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America’s Thanksgiving Parade, Detroit

Cities and villages throughout our state are unique and inviting all year long, but especially during the holiday and winter season. Tradition and creativity swirl together in events that draw in visitors and remind residents why they love their community. Families look forward to their hometown celebrations every year, and as children grow to adulthood, they merrily continue the custom with their own young ones.

These holiday celebrations are as varied as the sizes of Michigan cities. In Detroit, the holiday season begins with America’s Thanksgiving Parade. Hundreds of thousands of people line Woodward Avenue to watch larger than life floats, colorful helium-filled balloons and amazing marching bands, while millions more tune in on TV. Another Detroit favorite is Noel Night, held in Midtown’s Cultural Center area. Thousands of people gather for free musical performances, art, and holiday shopping at places like the Detroit Institute of Arts, Charles Wright Museum of African American History, and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

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Festive Fridays, Allegan

Some cities extend their holiday revelry over several weeks. In Allegan, December’s Festive Fridays have long been filled with small town holiday fun, including a parade, Downtown Stocking Hop, and horse-drawn wagon rides. With assistance from the League’s PlacePOP service, this year’s activities got a new twist with pop-up retail shops offering everything from sweets and jewelry to art, music, and Christmas decorations. In Bay City, Sundays become an extra special day throughout November and December. Sundays in the City offer great holiday memories with strolling carolers, horse-drawn carriage rides, holiday movies at the State Theatre, the Festival of Wreaths, and Santa Bucks good for discounts at local businesses.

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Victorian Sleighbell Parade, Manistee

Other cities pack a ton of fun into a shorter time period. For one magical night, the Chesaning Christmas Candlewalk puts a special glow on the village. The streets are lined with luminaries, and options range from live Christmas music and roasted chestnuts to cookie decorating, a Festival of Trees, and holiday shopping. Manistee’s celebration allows you to take a step back in time. Their Victorian Sleighbell Parade & Old Christmas Weekend features carolers dressed in Victorian style attire, bagpipers, a reindeer meet and greet, and a parade highlighted by draft horses pulling a 30-foot Christmas tree down River Street followed by beautiful fireworks. Ann Arbor’s Kerrytown Kindlefest centers on the city’s farmers market. The free outdoor holiday market showcases local and regional artisans and farmers selling hand-crafted ornaments, toys, and gifts, as well as German food and beverages. Guests can also enjoy live music, fire pits, s’more roasting, and a colorful Lantern Parade through the neighborhood.

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Putting things into motion is the theme at other holiday events. Grand Rapids gets people moving with the annual Whoville 5K. Runners get a chance to race the Grinch to Mt. Crumpit. The sweet finish in Whoville features hot chocolate and chocolate fountain goodies. Fowlerville’s Christmas in the ‘Ville also gets people on their feet with their 5K Dashing through the Snow and 1K fun walk for kids. Hot air balloons are also on the move as they fill the night sky with a glow that can be seen for miles.

New Year’s Eve

Traverse-City-CherryTBallDrop-300x200Michigan communities also shine when it comes to ringing in the New Year. On the west side of the state, Ludington’s Lighted Ball Drop is part of their Light Up the Lake event. Guests can enjoy family-oriented parties, an entertainment tent with music, a fireworks display, and an amazing ball that’s more than six feet in diameter and lit by 6.000 LED lights. In the U.P., Marquette’s family-friendly Downtown Ball Drop draws in people from miles around to share in the magic of the twelfth strike marking the beginning of 2016. Midland’s Midnight on Main festivities include a craft beer garden, live music, and an outdoor game pit area featuring human foosball. The highlight of the night is the Times Square-style ball drop capped off with a climactic fireworks display. Traverse City puts their own unique flavor on celebrating the New Year. Their amazing street party, complete with live music and entertainment, ends with the New Year’s Eve CherryT Ball Drop, where a massive illuminated cherry is lowered to signify the coming year.

Triumph Over the Winter Doldrums

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Plymouth Ice Festival

Snow falls for months in Michigan, but we don’t let it get us down. We find lots of ways to enjoy the fluffy white stuff! Plymouth starts off the new year with the Plymouth Ice Festival, a world-class event that’s exciting and fun for the whole family. Amazing ice sculptures line the streets of downtown Plymouth. Enjoy carving competitions, dueling chainsaws, and a dazzling fire and ice display along with live music, wintertime festival food, and a Hot Spot to warm up in style. Ice is also a big feature at the Oakland County Fire & Ice Festival in Rochester. The weekend is filled with cross-country skiing, dog sled rides, ice sculpture gardens, snow tubing, showshoeing, and a spectacular fireworks show.

