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July 24, 2013

City departments work to offer diverse, current community events

By Jessica Strachan
C & G Staff Writer

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City departments work to offer diverse, current community events
Kids answer questions about fire safety posed by Fire Inspector Michael Albo during the 2011 Family Fun and Safety Night.
Summer events around Southfield

The fourth annual SumMore Fest is set for 5-8:30 p.m. Aug. 7 on the front lawn of the Southfield City Hall.

The event will include a petting farm, a nature area, inflatables, kite demonstrations and a vintage baseball game featuring The Regular Base Ball Club of Mount Clemens versus the Northville Eclipse. A puppet show, a health fair and dog-friendly activities round out the festival.

The free event is open to the public.

A Family Pool Party, sponsored by Parks and Recreation, will be held 5:30-9 p.m. Aug. 1 in the Sports Arena. The cost is $5 for residents and $7 for nonresidents.

The Eat to the Beat lunch concert series takes place noon-2 p.m. and will feature The Sun Messengers’ horn-driven R&B Aug. 8 and blues queen Thornetta Davis Sept. 12. All performances are free and open to the public.

Guests can bring their own lunches or buy food on site.

Remaining performances for the Burgh Gazebo Concert series happen 7-8:30 p.m. July 30, and Aug. 6 and 13 at the gazebo in Southfield’s Burgh Historical Park, located on the northeast corner of Civic Center and Berg Road.

The Southfield Jazz Orchestra, Barbara Ware & Friends and The Rhythm Society Orchestra are all slated.

The performances are free and open to the public; food is available for purchase, and attendees should bring a chair or blanket for seating.

For more information on events in the city, call Southfield Parks and Recreation at (248) 796-4620 or visit www.cityofsouthfield.com.

SOUTHFIELD — Summer in the city has been a little different this year.

Residents weren’t able to mark their calendars with some of the events that have characterized previous summers: Star Spangled Southfield was an event that reportedly drew 80,000 and was halted by diminishing resources several years ago; the Farmers Market was a regular summer event that also fell by the wayside; a buzz was created when the Jazz Fest was supposed to return to Southfield this year — after a 10 year hiatus — but organizers announced earlier this month that they are now looking to 2014 to make it happen; finally, the Chaldean Festival, a carnival-meets-cultural programming event hosted by the Chaldean Chamber of Commerce, has moved to a different location this year.

Despite the new agenda, city officials — especially those behind the scenes of planning — say the ever-changing lineup of events gives opportunity for new ideas and different experiences, particularly coming from Southfield Parks and Recreation.

“The city has always been concerned with providing a lot of great Parks and Recreation events,” said Michael Manion, community relations manager, adding that the library and various other city departments also host activities. “One of the things the city does is always look for new ways to reach the community, to see what’s popular and what residents respond to. We are always looking to provide new approaches to events that will attract families and appeal to a variety of interests.”

While some of the city’s past events have been sponsored in-house and others were just hosted in the city, Parks and Recreation Acting Manager Doug Block noted that several other event series have remained and are going strong, such as the Family Pool Party series at the Sports Arena, Burgh Park Gazebo Concerts and the Family Fun Safety Night.

The most recent family event that took place in the city, Park*It @ the Burgh, is among the newest to be slated as an annual favorite, according to Janet Husaynu, Parks and Recreation special events programmer.

“Last year, it fell on one of the hottest days of the summer … and we still had 250 people there; it wasn’t a bad start,” she said. “I love the free programs and love the ability to offer affordable programs to the public.”

The free event’s claim to fame is that it has something for everyone: live music, loads of inflatables, an outdoor movie screening of a beloved Disney flick, face painting and lots of pretend, all set in the city’s historical park.

Next on the city’s festival agenda is Husaynu’s brain child combining the love of seasonal s’mores and a last hoorah to squeeze out some more of summer: the SumMore Fest. It’s coming Aug. 8 this year and draws up to 3,000 people in a typical year, being one of the department’s most successful events.

Family Fun and Safety Night each June still claims the title of most-attended free event, with 6,000 people attending, Husaynu said, adding that it brings as many people to the front lawn as the popular fireworks display did.

Husaynu said one of the most challenging yet rewarding aspects of event planning is keeping city-wide traditions exciting by adding in new features all year-round.

With the success of the movie screenings at Family Fun and Safety Night and Park*It @ the Burgh, she’s added in two free Friday movie nights for kids in the winter. Mixing up the popular Boo at the Burgh, a new “Brew at the Burgh” will be held this coming fall — a Halloween-style beer tasting for the adults.

According to numbers from Manion’s office, it’s the annual International Festival, held each fall, that can be called Southfield’s signature event.

“In my mind, it lives up to that name; it’s our largest event and most attended,” he said, citing more than 6,000 attendees typically buy tickets to the three-day event.

As for the events of Southfield’s past, Manion remains optimistic that many are still slated for the future. He said the Jazz Fest’s return has the potential to be larger than expected, and even the fireworks, suspended by city officials due to the budget crunch, could also make a comeback.

It’s estimated that the Southfield fireworks display rang in at $85,000, including overtime pay for city employees.

“(City Council) decided it was best to cancel it. … We wanted to focus on (events for) residents and reach out to the folks paying the tax base here, but we still get calls into our office of people hoping to see the fireworks come back, and there’s even been discussion to maybe have corporate sponsors,” Manion said.

Husaynu said her job is about keeping up with the twists and turns of event planning — something she’s been doing for 26 years in the department.

“We’re trying to catch different markets out there, and I love bringing in new things,” she said about balancing kids’ events, family functions and adult activities. “You don’t have to be young to know what’s popular; you just have to know the pulse of the city.”

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Jessica Strachan at jstrachan@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1108.