Go back in time with Bootlegger Bash

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published October 14, 2017

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — Where better to celebrate bootlegging on Lake St. Clair than at the heart of where alcohol was smuggled into Michigan during Prohibition?

The second annual Bootlegger Bash will be held at Blossom Heath Inn, 24800 Jefferson Ave., 6-11 p.m. Oct. 27. 

“Blossom Heath was one of the focal points of actual bootlegging in the ’20s,” said Brad Simmons, executive director of the Lake St. Clair Tourism Initiative, which is putting on the event in conjunction with the Tax Increment Finance Authority (TIFA). “There were lookout points for police; there were catacombs, tunnels running throughout. A lot of beer and wine was brought into Blossom Heath and distributed into Michigan (and) the Midwest, so what better place to have it than the Blossom Heath Inn?”

The Lake St. Clair Tourism Initiative is a nonprofit public/private organization heading into its 10th year in 2018. Last year, it sponsored the inaugural bootlegger festival at a local marina, but this year its leaders wanted to make the event more intimate and exciting. 

Tickets cost $35 in advance at City Hall, www.scsmi.net or through the Bootlegger Bash event page on Facebook, and include a strolling dinner, two beer tickets or one signature drink ticket, entertainment and casino games.

“Because it’s Oct. 27, a few days before Halloween, we’re asking people to dress up in Roaring ’20s costumes, and we’ll have costume judging for that,” Simmons said. “People who come are going to be treated in a very special way, and they’re going to have a fabulous time.”

There will be extra drink tickets available for purchase, as well. 

St. Clair Shores Assistant City Manager Bill Gambill said that the 2016 event was more of a beer festival; this year, “in keeping with that venue, it’s more period cocktails and we’re going to have a jazz” group, the Michele Ramo World Jazz Trio, which will play from 6 to 8:30 p.m. The Orbitsuns will perform from 9 to 11 p.m. 

The casino games — black jack, craps and roulette — will be played with chips that winners can exchange for raffle tickets for a chance to win prizes from Nautical Mile businesses, Gambill said. 

From “Great Gatsby” fried chicken and Oysters Rockefeller, to Purple Gang Pilsner from Atwater Brewery, the entire night will have a Prohibition-era feel. 

“They’re going through a lot to make the food and drink period (themed),” Gambill said. “If you’re looking to do one of these events, this is the one to go to.”

Presale tickets are available through Oct. 22.

The event benefits the Lake St. Clair Tourism Initiative, which was responsible for creating and posting the Lake St. Clair Circle Tour signs. Those signs are now located throughout the Grosse Pointes, Macomb County and will soon be up near the Port Huron area, as well. 

The initiative also created the Lake St. Clair Circle Tour map with the top 99 destinations and attractions surrounding the lake in Michigan and Ontario.

“This helps people who are maybe new to the area or who have never visited, or have not visited in a while, navigate the region from the Blue Water Bridge to the Ambassador Bridge and everywhere in between on both sides of the lake,” Simmons said.

The maps are available at local businesses, restaurants and marinas, Gifts Afloat in St. Clair Shores, the Macomb County building, and at Michigan and Ontario visitor and welcome centers.

The free maps will also be available for the first time in 2018 at the Detroit Boat Show.