Saturday, August 20, 2011

Heritage

This is the weekend of Ypsilanti's Heritage Festival. Ypsilanti is a city fiercely proud of their heritage (and rightfully so). Ypsilanti is often overlooked because we're in the shadow of Ann Arbor (and the University of Michigan) and just far enough from the city of Detroit to not be a blip on the national radar. Forget all of that and focus on Ypsilanti.

During World War II, Ypsilanti had the largest bomber plane plant in the world (B-24 Liberator Bomber Plant). Henry Ford built the facility in the Willow Run area and produced B-24s. Over 8,000 planes were built on site. After the war, the plant was purchased by Kaiser-Frazer and for two years cars rolled off the assembly line.

The best greasy spoon in town is The Bomber -- a restaurant full of WWII memorabilia and model airplanes (and decommissioned bombs) dangling from the ceiling. How about a cup of coffee? B-24's is where we usually go (two blocks from our home) -- a mixture of modern and history (and fantastic coffee).

We are bomber planes. We are classic cars. We are underwear.

Yes. Underwear. Before the 1900's Ypsilanti was known for their "Health Underwear" (think union suits). This fact is sometimes forgotten when people talk Ypsilanti heritage.

People are sometimes referred to as Ypsituckians (which, some find offensive, others do not). Why? Because many people came from Kentucky to work in the bomber plants, and also in Ford's factories down river. It is sometimes a term used to describe the blue collar class of the county. See, where Ann Arbor is full of yuppies, Ypsilanti is working class and hippies (as Steve says -- Ypsilanti went grass roots in the sixties and never changed -- it's a good thing!).

So back to today. Steve's family came over today and we walked the block up to the main strip in town to watch the festival parade (these are the perks of living in the downtown area). An hour before parade time, Chase and I were sitting on the front porch and we could hear the bands warming up.

Drum and fife (across from EMU's business school building)

The brand new ladder truck! (we see it go down the street often)


Ypsilanti's school district is divided into three sections: Lincoln (in the township), Ypsi City, and Willow Run (west of the city).

Lincoln has the biggest high school marching band.

Willow Run, the smallest, offers band members who play and high step while doing so (it's their signature move)

Ypsi city high school band (Steve is a former marching band member)

The antique bikes are always a favorite.

The old firehouse is now a museum with a collection Chase drools over.

During Heritage Festival, Riverside Park is full with vendors selling food, goods, and etc. Depot Town is full of classic cars, more vendors, the weekend Farmer's Market, and more. Right now Chase is with Steve's family exploring all that is going on (Chase mentioned a desire for fried dough, while his auntie mentioned a stack of nachos). I'm planning on going down tomorrow for the rubber duck race with Chase. All of the museums in town have free admission so you can go from firehouse, to general history, to automobiles, and airplanes.

It's a wonderful way to spend the weekend.

8 comments:

  1. wow it looks awesome!
    and I love the photo of the man riding the old bike :)

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  2. The bike riders are amazing. They often do tricks (like putting their feet up on the handle bars) as they go along. It's neat to watch.

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  3. My husband lived in Yspi for a bit. He went to EMU for a bit too (eventually graduated elsewhere). His sister and dad graduated from EMU. When we visit his family, we always go to Ypsilanti.

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  4. @Proud Mama

    How fantastic! Steve's Mom and his sister are EMU grads and his youngest brother is about to transfer. Ypsi is such a great little place.

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  5. looks like a great time was had by all!!!!

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  6. What an interesting town you live in. I love that you have a diner called the Bomber. I bet it has some wonderful food to go along with the coffee. I actually knew about the Liberator B-24 from reading Unbroken [I just impressed myself :)]!

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  7. @Tracey

    Ypsilanti is extremely interesting -- always fun, always surprising. The Bomber has the best diner food. And massive portions (like silver dollar pancakes being as big as the plate) so everyone can share.

    I am still waiting on my copy of Unbroken from the library -- now I am even more giddy if they mention the B-24s. :)

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