Heritage Days Festival celebrates Rochester’s roots

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published May 13, 2015

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ROCHESTER — The Greater Rochester Heritage Days Festival will give families and history lovers a chance to see what life was like during the pioneer days May 23-24.

The festival is designed to provide entertainment for the community and educate people on the heritage of the area, Dinosaur Hill Nature Preserve Director Sue Neal said, and it also serves as a fundraiser for many local nonprofits, which benefit from sponsored food and vendor sales.

“The Greater Rochester Heritage Days Festival is a celebration of the history and heritage of the greater Rochester area, and also a venue to come out and support and learn about a variety of nonprofits that are active in our community,” Neal said. “It’s been very popular over the years.”
Held from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. May 23 and from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. May 24, the 38th annual festival will celebrate the history of the area with a variety of family-friendly activities. The event — held rain or shine in Rochester Municipal Park — is free and is not limited to Rochester residents.

Neal said many of the classic, favorite festival features will be back again this year, including the Great Lakes Timber Show, which has been expanded this year. Part education and history, part humor and entertainment, the Timber Show features chainsaw carving and throwing, wood chopping, log rolling and more.

The Rochester Lions Club is once again putting on two car shows as part of the event. The Heritage Rod and Custom Car Festival opens at 9 a.m. May 23 and consists of various cars produced in 1990 or before, with an emphasis on custom cars, hot rods, street machines, muscle cars and classics. Trophies will be awarded on Saturday.

The 36th annual Festival of Cars show begins at 9 a.m. Sunday and will have many rare, vintage and antique vehicles. Trophies will be awarded in 18 classes. All proceeds from the Rochester Lions Club car festivals will benefit Leader Dogs for the Blind and other Lions Club charities.

Dinosaur Hill benefits from the festival’s Crafts Along the Creek sale, which features handmade crafts. This year, more than 60 crafters signed on offering everything from jewelry and photography to children’s clothing and pet items, according to Neal. While admission to the show is free for event-goers, a portion of the vendor participation fees goes directly to the nature preserve.

“The show is unique because we have a wide range of price points,” Neal said. “People will find cute, small things that are very inexpensive, and then moderately priced arts and crafts, as well.”

Children can enjoy the ever-popular and free pioneer playground, where they can play old-fashioned games and participate in activities such as stilt walking, rutabaga bowling, a beanbag toss, pony and camel rides, and a petting zoo on both days of the festival.

The festival’s Heritage Area will include numerous exhibits from the Rochester-Avon Historical Society, the Oakland Township Historical Society, and the local chapters of the Sons of the American Revolution and the Daughters of the American Revolution, including historic displays and old photos of early Rochester and the Oakland County region.

“We will have a booth, along with the other historical organizations from the area, where people can stop in and talk with us and look at a display of old Rochester photographs,” said Rochester-Avon Historical Society member Deborah Larsen. “We’d like to meet everyone and have a chance to tell them about the Rochester-Avon Historical Society. We’re encouraging new members, and if they have any questions about who we are and what we do, we’d be happy to talk with them one-on-one, show them some of the projects that we have been working on, ask them if they would like to participate or if they just want to know more about their community.”

There will be demonstrations of chair caning, tatting, rug hooking, wheel spinning and quilting.

Rounding out the event are vintage tractor displays, fire truck demonstrations with the Rochester Fire Department, war re-enactors, the Rochester Hills Public Library’s Bookmobile and more.

Those interested in grabbing a bite to eat before exploring the festival can head to the Rochester Community House’s pancake breakfast each morning from 8 a.m.-11:30 a.m. The cost for the breakfast is $7 for adults and $4 for children. It includes pancakes, sausage, coffee and juice.

Tickets may be purchased at the door. While there, people can see a display of vintage tea cups.

There will be various other food choices on site, including Polish food, barbecue, Bayou Billy’s homemade soda, kettle corn and more. 

“There’s something for everybody, whether they are just looking for a small healthy snack to somebody who would like to have a full meal,” Neal said.

The festival takes place rain or shine. For more information, visit dinosaurhill.org/HeritageDays2015.

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