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Dearborn Heights holds 28th annual Spirit Festival this weekend

Mustang Fever-'50Years of Rockin' the Road'” will be the theme of Dearborn Heights' 28th annual Spirit Festival June 4-8.

“We're doing it in honor of the anniversary of the Mustang,” Dearborn Heights Parks and Recreation Director Kenneth P. Grybel said. “So the Ford Motor Co. is celebrating the major milestone of a vehicle that has lasted 50 years in today's changing world where they change car models like every two to three years.

“For something to stick around 50 years, that's plenty impressive, and it's going strong,” he said.

In keeping with that theme, the major attraction closing out this year's festival will be Katmandu, a tribute band named after a famous Bob Segar song.

“Bob Segar got his start around 1965, about the same time the Mustang came out, so that's the time we have there (for Sunday's major attraction),” Grybel said. “So if you had a brand-new Mustang in 1965, you probably heard quite a few of Bob Segar (songs), and at that time he was known as Bob Segar System.

“That's what he was called then, and (it was) later when he became the Silver Bullet man, but in his early days he was Bob Segar System, and that would have been in '65. So many of those tunes were back then: “Rambling, Gambling Man” and those type of songs that was in earlier days. You would have heard it on a '65 Mustang radio, and of course it would have been AM radio, probably Keener 13 on WKNR, and the other station you had was CKLW the Canadian station," he said.

On that same 28th annual Family Day, the 6 p.m. Sunday Katmandu concert will be preceded by other event tying in with the festival's theme. The Mustang Vintage Car Display will take place from 2-6 p.m. on the front lawn of the Canfield Community Center grounds, 1801 N. Beech Daly (one block south of Ford Road). While the city expects some support from the Redford Mustang club, Grybel added that since the club has a couple other events, “they're not sure how many they'll be able to send, so I want to have a nice variety of Mustangs.”

Any owners of vintage Mustangs (which can be as late as 1990) are invited to call the Parks & Recreation Department in advance and give their names, so their time of arrival will be expected. Those wanting to display their vintage Mustang between 2-6 p.m. will be provided a secure area, Grybel promised.

Since the city tries to change its major attractions that close out the nights of each year's festival, Grybel said, another newcomer will be Friday's Arizona Son Country Band. The Dearborn Heights Lions, Kiwanis and Rotary Clubs will be sponsoring the 6:30 p.m. concert on the 2nd annual Community Service Club Night, which will also feature WDIV-TV 4 news anchorman Devin Scillian.

“The band kicks off at 6:30, and Devin should be here after his newscast,” he said. “The band plays a set without him, and then he plays the last two sets with them starting at 8 o'clock.

“He'll be here from 8 until 10,” Grybel said.

On the other hand, Saturday night will feature a long-time Festival standby, Steve King & the Dittilies starting at 6:30 p.m.

“Probably the band that's had the longest history with the Spirit Fest,” Grybel said. “And that's something because of his popularity, and his ability to get the crowd involved in dancing, and everybody having a good time in a wild Friday.”

The festival will open Wednesday with the Dearborn Heights senior citizen centers presenting “Senior Jubilee,” and Mid America Shows presenting “A Night at the Dearborn Heights.” From 10 a.m.-2 p.m., the festival will be celebrating seniors under the entertainment tent with a continental breakfast, lunch, entertainment and vendors.

“We're having our fourth annual Senior Spirit Jubilee, and that's specifically designed for our senior citizens,” Grybel said. “That'll be the only thing going on the grounds during that time period, that's a nice event for them.

“A lot of our seniors get intimidated in the evening getting out in the large crowds, so this will be an event specifically designed for them with them fully in mind," he said.

The event is only for Dearborn Heights seniors 55 and older, and transportation will be supplied from Berwyn (26155 Richardson) and Eton (4900 Pardee) Centers starting at 9:30 a.m. The $3 tickets can only be purchased in advance (will not be available at the door) at Berwyn or at Eton. The centers are open from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Thursday, according to Grybel.

The Spirit 2014 amusement rides will be open from 4-10 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday.

