The city and the nonprofit Dearborn Community Fund will bring plenty of festival food, entertainment and family activities this weekend to Ford Field Park, 22051 Cherry Hill (at Brady north of Michigan Avenue).
The August 1-3 Dearborn Homecoming, now in its 35th year, will headline country music artist Kellie Pickler on the main stage; discount tickets for 27 carnival rides; give demonstrations of art and living history; and provide free children's games, wacky contests and inflatable rides all weekend long. Fireworks displays on Saturday and Sunday evenings cap off the festival entertainment.
In this year's Homecoming, the entertainment has become a two-stage show, with the main stage providing only evening shows for the most part.
“Then throughout the day, on the food court stage, there will be smaller acts that will, as people are eating their food, entertain,” DCF Executive Director EmmaJean Woodyard said. “There is no Stage B this year, there's the main stage, where the (evening) acts...will perform, and there's the food court stage, which will be entertainment throughout the day until the main acts start.
“What we have found is that people come later in the evening. One of the reasons we got rid of Stage B, which was the old show-mobile stage, was it was not heavily utilized the way the sun sets and everything—it was very hot sitting there. We just decided that, why try make it work when there were so many things preventing it from working, and it's certainly the main stage, when people are gathering for the evening, for fireworks especially on Saturday and Sunday night—let's just do the best we can programming the main stage, make that work,” she said.
There also has not been stage entertainment on top of the hill for several years, Woodyard added, because of the expense as well as logistical problems.
“It was more logistical than anything, because of the big shows they put on the main stage in the evening,” she said. “They started the sound checks fairly early in the afternoon, and that would interfere with the performances on the top of the hill, and again everything combined, we just felt we needed to focus more on the acts of the main stage that would draw the crowds.”
Saturday night headliner Pickler is very well known from coming in second on American Idol, according to Woodyard, and “making a big splash about a year ago” in winning the Crystal Ball in Dancing with the Stars, despite never dancing before in her life. At 8 p.m. Friday, Larry Lee and the Back in a Day band will play a mix of jazz, Motown and classic rock; she said; and taking the stage at 8:30 p.m. Sunday will be Infatuations, “Motor City pop, rock, soul and punk.
“They say from all accounts that she (Pickler) is a very, very good down-to-earth warm performer, who puts on a good show,” Woodyard said. “It's suitable for anybody, which is very important when you do an event like Homecoming.
“So Eric Peterson, he's the Associate Director of the Recreation Department, he's the one who makes a lot of the selections in terms of the entertainment, so he's very well aware of the kinds of crowds that we get at Homecoming, looking for the right and appropriate performer. So Kellie Pickler Saturday night I think is going to be a really good show—I'm going to go—and then there's a variety, a lot of strolling performers during the weekend, you know clowns and stilt walkers, they're always a lot of fun.
“Of course the big thing on both Saturday and Sunday nights too are the fireworks. How can you go wrong with fireworks, right? They're always good fireworks,” she said.
The No. 1 reason for the entertainment to draw crowds, Woodyard continued, was to make Homecoming a success for the food booths and non-profits, “which means we have to have people there.
“The pancake breakfast is happening this year,” she said. “The First Methodist Church holds the pancake breakfast, and they have made arrangements with the Italian (club) to occupy the main pavilion, to use a portion of the pavilion Sunday morning for the pancake breakfast, which is really nice.”
Besides the 7:30-11 a.m. Sunday pancake breakfast, she said that people will find the same non-profit food vendors returning year after year, “because that's their main money generator for their projects.” But after having food trucks for the first time last year, Woodyard said, their popular success has drawn a wide variety of food trucks coming in this year.
“There'll be similar ones all three days, but there will be some different ones,” she said. “They'll take turns because they have commitments elsewhere, so the popular barbecues will be back, and I think the Mac Shack will be back, but there'll be a variety, not necessarily the same ones every day.”
The community tent will also feature a lot of returning non-profit organizations like Friends For the Dearborn Animal Shelter, Going Green Foundation, Dearborn Federation of Teachers, Fairlane Alliance Church; Woodyard said, because year-by-year they find it a good investment in getting the word out and acquainting people with what they do. Homecoming supports more than 20 nonprofit groups, which raised about $70,000 last year for Dearborn community causes such as scholarships, needy Dearborn families, youth athletics, veterans, cultural arts and more.
One new tent being provided this year, she said, is a “Wellness Tent” by Presenting Sponsor Oakwood Healthcare daily from noon-6 p.m. The information on exercise and nutrition, blood-pressure checks, access-to-care information table and interactive healthy eating activities will be added to Oakwood's existing two tents (for first aid and a misting cooling station).
“Now the biggest thing that's new this year, is because we have to comply with the Michigan Liquor Control Commission, the areas will be fenced in,” Woodyard said. “The stand-alones like the Italian Pavilion, Polish Pavilion, the American Legion which is just south of the bridge, will be fenced in—we would refer to them as beer gardens.
“If you buy a beer or glass of wine, you have to stay within the fenced area. The main, what we call the midway, where the big food vendors tent is, and the main stage, that whole area will be completely fenced in. It's huge, but it is fenced in, which means when you buy a drink, you have to stay there inside that fenced area to drink it,” she said.