Mackinaw-City-Winterfest-200x300Need to work off some of those holiday cookies? Try these action-oriented events. In Traverse City, the Bigfoot Snowshoe Race 5K & 10K heads out over a super hilly off-trail run with plenty of logs to jump and branches to duck. It’s also the Midwest qualifier for the National Championship Snowshoe Race. Mackinaw City turns snow into art at their Winter Fest. Amateur and professional snow sculpting competitions delight visitors, along with sleigh and wagon rides, outhouse races, ice fishing contest, chili cookoff, and more. And the Indian River Winterfest is a community-wide celebration of the winter season. Guests can enjoy everything from a snow art competition and ice bowling to races with ice kayaks and snowmobiles.

All of these holiday and winter activities give us – and you – even more reasons to say “We love where you live!”

 

A formerly vacant storefront in downtown Allegan is filled with activity during Festive Fridays.

A formerly vacant storefront in downtown Allegan is filled with activity during Festive Fridays.

Allegan is doing everything right. They have an historic downtown, a beautiful riverfront, community-wide events, and most importantly, wonderful people who all love where they live.

We had the opportunity to partner with Allegan in 2013 when the community won a PlacePlans grant to create a design concept for their riverfront area. With the goal to further enhance the city’s natural beauty, capitalize upon its historic districts, and jumpstart economic development, the community rallied together to create the riverfront plan they’re actually building today.

Local entrepreneurs sell cupcakes and baby accessories at one of the pop-up stores.

Rob Hillard, Allegan’s city manager, believes in the power of place. He’s educated his staff, counsel, and community on the impact of placemaking and acts as a cheerleader to organize and implement place-based improvements. The push for placemaking doesn’t come from Rob alone, it’s imbedded into the community. When walking downtown Allegan, it’s clear that people care: it’s the kind of place where people are pleased to run into their neighbors on the street, where teenagers hang out in the local coffee shop for an open mic night, and where visitors are genuinely welcomed into the art and antique shops by the small business owners who run them.

We’re so glad that the community’s excitement for placemaking brought us back into Allegan, and this time with our newest League service, PlacePOP. PlacePOP is an initiative focused on tactical and incremental placemaking, with a strong emphasis on civic engagement, education, and inspiration. It’s hard to describe in just a sentence because projects can range from building a pocket park, to bringing a public meeting to the streets, to hosting placemaking workshops. In Allegan, we worked with the community to organize four “pop-up” vendors in vacant downtown buildings. Pop-up retail is more traditionally seen as an economic development tactic for larger communities, like Detroit, but this project illustrates that even smaller places like Allegan have the drive, knowledge, and people to implement pop-up retail effectively.

Holiday lights, decorations, and people fill downtown Allegan during the Christmas parade.

Holiday lights, decorations, and people fill downtown Allegan during the Christmas parade.

Every year, Allegan hosts a December event series that brings people downtown for a small-town holiday experience, Festive Fridays. This year, the community wanted to capitalize on having so many people downtown and showcase a few vacant storefronts. Through PlacePOP, entrepreneurs, nonprofits, and artists are partnering with downtown building owners to fill these empty spaces with temporary businesses, events, and activities.

The collaboration, effort, and organization all payed off at the first Festive Friday on December 4th. As families filled downtown for the annual holiday parade, tree lighting, carriage rides, and historic bridge light show, they were also encouraged to visit Allegan’s permanent businesses and temporary pop-ups to do some shopping, have some fun, and see the opportunity in downtown’s available spaces. And visitors did just that: they shopped, had fun, and were welcomed into storefronts that had been closed just the week before.

There are two more Festive Friday and pop-up events happening in Allegan this month and I encourage all place-lovers to visit and be part of the magic:

December 11th is the Downtown Art HOP where existing businesses host art and crafts from local artists. There are also four PlacePOP venues:

  • 209 Hubbard has vendors selling sweets, baby accessories, headbands, scarves, jewelry, handmade soap, and more;
  • 111 Locust is a collaborative of local artists, Random Acts of Art, selling wood creations, glitter chains, mittens, custom-blended make-up, and more;
  • 114 Locust is hosting a 26-hour Creativity Open House, an all-night, holiday-themed craft and music party;
  • 118 Locust is full of games to play, and wreaths and poinsettias to buy to support 4-H Camp Kidwell.
Visitors answer the question: What would you love to see in downtown Allegan?

Visitors answer the question: What would you love to see in downtown Allegan?

On December 18th, the community is hosting the Downtown Stocking Hop, where kids decorate a stocking and gather goodies from participating businesses Halloween-style. All four PlacePOP venues are also participating but this time the Jaycees are hosting a holiday beer and wine fundraiser in 114 Locust from 5:00 – 10:00 PM.