“Our Wednesday night, we're having our sneak preview night again, and we're offering that tremendous value—you can't beat it when it's going to cost you $20 to ride all the rides all day on the weekend,” Grybel said. “Last year was the first year that we did that, and it was really successful, so we're coming back with it again this year.”

The $16 wristband for Wednesday and Thursday can cost only $12 on sneak preview night, Grybel added, by presenting a coupon valid only for Wednesday night. The amusement ride coupon can be picked up at any city building, he said, or by going to the website ci.dearborn-heights.mi.us/PR_Home.cfm to download and print it at home (Grybel stressed each individual must have his or her own coupon, and cannot have a coupon per-family).

Wristbands covering the 3-10 p.m. Friday carnival hours will be sold for $18, and the wristbands for the noon-10 p.m. weekend hours will be sold for $20. The former 1 p.m.-midnight carnival hours for Friday and Saturday have been moved to new hours this year (from noon-11 p.m.).

“I think our prices on our amusement rides are as affordable as anywhere you go, starting as cheap as Wednesday with a coupon at $12, Thursday they jump to $16, Fridays at $18, and weekends which is from noon to 10 both days—for pay-one-price is $20, so it comes out to $2 an hour,” Grybel said. “I don't know where you can go for $2 an hour, and you figure each ride costs you about $3-4 to ride about five minutes. You can see the value you're getting right away at $2 an hour.

“So we tell people they may think that they'll never spend $20 in ride tickets buying them individually. I've yet to see anybody come out, even if they stayed an hour, not do better by buying a ride-band for $20, because you'll end up spending in excess of $20 in an hour to ride all rides,” he said.

A couple new rides the carnival is featuring this year are the Himalaya and the Ring of Fire. Grybel believes that the Himalaya is similar to last year's Thunderbolt ride, both seating riders in cars that go up and around, but while the Thunderbolt went around on a rail, the Himalaya is free-swinging, “so you're doing the same thing, but you get a different feel to the ride.”

The Ring of Fire is a huge oval, which “looks like with the lights and everything like fire,” he said. Grybel named other popular rides such as the 1001 Nights, which has a huge 30-seat open basket that free falls, and the Freak Out as the ride most popular.

“It (the huge 30-seat car) goes way up, comes down, goes way up, comes down, and finally goes wa-a-ay up and you just sit on the top, and all of a sudden it rocks and does a full drop, and you start going around and around in that motion so it's more like a free-falling effect,” Grybel said. “And words can't describe the Freak Out.”

There is a wide variety of traditional kiddie rides, so he said the rides appeal from ages 3-4 up to high school and adult, “so we have something for everyone, and we are the largest amusement ride midway that visits Dearborn Heights,” Grybel said.

Leading off the 12th annual “Community Night” is the 22nd annual “Taste of the Heights” Food Festival from 5:30-7 p.m. Thursday. The new vendor this year is the Moo Cluck Moo on Telegraph Road near Joy Road, with others of the 13 vendors being regular participants in past years such as Mexican Fiesta, Antonio's Cucina Italiana, Lona's Pizza, Al-Ameer, Papa Romano's, and Leo's Coney Island. Kroger will be donating cakes.

The vendors are set up in the air-conditioned Canfield Center, though diners must consume their food in a shaded outdoor area (nothing can be taken back to the midway area). The $6 tickets will go on sale Tuesday at the Canfield Center (open from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Thursday), though Grybel noted that the tickets can be bought at the door as well.

Following the fest will be the 28th Annual Mayor's Walk at 7 p.m. Thursday. Registration will start at 6:30 p.m., and the walkers generally spend no more than a half hour doing a one-mile non-competitive walk.

“It's a very popular event because we have only one official T-shirt of Spirit, and the only way you can get that official T-shirt—you can't buy it, it's given away free—and that's by participating in the mayor's walk,” Grybel said. “And then there are some some other prize drawings that we'll have.”

