By Jeff Milo

What better way to get to know a band than in a cozy, domestic setting like a front porch? Michael Benghiat and Gary Graff’s vision of more than two dozen Ferndale homes hosting a diverse lineup of more than 30 regional bands is coming to life on Saturday, June 24. This six-hour suburban music festival is called The Front Porch, and it doubles as a prototype, or pilot program, for what could turn into a regular television show (of the same name). The concept has been pitched to Detroit Public Television (DPTV, Detroit’s PBS affiliate) already, and could be shopped to other media outlets as well.

Benghiat, head of Front Porch Productions and founder/CEO of Optimum Marketing, has been a lifelong music fan. He has vast experience in event-planning, marketing and communications in the global entertainment industry, most notably with Olympia Entertainment. Graff, meanwhile, is a venerated local music journalist who’s byline and features regularly appear in The Oakland Press. When they went to the Ferndale City Council and special events committee to present their idea for an afternoon’s worth of outdoor musical performances situated upon Ferndalian front porches for a strolling audience of neighbors, families and music lovers, the response was more than enthusiastic!

“We thought it’d be really cool to be a part of this because we’ve played many stages, but never a front porch,” said Carrie Shepard, singer/guitarist of local country/rock quartet The Whiskey Charmers. “Plus, Ferndale is just a town that really supports live music. Hanging out on a front porch, playing some of our songs in such a relaxed setting, it’s bound to result in a cool, unique vibe!”

“I think it definitely compliments the overall vibe that is ‘Fabulous Ferndale,’” said Joshua James, the multi-genre-specialist and leader of string-band/Dixie-jazz outfit The Ashton Neighborhood Pleasure Club. “We’re a very connected neighborhood; residents really embody that motto of ‘Good neighbors,’ and I think something like (The Front Porch) could be the perfect catalyst to strengthen the community. Having been to Jackson Square in New Orleans where everyone is out playing music, I can say that having something like a porch concert is going to be a lot of fun.“

Something similar to the schema of Benghiat and Graff’s citywide concert has been achieved in other markets, with great success and an expectedly enthusiastic response from residents. Various Porch Fests are featured in up to 50 communities around the country, but Benghiat’s idea is to develop this into a TV show where he and Graff can travel to several cities all around Michigan where they can film vibrant, music-packed portraits of that area’s local artists, interviewing bands on front porches and filming live performances. DPTV loved Benghiat’s idea, but they requested a pilot episode first, before they decide on whether or not they’d like to produce a full season of episodes.

That makes Ferndale’s June 24 Front Porch Show the possible precursor to a future television show. Benghiat arranged for a film crew to capture each performance and prepare a feature-length package to DPTV and other channels of distribution. After that, fingers are crossed! Benghiat hopes to know by mid-Autumn whether or not The Front Porch can start stepping it up!

Meanwhile, mark your calendars for June 24! And get your maps out! North of Marshall, east of Central, South of Maplehurst and west of Livernois! You’re going to find up to 25 houses in that square of sidestreets hosting 35+ local bands, including The Luddites, The Codgers, The Corktown Popes, Brother Hallow, and many more!

For more information, visit

By Sara E. Teller
Photo by Bernie Laframboise

All Together Now! consists of a group of activists who joined together to create a website where organizations from all over Southeastern Michigan can collectively post their events. According to the site, All Together Now! is “a growing group of complex people from diverse backgrounds and many walks of life who find ourselves inspired to promote social and economic equality, to encourage healing for ourselves, for our neighbors, for humanity, and for the planet.”

The group was founded by a few volunteer Ferndale residents in the days following the 2016 presidential election. Current members include Sean Mason, who believes we “cannot allow the voices of bigotry and hatred to be the loudest voices in the room,” Jeannie “Bean” McCarthy, who “has a vision that mutual respect, equity, justice, and compassion can bring us together,” Jacob Bolton, who is “passionate about building power for people who are disenfranchised,” Adam Shissler, Rebecca Phoenix and Amy Sawicki.

The group has no political affiliation and posts are from a variety of local organizations. “Some of these groups are dedicated to improving regional transit while others focus on sheltering the homeless. Some work to stand against Trump. Each of these organizations represents a beacon of hope, offering opportunities to see you’re not in this alone. Offering opportunities to build a path forward,” the site states.

“These events are directed towards building hope and unity, peace, compassion, and inclusivity as well as resistance and revolution,” says member Adam Shissler. “We hope it will be treated as a menu from which a person can choose the events that most fit their schedule and their interest. We don’t endorse a particular political party.”

Those choosing to post are simply asked to abide by the following guidelines:
1) Work to deeply listen to others;
2) Engage the world…for the greater good of the community;
3) Attempt to be truthful;
4) Avoid gossip and harmful speech;
5) Seek common ground and points of agreement; and
6) Work to heal relationships.

The purpose of All Together Now!’s page is to “build bridges between the islands of hope that exist all around us, often in obscurity,” Adam says. “We wish to help them grow.” All Together Now! connects activist organizations and individuals to build community and increase its impact. “We are completely funded by the founding members of the organization. We have no outside funding,” Adam explains. “Many of us didn’t know how to get involved, where to turn to make a difference. We thought we could help make that easier for others in the future.”