The pop-ups are a true effort of collaboration, trust, and full support of the community. I encourage anyone who loves Michigan’s communities to visit, support the local vendors, and experience the creativity and fun of downtown Allegan.

Go to http://positivelyallegan.org/making-spiritswntown-allegan/ for a complete list of Festive Friday events.

To inquire about bringing PlacePOP to your community, contact Sarah Craft at scraft@mml.org.

 

Law enforcement officials participate in a panel discussion at the Race and Law Enforcement in the Urban Community forum in Saginaw November 14, 2015.

Law enforcement officials participate in a panel discussion at the Race and Law Enforcement in the Urban Community forum in Saginaw Nov. 14, 2015.

(View additional photos from the event here)

More than 100 people attended a highly successful forum in Saginaw on Race and Law Enforcement in the Urban Community.

The event, sponsored by the Michigan Black Caucus of Local Elected Officials (MBC-LEO), featured national and state speakers discussing the rising concern of race relations following numerous high-profile cases of police incidents involving African-American men and women across the country.

Kicking off the event was Leon Andrews Jr., Director of Race, Equity and Leadership (REAL) for the National League of Cities. Andrews came in from Washington D.C. for the event and reviewed the issue. He also showed a video and slide presentation of the many faces of young people, as well as people of all ages, who have succumbed to violence in urban communities throughout the nation.

 

Leon Andrews Jr. of the National League of Cities REAL program speaks at the forum in Saginaw.

Leon Andrews Jr. of the National League of Cities REAL program speaks at the forum in Saginaw.

“In some cities, more than half of all young adult black men are currently under correction control, either in prison or jail, or probation or parole,” Andrews said. “One in three young African American men will serve time in prison if the current trends continue.”

Event organizer Dexter Mitchell, Buena Vista Township manager, was pleased with the event and the turnout, which included coverage by area TV news stations, WNEM TV 5 and WEYI TV 25.

“This forum was not intended for attendees to have a magic bullet to resolve this problem as they left the meeting,” Mitchell said. “Rather the purpose was to open a dialogue and a conversation and we accomplished that.”

Mitchell added he hopes to have future forums on similar topics take place throughout the state.

Other speakers Saturday were Angela Austin, My Brother’s Keeper, Lansing; Cal Talley, chairperson of My Brother’s Keeper, Saginaw Michigan Challenge; George Copeland, Saginaw Valley State University student; and Montel Menifee, Bay Regional Director of the Office of U.S. Senator Gary Peters.

Race and Law Enforcement Forum sign editedThe event concluded with a law enforcement panel discussion featuring Washtenaw County Sheriff Jerry Clayton; Inkster Police Chief William Riley; Saginaw Police Chief Bob Ruth; Buena Vista Township Public Safety Director Robert Schulz; Saginaw County Prosecuting Attorney John McColgan Jr.; Saginaw County Sheriff Bill Federspiel; Michigan State Police Lt. David A. Simon, Post Commander of the Tri Cities Post; and Pontiac Mayor Deirdre Waterman.

The forum was attended by youth and concerned citizens from the Saginaw area as well as elected officials from throughout the state, including the communities of Durand, Flint, Auburn Hills, Highland Park, Saginaw, and South Haven.

Huge crowd attends MBC-LEO forum on Race and Law Enforcement in Saginaw Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015.

Huge crowd attends MBC-LEO forum on Race and Law Enforcement in Saginaw Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015.

There were multiple opportunities for conversation between the audience and the speakers. The topics covered included ways to help young men who have college educations get jobs that match their education, the desire for additional assistance for young black women facing legal issues, and the need for more programs and opportunities for people who are now out of the prison system and trying to better themselves.

MBC-LEO is an affiliate organization of the Michigan Municipal League, which also was a supporter of the event. The conversation that took place in Saginaw fits directly with one of the eight assets the League has deemed essential for building vibrant communities – diversity and multiculturalism. Other event sponsors were Meijer, Spicer Group, Vividar Mor, W&W Cleaning Services, Siemens, Absopure, OHM, the National League of Cities, and the Saginaw Community Action Committee.

Click here to view additional photos from the forum.

Matt Bach is director of media relations for the Michigan Municipal League. He can be reached at mbach@mml.org and (734) 669-6317.

We’re really excited to announce PlacePOP, our new placemaking & engagement consulting service. PlacePOP is a low-cost, high-impact approach to inclusive planning that communities can use to test ideas, engage residents, and strengthen support for place-based projects.

PlacePOP in action at the Boyne City PlacePlans event.

PlacePOP in action at the Boyne City PlacePlans event.