Thursday will feature a lot of local entertainment from the high schools and middle schools. Star International Academy School will start the entertainment tent events with ethnic songs and dance from 5-6 p.m., and other performers will be the Divine Child Pom Pon Squad at 7:05 p.m., Riverside Middle School Chorus at 7:10 p.m., Crestwood High School Cheerleading & Pom Pon Squads at 7:45 p.m., and the Crestwood High School Jazz Band wrapping up the night from 8-8:45 p.m.

The Crestwood Cheerleaders will host the eighth annual Pasta & Pizza Feast from 5-6:30 p.m. Friday. Grybel noted that it is a half-hour earlier than the Taste Fest, and there is usually no line to get in because they have plenty of seating inside the air-conditioned Canfield Center.

Tickets cost $8 ($6 for children 12 & under and seniors 55 and up, free for those under 3). Tickets can only be purchased at the door.

The Sandy Adams Dance Revue will lead off the evening under the entertainment tent from 5-6 p.m. Friday. The Kiwanis, Lions and Rotary Clubs will be setting up booths in a separate area from 6-8 p.m., staffed with members from these organizations, “and they have informed me that they will have a lot of nice giveaways to the public.”

Other booths on the midway manned everyday throughout the festival by the community will include the first-aid station sponsored by the Dearborn Heights Fire Department, and two food booths. The North Dearborn Heights Baseball will be selling a number of menu items: hamburgers, cheeseburgers, pizza, chips, popcorn and pop; and the Dearborn Heights Redskins Jr. Football program will sell nachos and water.

“Pretty much everything else has been picked up and it's going to be still available, there just won't be as many booths providing almost everything you were able to enjoy at our festival in past years,” Grybel said. “I think North Dearborn Heights baseball has been working on ice cream this year too, last time I was talking to them, so they're becoming quite entrepreneurs in their little booth.

“And then there will be foods available of course on the amusement rides midway side,” he said.

Other community booths listed by Grybel will contain a face painter, hats and sunglasses, glowworks necklaces, and sports memorabilia. He added that on another part of that side of the midway will be a bungee-jump area on the main lawn.

“That's where they put you on a bungee, get on trampolines and fly up and down, and get probably as high as you can bounce and then you're actually connected to a bungee so you're safe,” Grybel said. “But maybe you can do flips and turns while you're up there because you're on a harness.

“We haven't had that in a couple years, and it's coming back,” he said.

The Spirit Festival has been getting back to the “full complement of things that we've offered in the past.

“And we're real excited about that,” Grybel said. “The economy kind of slowed things down, but it looks like we're getting back.

“Last year, our attendance went up 30 percent last year, and I think it had a lot to do with the Arab festival in Dearborn got canceled, and that's going to happen again this year, so we had an influx of visitors who used to go to the Arab festival, who wanted to have that festival opportunity. And they picked our event, because our crowds on Saturday were just mind-boggling.

“So we tell people, we have plenty of room for everybody, it may look when you look for a place to park, it may look like we're way more crowded than what we are, because once the parking lots at Crestwood High School fill up and some of the side streets fill up, we still have room on the grounds to accommodate way more people,” Grybel said.

Because there is not enough parking in the immediate area to accommodate everyone who can be accommodated at a festival event, Grybel stressed that another weekend activity starting Friday evening will be the running of the shuttle service. From 5 p.m.-10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 5-10 p.m. Sunday, people can park at the Dearborn Heights Post Office on Ford Road and ride the shuttle (scheduled every 10 minutes).

“We have two staff people there at all times, monitoring it so your car is probably protected better than in any other lot in Dearborn Heights,” Grybel said. “The police will patrol it too, but we'll have two staff persons who will be there to greet you, and when you come back, they will be in the lots.

“You'll be picked up by an air-conditioned SMART Connector bus, and we'll drop you off right in the center of the grounds so you don't have to walk at all. For somebody handicapped or physically-challenged, this is the best way for them to come to the fair during those hours, and to me it's the greatest solution. And it's the part of our event up until this point we've had the least participation, and we don't understand it, it's totally free, so we' hoping that maybe as people become more aware it—we've been doing it now for 20 years—but our ridership has not been to what I think it could be, and I think people once they use it would find out how convenient it is.

