The sweet music of community

By: Sara Kandel | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published June 29, 2012

EASTPOINTE — Eastpointe launched its Music in the Plaza series to a group of toe-tappin’ onlookers at the City Hall plaza the evening of June 27.

The Downtown Development Authority is funding the series, but City Manager Steve Duchane is credited with its revival.

“They had Music in the Park, but they canceled it when they went to the (recreation) authority,” he said. “Since it is set up out here to do it, I said I am just going to do it and have the DDA fund it initially. The truth is, I just wanted to do it. I like music.”

Each night will cost the DDA about $500, but nearby business owners have already shown interest in sponsoring individual nights. Joe Solomon of the UPS Store and Andrea Robinson of Bourbon Street Gumbo Co. each offered to sponsor a night.

“The city is strapped for cash, but we aren’t dead,” Duchane said. “There is a lot of development, and honestly, little things like this brings people looking around and makes them realize some of this stuff is worth having.”

Playing a mix of rock, Motown, top 40 and country for the opening night of the series, Motor City Mix brought out a little more than 50 residents.

Duchane admitted the plaza could hold well more than that, but said he was happy to have even that many people show up on such short notice.

“I was hoping for at least 50, and by my count we are at 52, so I am pleased with that. I think they will get better as the summer goes on, and next year, with a little bit of lead time, they will be even better.”

The crowd consisted mostly of seniors, but did include some young families and adult onlookers. Many brought lawn chairs, while others arrived early for spots on the benches and tables that surround the plaza.

Sarah VanFleteren, of Eastpointe, attended the event with her infant son, James; her mom, Cathy VanFleteren; and her niece, Madison VanFleteren.

“The kids like it. They are getting a little fussy after sitting outside for an hour, but they’ve been having a good time, and we like the music,” she said. “It’s … a good idea.”

Each show lasts 90 minutes, running from 6:30-8 p.m. The every other Wednesday night series will continue July 11 with a four-piece band called Wally Fitz Jazz playing jazz and country.

Following in the lineup is the Rick Lieder Band playing oldies, Jimmy Buffet and other top 40 hits on July 25. While on opening night the audience viewed from chairs, Dana Lieder will get the audience moving with free line-dancing instructions.

The fun continues with a special treat for many of the area’s seniors when Bob and Carl play oldies and country on Aug. 8. The duo is well-known among Eastpointe seniors after selling out multiple programs at the Senior Center over the years.

The series will come to an end Aug. 22 with the big band sounds of the Swing Shift Orchestra.

Music in the Plaza is free to the public, but Duchane said what it creates is priceless.

“I’m big into having a sense of place. This does that. This creates that sense of place. I believe the Gratiot corridor, M-59 and Woodward will define Southeast Michigan in the future, and by defining (it) through events like these and defining that sense of place in our community, I believe Eastpointe will be a big part of that future.”

For more information on Music in the Plaza, call (586) 445-5016, ext. 5, or visit www.eastpointefyi.com.