DETROIT: Palmer Park Art

12 May

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Every single day hardworking individuals and community groups are rolling up their sleeves and doing what they can to make Detroit a better city. People For Palmer Park (PFPP) is made up of members of the community (both in Detroit and beyond) who simply love this place. Through the years and the city’s struggle to maintain its parks, this once grand oasis was nearly forgotten. These days all of that has changed, the effort to revitalize and restore the park to Senator Palmer’s vision of “a park for the good of everyone” is in full swing. Made up of 296 acres of lawns, historic woodlands, tennis courts, a public golf course and pretty little Lake Frances, it is vibrant and active once again. All are welcome to participate in free Yoga classes, Tai Chi, bike rides and special events such as today’s Art Fair.

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It is a chilly, windy, drizzly Saturday in May, the only real sign of Spring are the Weeping Willows with their newly sprouted, tiny green leaves that sway in the wind. White tents are set up along the sidewalk that follows the bank of Lake Frances, there’s a line forming at the vendor selling hot chocolate, cider and coffee. We walk slowly from one tent to the other, pausing at items that grab our attention; the quality of art is outstanding, artists are here from Detroit and across the US. Bright colored, sofa-size, abstract paintings cover all three walls of one tent, trickling water flows from copper fountains in another, down a ways, anodized jewelry in great shapes and designs has attracted shoppers. Glass blowing demonstrations are taking place in one area and a food truck serving Italian goodies is doing a swift business. Wandering back in the other direction the sun makes a brief appearance, folks are out walking their dogs and taking in the art fair. Bunches of clever bird houses fill a tent and spill onto the lawn, some are mounted on garden tools like shovels and pitch forks, all are delightful with the creative use of found items. One artist does beautiful drawing, the subject matter today is baseball, we pass gorgeous glass pieces and fun jewelry made from dominoes.

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There is a man selling large pieces of sculpture, he has a few pieces near the lake, the catfish looks right at home, items such as fan blades and silverware are turned into extraordinary pieces of art, awesome! As we proceed towards the Log Cabin the sound of a xylophone fills the air, people have gathered around, taking pleasure in the melody. Off to one side we spot hammers with unusual handles; here an artist is at work carving molds that will be used to cast unique iron pieces. Palmer Park was designed by Frederick Law Olmstead and Charles Eliot, the PFPP are doing a fabulous job restoring the park to an urban haven for all of us to enjoy.

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Within ten minutes we have parked the car in the back lot and are walking into the original Buddy’s Rendevous on Conant at 6 Mile. In 1936 Buddy’s was a neighborhood tavern that existed as a “blind pig”, it was well-known that you could get booze here. In 1946, the now ‘legitimate’ tavern began serving Sicilian style pizza using owner Gus Guerra’s own recipe; and so, Detroit’s original square pizza was born. For many years this was the only pizza my family ever ate, I am looking forward to that wonderful, light, crispy crust, tasty red sauce and original spice once again. I don’t remember this location at all, the last time I ate here I was just a small girl. Tables are covered in checkered cloths, cafe style chairs are pulled up to long tables across the center of the room, 4-top-tables line both sides. The restaurant feels homey, it smells wonderful, servers are smiling as they deliver pizza, salads and soups, all made from scratch, to hungry customers. We have ordered the “Detroiter”, the famous square crust is topped with tomato basil sauce, cheese, Buddy’s Sicilian spice blend and pepperoni on top, to me this is pizza heaven. It’s so good we eat in total silence, not wanting to take a break from eating to talk. When the tin is empty we sit back in our chairs, content. The bar is located in the lower level, done up in blonde wood, it looks very 50’s, loyal Tiger fans are watching the game and enjoying a beer. I am happy, Kris looks pretty happy too…..

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Hamtramck is just a hop and a skip away. On Saturday’s from 3 to 5 pm there is live music at Cafe 1923 on Holbrook; we are just in time. Thankfully there are still a few open tables, Kris grabs one while I order our beverages. “Behind the Times” is performing today, three musicians; guitar, bass and fiddle. The group is set up in the front bow-window, patrons continue to stream in, some stand near the counter. The music is sort of Bluegrass, Country mix, it’s hard to know if the songs are new or old, no matter, they do a great job. The building, built in 1923 (of course), with its oak shelving and tin ceiling provides the perfect background for the music. We sip our drinks and tap our toes, life is good……..

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