The group is currently hoping to increase the viewership of the site, find organizations with which to partner and local people who may want to be directly involved with the operation of the website. “We intend to host a meeting located in Ferndale within the next month, the date and location are to be determined,” Adam explains. “We hope to partner with a few other organizations, also to be determined. We wish to reach out to like-minded individuals and organizations and find ways we can work together. All are invited. We need help with outreach,” according to Adam, “And with the operation of the website.”

Residents of Ferndale and surrounding communities are encouraged to contact the group at to get involved.  All Together Now!’s mission is clear: “If we pull together…if we stand together…in this moment and the next…gently, we can change the world. All together now.”

Organizations can easily post events by visiting, and individuals can also subscribe to All Together Now’s! newsletter.

By Jeff Milo, Circulation Specialist

SUMMER READING KICKS OFF JUNE 24 AT GARBUTT PARK! The Ferndale Area District Library registered its highest amount of young participants for its annual Summer Reading series last year, and we’re looking to break the record again on June 24 at Garbutt Park with the “Flight of Fancy” Kickoff Party.

Summer Reading programming throughout the upcoming months at your public library can assure that young minds are raring to go when September comes around. Keeping the reading wheels turning for all grades promises beneficial momentum for academic achievement in the next school year.

The Ferndale Library’s Youth Services Librarians embraced this year’s national theme of “Build A Better World” and coordinated two full month’s worth of fun events, activities, games, crafts, and more, for kids of all ages. Registration is required, and sign-up begins on June 24th at 2:00 P.M., during the “Flight of Fancy” Kickoff Party, where kids can build their own kites, practice flying and jump in various bounce houses and obstacle courses.

Young readers will “build” their reading skills with a take-home activity pamphlet, logging their reading time. They can explore an interactive map illustration in this pamphlet, where they’ll be able to check off other activities like visiting a local museum, or attending exciting library programs like the “Brick Builders Club!” Accumulated time spent reading brings them the chance to win prizes from FADL’s Summer Reading sponsors or other treats like ice cream, a free book, or a fidget widget!

Summer Reading culminates with a Pool Party at the Oak Park Pool on Saturday, August 5. Kids can sign-up at the library at any point during the summer, but mark your calendars for June 24!

Ferndale Library Hires New Director: Our Library Board of Directors has selected Jenny Marr as our new Director. She began her employment here in Ferndale on June 5th, concluding her previous positions as Director of the Morrill Public Library in Hiawatha, Kansas. Ms. Marr is an East Lansing native who earned her MLIS degree from Wayne State University.She began her library career at Grace A. Dow Memorial Library, in Midland, Michigan

“I am thrilled and humbled to be given this opportunity,” said Marr. “Ferndale is a diverse and vibrant community and the library is deeply rooted in it. I look forward to working with the amazing staff and Library Board to develop library services that are innovative and responsive to local challenges. I think it’s easy to see how much Ferndale residents care about their community and I’m grateful to be invited to join it.”

Book Clubs: Consider joining one of our many book clubs! We have specialized book clubs for kids in different grade levels, as well as themed clubs for adults, like Science Fiction and the Race & Culture Book Club. Visit our website for more information:

By Jeannie Davis

WE SENIORS RECENTLY HOSTED A CATERED LUNCHEON honoring our members who were 80-years-old and over. It was a lovely affair, with cloth tablecloths, porcelain dinnerware, and real silverware. The room was decorated beautifully and everyone was happy. Our mayor, Dave Coulter, graciously spoke and brought gifts for each attendee. He had done his homework, and spoke about the things happening in the world in 1937, when our honorees were born. He spoke about how these happenings had brought hardships to people, and how in many instances, their characters had been forged by living in those times.

This got me to thinking about what myself and others in our ‘70s and ‘80s had indeed seen firsthand, and not through the condensed, sanitized nightly news. I am positive that while the Mayor was speaking, almost everyone in that room had fastened on a memory, and for a moment was reliving an incident, or fact of life from those previous times. Perhaps it was their mother saving bacon grease for frying, or tin cans for the war effort. Maybe, it was walking down their street, and seeing little banners with stars hanging in their neighbor’s windows.

Maybe they were reliving that glorious day when it was official and the war was over! I know, I was remembering my twin teenage aunts excitedly dressing to go downtown to join in the celebration. Grandma had given her permission and bless-ing. As a 5-year-old, I could only watch wide-eyed as they primped, combed, fluffed their hair, and drew eyebrow pencil lines down the backs of their legs to simulate nylon stockings. Grandma let me stay up, and we shared a glass of coca cola (I suspect that hers had more than coke), and we sat on either side of her old cabinet radio and listened to the reports of joyous merrymaking going on throughout Detroit. The air fairly crackled with excitement!

As I listened to the mayor, I reflected on the amount of memories and stories which were in that room. Each person had their own library of stories and pictures tucked away waiting to be drawn out from time to time, and each time invoking a fresh emotion. Much like my chuckle, remembering my aunts preparing to go out and participate in history. The number of stories our seniors hold must be staggering. They seldom speak of them, because, the occasion rarely calls for a trip down memory lane, and yet they are there, waiting to be told, waiting to allow the teller to relive that moment in time, hoping to impress the listener that they too had had interesting lives.

