One of the biggest annual festivals in the state will be celebrating a milestone when the 2011 Milford Memories Summer Festival takes place beginning Friday, Aug. 12 and ending on Sunday, Aug. 14.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the festival, which brings a wide range of activities, artists, food and entertainment to downtown Milford.
The festival is organized and run by the Huron Valley Chamber of Commerce.
Over two decades, the festival has blossomed from humble beginnings into an event that many across the lakes area and beyond look forward to every year.
“It’s been incredible,” said Ann Barnette, executive director of the Milford Downtown Development Authority (DDA). “It’s enjoyed a steady, organic growth because it’s so well managed. I think that it really functions well when it comes to putting Milford on the map.”
The first festival was held in August 1992 and centered around a play called “Milford Memories,” which was based on a book entitled “Ten Minutes Ahead of the Rest of the World” that told the story of Milford’s founding fathers, who first settled the area back in 1832.
“The (organizers) wanted to do a community event. It was more community-driven and they wanted to celebrate Milford’s history,” said Joell Beether, who has managed the event since 2003. “I think it’s something that, once it caught on and the community got a hold of it, it’s kind of grown on its own.”
The play continued to be performed over the years, but was last performed at the festival a few years ago, according to Beether.
“The committee discusses it every time. We’re looking for the right time to do it again,” she said.
Beether also said that the festival has succeeded where others have failed because of great community support and a strong planning committee.
“We have an amazing group of 24 people on our committee that plan it every year,” she said. “We have sponsors that have been here since the beginning.”
Scott Rolondo, a Huron Valley Lakeland High School teacher who has volunteered at the festival since 2002, said the event is a good promotion for businesses and the Huron Valley area.
“It provides an economic impact and a social outlet for the area,” he said. “It means so much to the community at large. It brings 250,000 a year into the town of Milford and the Huron Valley area.”
Activities for one and all
There will be a wide range of activities offered in the village’s downtown area during Milford Memories, for both children and adults.
One of the main attractions will be the Civil War encampment in Central Park that will take place all three days of the festival, from noon to 8 p.m. on Friday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday, at 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Sunday.
There will also be a nighttime canon firing on Saturday at 10 p.m.
Another highlight will be a special veterans memorial ceremony that will be held on Sunday at 11 a.m. in Central Park.
Other encampment activities scheduled for both Saturday and Sunday include a Civil War fashion show, musical performances by Thru the Myst, a Civil War skirmish and ongoing medical demonstrations by surgeon J.T. Hatfield at the surgeon’s tent.
There will also be a children’s drill on Saturday beginning at 11:20 a.m. Those interested in registering for the drill can do so on Friday from noon to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 9-11:20 a.m.
Participants in the encampment will include the 9th Kentucky Volunteer Infantry, the 12th South Carolina/4th Michigan Volunteer Infantry, the 102nd United States Colored Troop and the 1st Michigan Light Artillery.
Another Milford Memories tradition is the Cold Butt Euchre Tournament that will take place on Saturday at 12:30 p.m., where contestants play euchre while sitting on blocks of ice. Registration for the tournament is at 11:30 a.m. with limited space.
The first-place team will win $100. Registration is $25 per team in advance and $30 per team the day of the event.
The annual Blind Canoe Race is scheduled for Sunday at 12:30 p.m., where teams of three race with two paddlers blind-folded. Registration is at 11:30 a.m. and the first-place prize is a cabin rental donated by the Proud Lake Recreation Area.
Registration is $15 per canoe in advance and $20 per canoe the day of the event.
For those adults who want to feel the heat, there will be a hot pepper eating contest on Saturday at 3 p.m. in Central Park, with registration at 2 p.m.
A new addition to the festival will be a cupcake decorating contest, sponsored by Demarle at Home, at the parking lot tent adjacent to Demarle at Home at the 525 N. Main Street strip mall that also houses Starbucks.
The contest will take place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Friday, 2-4 p.m. on Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sunday.
Another new attraction is a 25-foot rock climbing wall that will be located in the Colonial Motors parking lot and will be operated by Oakland County Parks and Recreation. The wall will be up and running on Friday from 2-8 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
There will also be a 5-Card Frenzy poker run in Central Park on Saturday from noon to 6 p.m. and 8-10 p.m.
Grown-ups interested in athletic activities can participate in the annual 1-mile Fun Run, and the 5K run and 10K run on Sunday morning at 7:30 a.m. and 8 a.m., respectively.
Registration for the 5K and 10K runs is $20 in advance and $25 the day of the event, while the 1-mile run fee is $9 in advance and $10 the day of the event.
Meanwhile, there will also be plenty of activities for children at Kid Central, including a Kids Central Activity Tent that will be available all three days of the festival.
In the tent, children can participate in arts and crafts activities including beading, painting, tattoos, paper, fabric, glitter, glue, foam and sparkles.
A fishing tournament will also be held on Saturday in Central Park on the banks of the Huron River at 9:30 a.m., with registration at 9 a.m. Equipment will be provided by the Proud Lake Recreation Area and the winner will be determined on the number of fish caught, not the total weight.
An ice cream eating contest will also be held on Friday at 2 p.m. in Central Park.
Applications for children’s events can be downloaded online at the Milford Memories website at milfordmemories.com.
The Milford Fire Department will also be on hand with its Fire House for Children on Saturday and Sunday in Central Park along the riverfront.
During the Civil War encampment, children can participate in a muster drill on Saturday from 11:20 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Children can be registered from noon to 6 p.m. on Friday, or Saturday from 9-11:20 a.m.
