Manchester Sesquicentennial Recap–Part 3
by Ray Berg
The Sesquicentennial events through mid-Saturday August 5, were summarized in Parts 1 and 2 of this series. This week, we finish with a summary of activities on the rest of Saturday through the closing ceremony on Monday August 7.
Historic Home Tours – Saturday, August 5 and Sunday, August 6
As part of the Sesquicentennial celebration, a Historic Home Tour book was prepared, covering the homes and churches along West Main Street centered around the Village Green (Wurster Park), and the post-Civil War homes built along Ann Arbor Street. The research and preparation of this 54-page color, self-guided walking tour book was financed by a contribution from the Manchester Chicken Broil, and was available for purchase during the events. Michael Tindall, Laura Sutton, Cindy Dresch and Sue LaRocque contributed to preparing this book.
Along with the preparation of the book, two Historic Home/Building Tours were conducted by docents on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. The tour groups first viewed the circa 1835 home of Peter and Jennifer Nashif of Washington Street on the Village Green. This early Greek Revival style home still contains many design and construction elements from that time which have been carefully restored, and is among the three oldest extant homes in the village. The tour groups also visited the sanctuaries of Emanuel United Church of Christ and St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, where docents provided information on the church history. The tour groups then proceeded up Ann Arbor Street to the home of LaMont and JoAnn Okey, built by Jeremiah D. Corey circa 1868, where they were greeted by the Okeys in period dress and given a tour of the home’s first level. Jeremiah Corey was the principal leader in getting Manchester incorporated as a village in 1867.
Historic Tractor Show – Saturday, August 5
The Sesquicentennial also hosted a large Historic Tractor Show along Washington Street on Saturday, organized by John Schiel and involving tractors from many adjoining communities. The Tractor Show took place adjacent to the Men’s Club Classic Car Show. In particular, the show highlighted several tractors sold at dealerships here in Manchester in earlier days.
Historic Baseball Game – Saturday, August 5
At 3 pm on Saturday, the new Manchester 19th century baseball team, The Manchester Handlers, met The Chelsea Monitors in a western Washtenaw Championship game at Kirk Park. Our team, formed under the leadership of Joe Christensen, has been practicing their 19th-century techniques and learning the rules over the last several months. The day’s activities began with team introductions and agreement on the rules to be used at Kirk Park, which is not designed as a 19th century baseball field. Period music was played between innings by Beverly Feldkamp Smith, and miscellaneous 1860s happenings in Manchester were related to the large crowd.
The competition went back and forth throughout the game, but the Chelsea Monitors won out in the end, 7-5. We are most pleased with the play of the new team in their first real test against an experienced “base ball” team!
Look for further games from our Manchester Handlers, who, by the way, were named after the Manchester Handle Company, a business which operated on Clinton Street, just opposite Kirk Park, in the 1910s-20s, and who made baseball bats for the American League.
Manchester Enterprise 1869 Reproduction
Due to the perseverance of Sara and Fritz Swanson, the oldest existing and readable print version of The Manchester Enterprise, dated October 7, 1869 was located, carefully photographed, and digitally reprinted in a four-page reproduction available for sale at 10 cents (same as 1869). The papers were sold by five newspaper “criers,” dressed in period clothing, who walked around the different events and called out sales pitches such as:
“Step up ladies, step up gents, the Enterprise costs just 10 cents,” or, “Just a dime, nothing more, get your paper, know the score.”
Facial Hair Competition – Saturday, August 5
The Manchester Ladies Society organized the Facial Hair Competition, a multi-category “beard contest” for men, women and children, welcoming both Manchester residents who were growing or making new beards, and out-of- town guests with magnificent facial hair in a variety of styles. The contest was moderated by Stephen Eldorado (aka “El Chapo,”) and had participants from multiple states and as far away as Quebec. The contest was judged by local resident Webb Seegert (himself a 1967 Centennial Beard Contestant), experienced judge Lyman Robertson of the Jackson Beard and Moustache Club, and local resident and Ladies Society member Laurie Brewis. A very detailed article with contest results was published in the August 7 Manchester Mirror. Thanks to the Manchester Ladies Society and Jason Heinrich for their excellent work!
Main Street Dinner – Sunday, August 6
In addition to the continuing Studio and Garden Art Walk and Historic Home Tour events on Sunday, the main Sesquicentennial event on Sunday was the Main Street Dinner. This event was held in Wurster Park from 1 to 4 pm, and featured a full meal where each entrée was prepared by a local chef or restaurant. The dinner was accompanied by music on the gazebo played by harpist Michelle Shrewsbury, and the Manchester Brass Band.
The Main Street Dinner was completely sold out at 300+ tickets. Local restaurants participating in the Main Street Dinner included: Stockwell’s, Dairy Queen, Frank’s Place, Linda’s Diner, Over the Edge Sports Bar, and The Village Tap. Flowers were provided by The Flower Garden. The 5 Healthy Towns Foundation provided financial support for this event. “Centennials,” those local residents who had a part in some way during the 1967 Centennial celebration, gathered informally and shared reminisces. Re- enactors made the rounds at the dinner and engaged in conversations about current events (real or perceived 1867 musings).
The image and sounds of the Brass Band playing 19th-century music while people ate, children played, and everyone socialized on the Village Green truly captured founder John Gilbert’s vision for the Village Green. Many thanks to organizers Marge Swan, Dawna Stockwell, Kristin Osentoski, Laurie Brewis, Tim and Liz Polk, Jeff Mann and the Manchester Boy Scouts, and MHS National Honor Society students for this very successful dinner.
Closing Reception – Monday August 7
The full-capacity closing ceremony at the MAHS Kingsley-Jenter House on Monday evening, August 7, included a presentation by State Representative Donna Lasinski with a proclamation from the State honoring Manchester on its Sesquicentennial event. The programthen moved into a presentation on the founding of Manchester in 1833 by John Gilbert, and the many events and connections among persons that caused the village of Manchester to be founded where it is, beginning with the initial survey by John M. Mack in 1824. Recent research has allowed the true facts concerning Manchester’s founding to be determined, including Mack’s observation of the future village site as “a good mill seat”, a requirement for a prosperous village to be developed. Audience questions showed a strong interest in related topics of Manchester history, which will form a basis for 2017-2018 Manchester Area Historical Society presentations.
The Sesquicentennial Celebration then concluded with a ceremonial “three taps of the gavel” on the MAHS historic gavel set.
Remember, the full set of Sesquicentennial events will be covered in a Commemorative Book to be issued within the next two months. Watch the Manchester Mirror and social media for further information about the availability of this book.
Thanks to all who participated and assisted with the great 150th anniversary celebration!