Harvest Festival brings farm-town fun to Eastpointe

By: Sara Kandel | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published November 2, 2011

 The horse and pony rides were the main attraction for many of the festival’s attendees, with a quick-moving line present throughout the festival. Here, 7-year-old Laniyah Phillips takes a fearless first ride.

The horse and pony rides were the main attraction for many of the festival’s attendees, with a quick-moving line present throughout the festival. Here, 7-year-old Laniyah Phillips takes a fearless first ride.

Photo by Sara Kandel

EASTPOINTE — Large crowds filtered through East Brooke Commons on Saturday, Oct. 22, for the annual Harvest Festival in Eastpointe.

“We’ve had 400-plus kids come through here in five hours,” Paul Hemeryck said while taking a moment to observe the large crowds still coming through the festival just a half-hour before its scheduled end at 3 p.m. “It takes a lot of planning, but it’s worth it.”

“This isn’t about making money; this is about doing something new and exciting for the community,” he added. “Many of these kids have never seen a farm animal or rode a horse before today. It’s really amazing to see the look on their faces when they first see the animals are here and they run over to see them.”

Hemeryck and fellow Lions Club member Randy Lewis work together to plan the festival each year. Lewis, who manned the horse and pony rides, estimated that about 20 adults and 60 children had their first-ever ride at the festival this year.

Not as exciting to the kids as ponies and bunnies, another first that Hemeryck and Lewis were both excited about was the Plus-optix camera for vision screening tests that was featured for the first time at the festival.

Lions Club member Kay Furby administered the free tests trough the Lions’ Project Kidsight program to 66 kids on this day.

“The Lions have always been a vision-based organization, and this is a continuation of our efforts in that area,” Furby said. “This year we are really excited because of our new camera; it makes the screening process much easier and quicker.

With the new camera, kids and their adult companions were in and out of the vision tent in just a couple of minutes with their results detailing possible vision issues neatly printed out. Furby simply snaps a picture of their eyes, gives the camera a few seconds to register, clicks print and explains the results.

With such a simple format, adults with babies as young as 18 months were standing in line for the vision screenings.

“Especially with younger children, it can be very difficult to tell if there is a vision problem,” Furby said. “But with early detection, parents can pursue corrective treatment.”

In addition to farm animals and vision screening, the festival featured a pumpkin sale — where 400 pumpkins were sold at $1 apiece — pumpkin painting, vendor booths from local businesses, a bounce house and fair rides for younger children.

A popular attraction among the vendor booths was a table and playpen set up by Love A Bull Paws Rescue. In the playpen were four puppies up for adoption at the event. Councilwoman Wendy Richardson stopped by this booth to play with the cuddly, costumed pups before making her rounds at the festival.

“I love to play with puppies,” she said. “But I always go home to my two adult dogs at home.” Richardson supports pet rescues, saying that personally she prefers to adopt older dogs. Both of her dogs were adopted from another local rescue.

Love A Bull Paws was there with Petco, which had its own booth and a storefront at the festival, held at East Brooke Commons at Nine Mile and Gratiot.

Mike Curis, owner of East Brooke Commons shopping center, said he likes getting involved in the communities in which he does business, but Eastpointe holds an even more special place in his heart.

“I grew up here in the city, and my mother and three of my aunts still live here,” Curis said.

Curis reminisced about Eastpointe with Mayor Suzanne Pixley, who also grew up in the city. “I remember coming here with my father when I was a little girl,” Pixley said. “It was very special to me, but when I moved back to the city as an adult, it had changed a lot and it wasn’t so great to come to. But now it is a place I love to come to again.”

Curis said he worked with Pixley and Downtown Development Director Steve Horstman to reinvent the downtown area 25 years ago.

“It had really gone downhill,” Curis said. “When I decided to build here, there was an X-rated theater, boarded up buildings and a coney island that probably sold more drugs than it did coneys, but we worked hard and turned it back into a place where families could go, and that’s what it is now.”

Curis donates use of the land for the Harvest Festival, and the Art and Ice Festival.

“I do it because it feels good,” he said. “It’s not just about doing well in business; it’s about doing good by the communities that you are doing business in,” he said.

“And this festival is a good thing,” Pixley added. “It brings people out — more than just families too, young couples and teenagers — to have a good time and for many to experience farm life that they don’t get to interact with otherwise.”