Also appearing on the Veterans Memorial Stage will be The Mister Lawrence Experience, a group specializing in children’s songs, music videos and television.
Plenty of food to enjoy all weekend
Another attraction of Milford Memories is the variety of food available, whether it’s from local restaurants or the vendors on hand.
Gravity Bar and Grill will not only be providing a food tent, but also live music on Friday and Saturday.
The Aaron Vaughn Band will perform both Friday and Saturday night at 8 p.m., while Beth Stalker will play Friday at 2 p.m. and Bing & Gary will play Saturday at 2 p.m.
Other restaurants that will have food tents at Milford Memories include Cinco Lagos, Lei Ting, Main Street Grill, Village Butcher, Coratti’s on Main, The Health Mart and The Burger Joint.
Numerous vendors will also be on hand for the festival, including Asian Grill and Rice, the Cheesesteak Institute of America (CIA), and Terry’s Tastee Treats.
Also on hand will be Fudge by Design, the Milford United Methodist Church Men’s Club and the Milford Farmer’s Market.
Laura Bolyard, who is in charge of food vendors for the festival, said the Chamber of Commerce puts applications online around January.
“About 90 percent of food vendors do it year-to-year. Some have been here all 20 years, so we try to stay loyal,” Bolyard said. “We’re always looking for something new. We like to use local food vendors.”
Art on display from near and far
Arts and crafts have been a mainstay since Milford Memories’ inception, and this year will be no different. About 280 artists are expected to attend and showcase their works, including this year’s featured artist, Donna Pellegata.
The owner of ArtQwerks Studio in Howell, a children’s book illustrator and a portrait artist, Pellegata has illustrated six children’s books and created over 300 internationally-collected commissioned works.
Among the local artists scheduled to appear include Susan Collick of White Lake with her line of jewelry from Daisy Chains, Michelle Hauska of West Bloomfield and her stone art from Stoner’s Granite, LLC, and Sharon Heminger with gourmet food from Mr. Fudge.
Ben Knapp of Grand Rapids will also be on hand with his “backyard golf game.”
They are just some of the artists that will be on hand along with artists from across the country, from San Diego to West Palm Beach.
The artists are organized and chosen by Dianne Quinn and her daughter Raychel Rork, who run the Art in the Park festival in Plymouth every July and have been a part of Milford Memories since the beginning.
“(The first Milford Memories) was smaller in scale, but it was still the same feel as it is today,” Rork said.
“It is a juried art fair — people apply and give a description of what they make and then send us photographs of their artwork and display and we make our selections. “We look for quality, uniqueness — something that’s hand-made and is different.”
Rork also stressed that people will be attending an arts and crafts show that will not only include fine art, but also jewelry, clothing, products and food.
“We try to have a variety of media and showcase what’s offered,” she said. “We’ve had a lot of great artists that have come from all over and it’s become more popular in the artists community. It gains notoriety over the years.”
There will also be 21 musical acts performing throughout the weekend, playing diverse styles of music in the downtown Milford festival area.
The Center Street Gazebo will host eight acts, beginning on Friday with Rude Dog at 11 a.m., Rosenthal & Blatter at 2 p.m., and Donna Lee Holman at 5 p.m.
On Saturday, Caim to Caim will play at 11 a.m., followed by Chad Hoffman at 2 p.m. and Jeff Yantz at 5 p.m.
Sunday will see Gary Weisenburg play at 11 a.m. followed by the acoustic duo Meg & Tony at 2 p.m.
The Central Park Veterans Memorial Stage will host nine acts, beginning on Friday with the Milford Music Kids Groups at 10 a.m., the Mister Lawrence Experience at 1:30 p.m., and the a cappella group The Essentials at 5 p.m.
On Saturday, Robin Horlock will perform at 10 a.m., followed by Suzanne’s Main Street Dance at 1 p.m., the trio Half Whacked at 2 p.m., and country band Alan Turner & the Steel Horse Band at 5 p.m.
On Sunday, female acoustic artist M.J. Bishop will play at 12:30 p.m., followed by the reggae group The Basiks at 3 p.m.
The Central Park Beer Tent will host five acts during the festival, with the tent open for families from noon to 5 p.m. before restricting admission to patrons 21 and over from 6-10 p.m.
On Friday, P.A. Drama Company Summer Stock will perform Broadway tunes from noon to 4 p.m., followed by the rock group Monkey Grinder at 7:30 p.m.
On Saturday, the Icemen will perform a diverse set of music beginning at noon, followed by cover band Wheelhouse at 7 p.m.
Then on Sunday, R&B artist Bugs Beddow will perform at noon.
The logistics for the weekend festival
Bike medics and first aid will be on hand at the festival for those in need.
LaFontaine Automotive Group will also be providing $5 parking and shuttle service to the festival based at Holden’s Party Store on South Milford Road and at Milford High School beginning at 9 a.m. all three days and ending at 9 p.m. on Friday, 8 p.m. on Saturday, and 6 p.m. on Sunday.
Proceeds benefit the Huron Valley Lakeland High School senior class and the Huron Valley Milford football team.
M.J. Whelan Construction will also provide free shuttle service for seniors from three locations: the M.J. Whelan construction office at the north end of the festival grounds near Summit; at Main and East Liberty near the LaFontaine booth; and near the street corner of Huron and Main.
For more information about the festival, call 248-685-7129 or visit milfordmemories.com.