comprises nearly a block of the backyards of houses owned by Mr. Poirer, and mostly occupied by Theatre participants. One of those residents is Flec S. Mindscape, who juggles fire and also eats it.

“I have rolling-fireball scars,” he said with a chuckle, “But this is a great crew of people who appreciate circus art, juggling and magic. I’m very upset by what’s going on now.”

Mr. Dunivant, a freelance illustrator who conceived the Theatre and designs many of its stages and props, is “heartbroken” but philosophical. “We couldn’t have gotten away with this anywhere else in the world except Detroit, the city we love, because they just weren’t paying attention,” he said of city officials. “Now, they are paying attention.”

Some say unduly so. Ed Gardiner, a television producer and events promoter, had planned to host a Halloween party in his Detroit studio. That is, before a visit by the fire marshal. Unable to afford permit fees, he moved the event to a suburban hotel.

“They keep saying they want to attract a creative class to the city, but they squash everything that comes up,” Mr. Gardiner said. “There’s no understanding of the arts community here, and artists are the only ones doing anything.”

After the scandal-plagued administration of Kwame Kilpatrick, Mayor Dave Bing vowed to restore order and stability. That includes an uptick in ordinance enforcement, said Dan Lijana, a spokesman for Mr. Bing.

“We were supportive of them having their event, and we are going forward,” he said of the Theatre. “You just have to follow procedures and zoning requirements.”

At the site of the Theatre Bizarre this week, Mr. Poirier and a handful of others were surveying the work ahead. A Ferris wheel stretched above a six-foot wooden fence.

“You know, I’ve watched all the houses in my neighborhood burn down. I saw a school stripped right next door,” he said wistfully. “In the meantime, we were just trying to do something here a little fun and exciting.”
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