The LCC was helpful in working with the city to not alter the basic setup of Homecoming, according to Woodyard, but come up with solutions that would abide by the law while still giving people the flexibility to move around. This has become reality with any festival that serves alcohol, she said, because the LCC is now really trying to enforce a rule that has already been in place for a long time.
The three main tents in the artist area which will be open on top of the hill from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Woodyard said, are the Dearborn Community Arts Council Children's Activities tent, the Henry Ford Community College tent for ceramic demonstrations, and the Detroit Institute of Arts. Also dropping by Saturday and Sunday will be Home Depot, helping with kits that children can build like birdhouses.
“There also will be about 14 artisans up there, this is not a fine arts show, these are artisans similar to those who participate in the Dearborn Farmers and Artisans Market,” she said. “So it's a variety of things.”
The artisans will deal with food, tea, candle making, soap making, jewelry and hand-made furniture, according to Woodyard. The Dearborn Historical Museum will have items for sale; and the Living History Hill will take place in the circle with re-enactors performing recruiting, swordsmanship and firearms demonstrations; as well as setting up a frontier kitchen with craftspeople.
“They do some fun stuff, they cook and give out samples of the pie,” she said. “It's fun.”
Festival-goers can also enjoy traditional ethnic dishes and entertainment at the Italian and Polish Pavilions.
“The Polish have entertainment, but they never get it to us in time go in here (the Homecoming brochure), and the Italians, it's very casual,” Woodyard said. “There will information posted, I'm sure, somewhere down there about the Polish tent, because they usually have the dancers and some other things.
“Whereas the Italians, it's more if you want to dance, they don't make a big deal out of it, and I can say we don't have it, because they didn't give it to us, so you're in for a surprise,” she said.
Many people are inquiring into wristbands for the Wade Shows carnival (open 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Friday-Sunday), Woodyard said. Wristbands purchased online at www.cityofdearborn.org are $13, and a three-day Mega Pass can be purchased for $40. These require a $1 service fee for each wristband and pass purchased, and must be purchased by 11:55 p.m. Thursday.
Online purchasers will print a receipt, which they can bring along with their I.D. to the carnival ticket booth to exchange it for an all-day wristband (day does not have to be specified online) or Mega Pass. The city asks festival-goers to note that there is no refund for tickets, wristbands or passes; and to “Please consider the weather forecast” before buying tickets.
At the festival, the carnival will sell full-day wristbands for $20, and half-day wristbands (good for 11 a.m.-5 p.m.) for $15. Those who preregister to participate in the Dearborn Area Chamber of Commerce's Special All-Stars Day will be able to enjoy select carnival rides at no cost from 9-11 am. Friday.
Saturday and Sunday will also offer free “gentle” carnival-style games for children (noon-5 p.m.), free inflatable rides for children (noon-8 p.m.), and “wacky games” for all ages (11a.m.-7 p.m.). On Friday, the Dearborn Area Chamber of Commerce will be bringing back the Special All-Stars Day 9 am.-noon for children and adults with special needs, as well as that evening's “Cruisin' Dearborn” parade and classic car show (which winds through downtown West Dearborn and enters Ford Field Park). The Dearborn Rotary Club will sponsor the Free Fishing Derby at the Ford Field Pond at 8 a.m. Saturday, there will be reunion picnics all day Saturday and Sunday, and on Sunday the Polish Pavilion will host an 11 a.m. Polka Mass and the Outer Drive Kiwanis Club will run its 4 p.m. Turbo Turtle Race on the Rouge River.
Festival parking on Ford Field charges $10, beginning 11 a.m. each day. Coupons for $7 parking will be given with the $10 payment, which Woodyard said will allow the drivers to leave and reenter that day. Those parking to attend the Special All-Stars Day event, fishing derby or pancake breakfast prior to 11 a.m. will not have to pay the charge.
The festival parking rate will be $5 for all-day Saturday and Sunday in downtown West Dearborn parking lots A-E and lot H. The festival rate is $3 in the West Village Drive parking decks after 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. City vans will provide free shuttle service from West Village Drive (between Monroe and Military) from 5-8 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Free parking and free shuttle service are available at Dearborn High School. The Dearborn High shuttle will pick up festival-goers at the school parking lot on the west side of Outer Drive (north of Michigan Ave.). It runs from 6-11 p.m. Friday and from noon-11:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
“It's because parking is so limited down there,” Woodyard said. “You remember how many hundreds of people we have that are volunteering and running this thing, and need to be close so they can get supplies from their vehicles, and they're down there all day for days on end, so they need to be able to park close by so they can do what they need to do.
“They're (the morning events) are over shortly after 11, so people clear out (of Ford Field parking). Especially for the All-Stars, you have people with walkers and chairs and other things, so they need to be fairly close by. I think the majority of them, after being there for three or four hours, they're ready to leave.
“The reality is things don't really kick off until afternoon, and those shuttles, especially those free ones from Dearborn High, have gotten more and more popular every year, which is a good thing because they're really convenient and run them continually, so it's not like you have to wait around for a bus to come. That's why we've encouraged people to try these shuttles; because it's free and convenient, you don't have to worry about parking your car, you don't have to worry about congestion getting out of the park because the buses get the right of way, the police speed them right through,” she said.
For more information on Homecoming, call (313) 943-2285, or go to www.cityofdearborn.org.