Hazel ParkAugust 10, 2012
Celebrate St. Filbert’s Day in Hazel Park
By Andy Kozlowski
C & G Staff Writer
HAZEL PARK — Hazel Park celebrates its 70th anniversary this year, which makes it the ideal time to brush up on the city’s namesake.
Found in temperate climes north of the equator, hazels are a genus of deciduous trees and large shrubs that produce the hazelnut. One species of hazel, Corylus maxima, produces a hazelnut called the filbert.
The filbert moniker is based on the fact it ripens in late August around the feast of Saint Philibert, a Roman Catholic holiday celebrated in England and France Aug. 20.
Five years ago, City Council adopted its own version of the holiday, St. Filbert’s Day, to celebrate the plant from which Hazel Park derived its name.
The tradition continues this year with the 5th annual St. Filbert’s Day Memorial Race at Hazel Park Harness Raceway, at 10 Mile and Dequindre. The festivities begin at 6 p.m. Monday, Aug. 20.
All are invited to mingle with fellow community members at the raceway, ordering off the menu and enjoying the spectacle of horse racing. Admission and parking are free.
“We’re proud of our community,” said Lois Reithel, of Hazel Park, president of the city’s Neighborhood Enrichment Committee. “We’re proud of of the plants the city got its name from originally, and of the history behind them.”
Ron Cunningham, of Hazel Park, joined the committee in 2000 when he chanced upon volunteers planting flowers at the city sign on the hill at Nine Mile and John R.
Now the committee’s vice-chair, Cunningham helped bring nine hazels to City Hall: two at the sign, one on either side of the steps, two in planters on the east side of the building, and one each at the northeast, northwest and southeast corners of the library.
He planted the bushes six years ago. They’re hybrid hazelnuts ordered by the Neighborhood Enrichment Committee from the Arbor Day Foundation, which promotes so-called “edible landscapes” in urban areas.
“As they cure, the nuts become ripe,” Cunningham said. “The aroma will attract all the little varmints around — the squirrels will be tearing them up. So you can have them if you beat the squirrels to them!”
Five years ago, Cunningham visited the ruins of Jumièges Abbey, the Benedictine monastery founded by St. Philibert in Normandy, France in 654 A.D. A national treasure, he described the ruins as “hauntingly beautiful,” and said they deepened his appreciation for the history of hazelnuts, which dates back even further to the Romans who used them for sustenance in their travels, and perhaps further still.
He thinks it’s appropriate that such a hardy, useful plant be Hazel Park’s namesake.
“Many of the cites in (southeast Michigan) are named after trees of the forest, like Royal Oak and Oak Park,” Cunningham said. “The hazelnut is symbolic, then: It grows under the canopy of the great trees, but the bush itself is tough, resilient and productive.”
The 5th annual St. Filbert’s Day Memorial Race will take place at Hazel Park Harness Raceway, 10 Mile and Dequindre, at 6 p.m. Monday, Aug. 20. Attendees order off the menu, but admission and parking is free.
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