Ted and Karen Vander Putten, of Harrison Township, organized the May 15 road rally for the Harrison Township Parks and Recreation Committee.

Ted and Karen Vander Putten, of Harrison Township, organized the May 15 road rally for the Harrison Township Parks and Recreation Committee.

Photo provided by Paula Rose


Hitting the road for fun in Harrison Township

More events scheduled for summer

By: Kristyne E. Demske | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published June 5, 2021

 Karen Vander Putten explains road rally rules to a participant while Ted Vander Putten looks on.

Karen Vander Putten explains road rally rules to a participant while Ted Vander Putten looks on.

Photo provided by Paula Rose

HARRISON TOWNSHIP — Know Kate Upton’s beau? What about the nickname of George Anderson? Who is Miggy?

People who had some clue what those questions referred to would have had a leg up at the first Harrison Township Road Rally, which had a Detroit Tigers theme.

Hosted by the Parks and Recreation Committee and organized by residents Ted and Karen Vander Putten, the event was a socially distanced way to kick off the 2021 recreation season in the township.

Township Trustee Paula Rose said she recalled the road rallies that the Vander Puttens used to put on for the L’Anse Creuse Community Education Department from her time working for the school district.

The events had fallen by the wayside, but when Rose became a township trustee and joined the Parks and Recreation Committee this year, she asked the Vander Puttens if they would consider coming out of “retirement” to put on another event.

“We felt it was still socially distancing because you were with your own set of people in your own car,” she said.

“It’s a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun putting it together and creating the clues,” said Ted Vander Putten, who first put on a road rally for the L’Anse Creuse Community Education Department with his wife in 1995. “Historically, we try to have a theme for the rally so we’re not all over the board in the destinations or the clue types.”

This year’s theme was “Play Ball,” in reference to the Detroit Tigers. Vander Putten said they kept the clues centered in and around Harrison Township so there wasn’t quite so much driving since so many beginners were participating in their first road rally.

“We discussed how to make the clues enjoyable. Fun, yet not too difficult,” he said. “I think the people had a ball.”

“It was doable but challenging,” Rose said. “Just a fun time.”

The field was capped at 125 registrants on 26 teams, but Rose said there were more people interested, “so we do know this is something the community is longing for.”

The rally began at Graham Elementary School, 25555 Crocker Blvd., May 15 for a 6 p.m. start. Teams had until 9:30 p.m. to solve nine clues that eventually led them to Crank’s Bar and Grill at the St. Clair Shores Golf Club, 22185 Masonic Blvd., in St. Clair Shores. The top five teams won recognition and prize money. The team led by Lindsey Rossi won the road rally with a perfect score.

At the final destination, the Vander Puttens posted the clues with the answers around the room so participants could see where they went wrong. He said it was fun to watch participants “banging their heads against the wall, (wondering) ‘How did we miss that one?’”

“You saw them grouping together with friends to discuss the entire rally and what they saw.”

He said he and his wife loved participating in road rallies back in the 1980s; otherwise, they wouldn’t have agreed to put on the event.

“The benefit to this one (was), it was daylight all the time,” he said, recalling that the ones they used to host for L’Anse Creuse were fall events. “When you start at 7 in the fall, you’re finishing up in the dark.”

Another key difference? Smartphones. Previously, phone books and AAA maps were on the list of required items to bring to the road rally, but smartphones have made them largely irrelevant.

The Parks and Recreation Committee is run by volunteers, including interested parents in the community and a few members of the Harrison Township Board of Trustees. Rose said the road rally was just the beginning of a “robust calendar of events,” including a fishing derby at Lake St. Clair Metropark June 12, a free bowling event at Total Sports July 17, and a cool car and food truck event called Engines and Eats Aug. 7

“Our businesses were very generous,” she said. “At every event, the residents can see that these are the businesses that are off-setting the costs of these events and making them accessible to you.”

Rose said the recreation committee is always thinking outside of the box.

“Last year was the first year they did a drive-in movie, and it was very successful,” she said. “From what I heard last year, it was difficult to work around all the guidelines and the restrictions. We’re always trying to try something new.”

For more information on upcoming events, visit www.harrison-township.org and click on the Residents tab, then Parks and Recreation.