Planning Begins for County’s 200th Birthday. Here’s How to Get Involved.
Bloomfield , MI – The invitation is open for those who want to help Oakland County celebrate it’s 200th birthday in 2020. Historical societies and commissions, neighborhood groups, downtown organizations, local officials and administrators, school districts, and anyone with an interest in tying their community into the fun are welcome to get involved.
On Saturday folks from all over Oakland County gathered at the Bloomfield Township Library to hear from people who have celebrated history in their own communities and to share ideas for what Oakland County could do.
Judge Michael Warren is the Chair of the The Oakland County Bicentennial Executive Committee, aka Oak 200 Committee. “We want to make sure the public knows the history of Oakland County,” he said. “We don’t just want to put something in a binder and stick it in a box to get dusty.”
Potential celebrations could include a float that can go in local parades through the year, presentation on history at schools and libraries, a monument, tree plantings, scavenger hunts, a time capsule, photo and art contests and the ability to tie in the Bicentennial with existing community events.
Rose Township Supervisor Dianne Scheib-Snider spoke about a bus tour that Rose Township did in 2017 to encourage residents to appreciate the history of the area. She presented along with organizer Maura Jung as they shared what they learned from the experience.
The tour was done with an Oakland County Parks bus that held 42 participants. Snider and Jung recommended keeping tours within a compact area so there is not much driving in between spots. Their tour started with a 15 minute Powerpoint presentation, followed by a bathroom break before loading the bus for the 40 minute tour. At most stops various presenters talked about the home, building or landmark briefly while the passengers looked out the windows. But in the middle they picked a location where folks could get out, stretch their legs, and explore a bit. “It takes longer than you might think to have everyone get on and off the bus,” Jung said. “So figure that in to your time.”
Other recommendations included having a script and practicing, making sure there were different people doing the presenting through the trip to keep it more interesting, and having someone oversee the timing of the trip and the presentations to keep things on schedule. They charged $10 for the trip to make sure people felt invested in going, and it sold out quickly.
“The benefits of this were we built up a partnership with Oakland County, we increased interest in local history, and we had participation of local businesses,” Snider said.
Also from NW Oakland County was Holly Downtown Development Director and Assistant Village Manager Katy Hughes who talked about the village’s recent Sesquicentennial. The community came together for a parade and a festival which has carried on as the annual HollyDays. “Everyone loves parades,” Hughes said. She also talked about the importance of getting kids involved. “Third to fourth grade is a great age, kids are creative and have big ideas. Ask the kids. Say ‘We’re going to have a birthday, how should we celebrate?’ …Teens are good too because often they feel like no one is listening to them. Sometimes all you need to do is ask.”
She recommended pairing teens up with seniors in the community to talk about history. “Have them go to historic society meetings, senior centers and ask about the town’s history,” she said.
Because Holly has an historic downtown, history is not just reserved for anniversaries. Hughes said that on Fridays she posts historic pictures and news clippings on social media. And on Wednesdays she does “Where is this?” Wednesdays. “It’s a picture of some detail in the community, like an architectural feature, and we ask where is this. Everyone tries to be the first. It helps people to see the details, and gets people to see the old stuff, not just the new.”
Lois Jackman of the Macomb County Bicentennial celebration shared what her community had done. One effort was a 48 hour walk that passed a torch through every single community in the county – with cities having their own events around the torch passing through. Cities like Mt. Clemens, Sterling Heights, and Utica tied in their local events with the county’s birthday.
Another popular effort was a scavenger hunt sponsored by Culver’s restaurant chain. A passport listed about 20 places in Macomb County to visit and get a stamp. When someone got 7 stamps they could turn their passport in for a free Butterburger. “Some people did them and kept the passport as a souvenir,” Jackman said.
Jackman said the biggest challenge was keeping all the events coordinated and on the county’s website. She also said that the biggest benefit was that “we worked across organizations, with many we had not worked with before, and we learned to work together.”
The Oakland County Commission authorized Oak 200, and commissioners from throughout the county are working to make sure their communities are engaged in the process. Commissioners Shelley Taub and Marcia Gershenson attended Saturday’s meeting, sharing their own perspectives about why honoring the County’s history is important.
“Before I knew the power of my voice as an elected official, I was a resident of Bloomfield Township and I witnessed when Fox and Hounds came down and it still bothers me,” Gershenson said. “History is important to our community and our culture.”
For Taub it was the discovery of an 1825 family cemetery that affirmed her interest in local history. “We found this cemetery four years ago,” she said. “These are the pioneers for our county, and we will figure out a way to preserve this.” The cemetery is located on Square Lake Road just east of the Heathers, near an AT&T service building.
Speakers from Oakland County Executive’s Office, Oakland County Parks and Recreation, and the Oak 200 Committee shared their enthusiasm for the upcoming celebration and talked about how they would continue to be involved. Anyone who wants to volunteer or be part of tying their events into the Bicentennial can contact Chairperson Judge Michael Warren at firstname.lastname@example.org.