Working with local partners, the League will plan, promote, and execute an event that demonstrates how activating a space can catalyze a community. Large scale planning takes a lot of time, money, and resources, and often leaves residents feeling disconnected and unfulfilled. PlacePOP is a “lighter, quicker, cheaper” approach to planning that brings people together, improves public spaces, and guides future development. PlacePOP can:

  • Empower people to experiment with place as a way to improve their community
  • Build local capacity and tests creative ideas to move planning projects forward
  • Promote interest in a specific, underutilized area
  • Educate local stakeholders on the impact of quality placemaking
  • Engage a wide audience of residents, visitors, and local stakeholders to share ideas, give feedback, and build ownership that guides capital improvement projects

There are a ton of examples of how communities have used temporary, tactical placemaking to guide local planning. For example, communities can:

  • Use pop-up retail to test demand and build buzz around a vacant storefront
  • Activate an underutilized lot using temporary outdoor furniture and family-friendly activities to see if the community should build a permanent pocket park
  • Improve walkability between two key areas to see if it changes people’s patterns
  • Use art, music, lighting, and seating options to create interest in a public space

Some PlacePOP History

Kids share their ideas at the 2014 Berkley Art Bash.

Kids share their ideas at the 2014 Berkley Art Bash.

We started brainstorming the idea of PlacePOP last year, after working with the city of Berkley on a place-based downtown planning project. Through previous planning efforts, the city identified a downtown intersection (12 Mile and Robina) as a potential catalyst for economic development. The city and elected officials wanted to engage residents and collect ideas of what “could be” in that area.

We worked with a steering committee of residents, the DDA, business owners, elected officials, and city staff to lead an impactful engagement event during Berkley’s annual Art Bash. We rented patio furniture, displayed local art, put out sidewalk chalk, and programmed the space with a yoga class in the middle of the afternoon. Most importantly, we asked people to brainstorm how they wanted to use the space. We collected a ton of ideas and the city was blown away by people’s interest in doing something dramatic, like closing the road to become a pedestrian plaza.

“Our city has several catalytic developments in our master plan, and thanks to the League’s efforts, we are making significant progress in achieving one of our highest priority projects,” said Steve Baker, a Berkley councilmember and an active leader on this project. “Placemaking is even more vibrant in Berkley thanks to the MML’s support!”

Collecting  feedback on draft designs at the 2015 Berkley Art Bash.

Collecting feedback on draft designs at the 2015 Berkley Art Bash.

Berkley residents and visitors will soon see these efforts come to fruition since the city is currently working with a consulting team to come up with detailed schematics on the intersection’s improvements.

Because we saw so much value and impact in this work, we decided to go big or go home. We bought a trailer, filled it with furniture, games, and engagement materials, and started incorporating PlacePOP into some of our PlacePlans projects (check out what we did with Boyne City last month). We also worked with the city of Lansing and local stakeholders on a really fun project just last week which focused on the Capitol Avenue corridor. Check out details on the project and pictures from last week’s event.

How PlacePOP works

The beauty of PlacePOP is that each project is unique since it’s 100% tailored to the community For example, communities can simply rent the trailer and its contents for under $1,000, or we can lead a deeper project with engagement, event facilitation, and a project report. Generally speaking, the process is as follows:

  1. Re-imagining a parking space during Convert Capitol Ave in Lansing.

    Re-imagining a parking space during Convert Capitol Ave in Lansing.

    Get started – We’ll meet with core stakeholders to identify project goals, partners, and opportunities. The group will explore options for the demonstration project, establish goals for the exercise, and explore expanded outreach, education, and communication opportunities.

  1. Work out project details – We’ll create a preliminary project plan with event logistics, assignments, materials, partners, activities, and communication strategies.
  1. Host the event – With the help of local partners and volunteers, we’ll facilitate the placemaking demonstration project during a planned community event. We’ll set up, staff, and guide volunteers to accomplish project goals.
  1. Debrief – We’ll host a debrief meeting with core stakeholders to recap the event, articulate lessons learned, and identify opportunities moving forward.
  1. Report out – We’ll prepare a report that summarizes the project’s process, feedback and data collected at the event, and recommendations to keep the momentum going to implement longer-term planning.

So let’s get going!

Doing engagement in Lansing during Convert Capital Ave

Getting great ideas in Lansing during Convert Capital Ave

If your community is thinking of ways to build capacity and encourage development, invite us over for coffee so we can brainstorm with you. Contact us anytime about bringing PlacePOP to your community:

Sarah Craft
Michigan Municipal League Project Coordinator
scraft@mml.org
734-669-6328

We’re looking forward to working with you!