“The comment would be, 'Why didn't we do this years ago?' and I'm hoping that if we keep putting the word out there so people can take advantage of it, they would like to come down and enjoy (festival during its busiest times). We don't want anybody to not come because they come down here, they've been driving around a half hour looking for some place to park, and then realize they have to walk five or six blocks to get to this event, and they say that's too far to walk six blocks, and then they go home,” he said.

The shuttle runs mainly around the closeout bands drawing the biggest crowds, Grybel explained, because there is probably ample parking for everybody during the day hours before dinner time. When the shuttle is not running, people can park at Crestwood High School, and wherever they can find a spot in off-street parking, both across the street or by the Canfield Ice Arena.

“You're probably have to walk a couple blocks, but we think it's well worth it,” he said. “And up until this point, our track record has showed that by the amount of people that show up to our event, there are many people who think it's well worth it once they get here.

“Because usually when you get here, it's usually a minimum of a three-to-five-hour stay, so if you go to a Tiger baseball game and park in one of their lots, you're going to walk eight blocks sometimes to get to the ballgame, and if the Tigers win, it's all worth it, isn't it? And you don't have to worry about whether your team's going to win or not at our event, because everyone who's here having fun are the winners.

“A lot of people, if you come into the high school lot, there may not be a parking spot, but then it opens up. There's people coming and going throughout the day,” Grybel said.

Grybel announced one Friday event will be moving this year because of a scheduling conflict. The Police Vs. Fire Softball Challenge will be held on the Central ball diamond at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. The fire department will also be bringing back an event for Family Day “that we've probably haven't had in about 17 years.”

It was the old water-ball fight in which a ball is placed in the center on a string of 20 yards, he said, and a bunch of guys at each end direct a loaded hose at the ball. The Dearborn Heights Fire Department's Water Ball Fight will be held behind the Canfield Community Center from 3-4 p.m. Sunday.

“Whoever … will push the ball all the way like a tug-of-war, is crowned the champion, so we're real excited about that event coming back,” Grybel said. “If it's warm out, people who sit on the sideline will get a little sprayed, but it's nice to see our police and fire really getting involved in this event—both entities have been nothing but supportive.”

Saturday will be the ninth annual “Military Appreciation Day.” The 1-2 p.m. “Salute to our Military” will feature the Ford Chorus. Since the event will salute all veterans past and present, he said, all Veterans of Foreign Wars members are invited to come out and “be part of that great celebration.”

The Ford Chorus will be doing songs from all the different military branches, and other military and patriotic songs. The military and others will be providing guest speakers as well, he added.

“It's a tribute, but we're celebrating the individuals who have given the greatest sacrifice,” Grybel said. “Whether they were killed in service or not, still that's a great sacrifice to put your entire life on hold, to go into the military to protect all Americans' freedom.

“And to me, that's the greatest levels, those are heroes, so we're going to honor those heroes. It's just a real nice moving event, uplifting, and I think when you walk out of that event, you're proud that you're an American,” he said.

That event will be followed by the Duane Malinowski Band, which will perform from 3-5 p.m. Saturday.

“Pancake breakfast, we've got that too, that's back a second year,” Grybel said. “We're glad to have it back, it's an event that we've had on and off, depending on when we can get someone to sponsor it, but the Dearborn Heights Professional Firefighters Union is going to be sponsoring it again.”

That pancake breakfast will kick off Family Day from 9 a.m.-noon Sunday under the main entertainment tent. Tickets will be $5 ($4 for senior citizens 55 & up, and for children 12 & under).

The Family Day activities that will follow that afternoon under the main entertainment tent, before the final closeout: The Sandy Adams Dance Revue (2-3 p.m.), Elvis Tribute (3:30-4:30 p.m.), and the Crestwood High School Cheerleading Squad (5:30-6 p.m.). Home Depot will again have their craft fair in the Children's Tent from 3-5 p.m., as children and their families can participate for free.

“So we've got a pretty good variety of stuff going on, and there's something for everyone,” Grybel concluded.

For more information, call the Spirit Hotline at 791-3607.