Kids gather in the center of the drop zone, waiting to catch marshmallows as they fall from the sky Aug. 13 at Heritage Park.

Kids gather in the center of the drop zone, waiting to catch marshmallows as they fall from the sky Aug. 13 at Heritage Park.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


15th annual Fly and Fry brings largest crowd in event history

By: Jonathan Shead | Farmington Press | Published August 21, 2019

 Farmington Hills firefighter Jamal Nichols makes a flour dust cloud as he throws out the marshmallows.

Farmington Hills firefighter Jamal Nichols makes a flour dust cloud as he throws out the marshmallows.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

 Marshmallow Fly and Fry attendees sit, crouch and lay around the bonfire roasting hot dogs and marshmallows.

Marshmallow Fly and Fry attendees sit, crouch and lay around the bonfire roasting hot dogs and marshmallows.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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FARMINGTON HILLS — It was sunny with a chance of marshmallows at the 15th annual Marshmallow Fly and Fry Aug. 13, which brought in approximately 2,000 residents and neighboring community members.

April Heier, the recreation superintendent for Heritage Park, said this year’s crowd was the largest the event has seen to date.

“We sit in our offices and plan everything, and to see it all come together is so cool. You can never imagine what it’s going to be like,” Heier said. “(But) I think one of the coolest things about this event is that there are so many different people. The diversity is huge. I can’t tell you — I know I’ve explained to at least 40 people what a s’more was today, because they’ve never had a s’more in their life. To see people having a s’more for their first time, it’s something I never thought about. It’s great.”

Heier said she and the event staff are always looking for ways to make the event more inclusive.

“We put a lot of thought into it when we do this event. We’ve really noticed there is a language barrier for some people because of our diverse community, so we try to do a lot of stuff in writing, or a lot of photos or graphics to explain things so it’s easier to keep everybody involved,” she said.

Yarisha Johnson, 43, of Farmington Hills, who brought her four children, believes another positive aspect of the event’s inclusivity is that it’s free.

“It’s inexpensive, so it’s accessible to most families,” she said.

The event invited people to participate in more than just cooking s’mores and trying to catch the 1,000 marshmallows falling approximately 90 feet from the sky. Attendees had the opportunity to cook hot dogs, enjoy storytime, decorate their marshmallow-catching bag at the craft table, get free temporary tattoos, play on bounce houses and inflatables, cool down at the splash pad or the Kona Ice truck, take a tour of the Fire Department’s newest fire truck, win prizes, and enjoy the company of their neighbors.

“This is just a community event to get out to see the community and this park. This park is seriously such an amazing jewel in the city. There’s so much stuff here, and this (event) is going on in just this area. This is only the front of the park,” Heier said. “It’s a cool way to get people out here to see the park and enjoy the outside. We always want people to get outside.”

Erin Lietz, 37, of Farmington Hills, who brought her 5-year-old and 1-year-old out for the evening, agreed. She believes events like this help strengthen community ties.

“I think anytime you get families outside talking to each other and letting their kids play and everyone can relax, it’s a good time,” she said. “I think as long as Farmington Hills keeps offering events like this, then hopefully our community will be stronger.”

Alex Elkins, 35, of Dearborn, who brought his daughter for the second year in a row, agreed with Lietz. He thinks it’s healthy and beneficial to have community members congregate and share public space together. He said it “shows the value of public space.”

While long lines seemed to be a consistent complaint for most residents across the board, Heier said the event committee is always looking for ways and new suggestions on how to mitigate that issue and make the event better for the next year.

Johnson suggested including more pre-drop activities, like face painting or balloon making, to break up the crowds at each station.

“We try to make something better every year, even if it’s just the little things, like how our lines flow, and I think we take something away every year from that,” Heier said. “We usually spend about two or three hours debriefing, trying to come up with better ways to do everything for next year, and we’ll definitely get a lot of emails and phone calls in the next couple days. We take all of that stuff so seriously. People that come here give us the best advice on how to make it better.”

This year they coated the marshmallows with flour so they wouldn’t stick together as much. Busch’s Fresh Food Market, the event’s main sponsor, provides expired marshmallows for the drop, which are then donated to a local pig farm.

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