I know these are truly unusual times, with extraordinary things happening daily, and yet, look back: A world war, an atom bomb dropped not once, but twice, a president assassinated, and another impeached. This was pretty heady stuff.

I guess my message here is to you younger folks. Ask seniors about the wars they lived through, ask about President Kennedy, ask what daily life was like in the ‘40s and ‘50s. From the somber and serious, to the totally frivolous. From war to hula hoops. (By the way, for a while, I demonstrated hula hoops in the front window of Kresges at Eastland Mall!) You will be enchanted, and your senior will, for a time, feel relevant. I know, I have encouraged these stories from time to time during one-on-one conversations with some of my people. Believe me, it was eye-opening.

I remember Greg Pawlica and myself, listening avidly as our friend Elsie recounted her experience on a bus during the 1943 race riots. She was terrified as an angry mob stopped the bus she was on, and rocked it back and forth. Wow! Elsie is dead now, but her story is still go-ing. I have told several people, as I am sure Greg has. This could be how we keep those times and those people alive.

Listen, and retell.

Jeannie Davis 248-541-5888

Photo by Dawn Henry

Very few people these days worry about nuclear war destroying the world, Dr. Strangelove-style. And the US’ unending war in Afghanistan and America’s military actions around the globe seem part of the wallpaper—there in the background, but not affecting anyone in the homeland other than that very small number doing the fighting.

However, if you drive by the heart of Ferndale at Nine Mile Road and Woodward, Mondays at 4:30-5:30 P.M., you’ll get a reminder of the ongoing conflicts and the persistent threat of nuclear destruction. Standing on the southwest corner, picket signs aloft, is a group that has brought their message of peace to passersby for the last 628 Mondays.

Beginning in 2003, the loosely-organized peace advocates echo part of the Postal Service credo — “Neither snow nor rain. . .” – showing up undaunted by weather conditions or even by a dust-up with the Ferndale police in 2008. As they did back then, the most prominent signs say, “Honk for Peace,” which is met with an unending response as cars drive by. It was those signs and the horn-honking that got the group in trouble when the police decided that the cacophony of horns created a disturbance and made some arrests. Eventually, it was all settled amicably and peace was made on the corner although the signs and the response continue.

I asked one of the stalwarts, Helen Weber, a board member of Peace Action of Michigan, whose office is on Nine Mile Rd., whether she ever gets discouraged since usually only a handful people take part each week. “Oh, no,” says Weber, who served a term on the Ferndale city council, “because there’s always such an enthusiastic reaction from drivers honking their horns in response to our signs.”

How can you describe people who brave the elements and, at times, scorn for their Cassandra-like warnings? They would shy away from heroes. Maybe just “the Nine Mile Peace People,” as they’ve been called.
But there are people who were strategically located at the center of nuclear decisions that saved the world, that maybe deserve a heroic depiction.

One must be extended to an obscure Soviet duty officer, Col. Stanislav Petrov, who, when working at a Russian early warning station, on September 27, 1983, received signals that the US had launched ICBMs at his country. He had seconds to decide whether it was a satellite glitch or real and launch the Soviet arsenal in response. Fortunately, he made the correct decision (we had not launched missiles, and thus no cause to retaliate).

Six weeks later, in the midst of US-NATO war games on Russia’s border, right after President Reagan had ramped up his anti-Soviet rhetoric and unveiled his Star Wars missile defense system that would have given the US nuclear superiority, another crisis unfolded.

The Russians, always terrified of US intentions, believed the games were the real thing—a preparation for a first strike at the Soviet Union. All Soviet and Eastern European bases were put on full alert, which could have led to a confrontation if the US had followed suit. US Lt. General Leonard Perroots, an intelligence chief at the American Air Force base in Germany, saw the elevated Soviet military alert but, rather than respond in kind, decided to err on the side of caution and defused what could have led to a nuclear confrontation. And, can we say, hail to Vasili Arkhipov, a Soviet submarine commander during the 1982 Cuban missile crisis who refused to give the okay for a nuclear strike against the US when a unanimous decision of three officers was necessary. Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., an advisor to President John Kennedy’s administration wrote, “This was not only the most dangerous moment of the Cold War. It was the most dangerous moment in human history.”

So, whew, right? Courageous men saved the world. But all of our lives were on a razor’s edge, any one of which could have gone the other way. Not good.

And, what do we face today?

Trump falsely denounces the US having “fallen behind on nuclear weapons capacity,” and commits his administration to achieving “nuclear superiority,” a policy which will result in a new arms race. Add that to his call for a$56 billion dollar increase in war spending, and the situation seems very frightening.
But, the darling of the liberals, Barack Obama, proposed a $30 billion increase and a $1 trillion modernization of US nuclear forces.

As with so many other issues facing us, it is increasingly upon us, we the people, to demand an end to war and the outrageous expenditures being spent in preparation for one. And, that is partly done every Monday in downtown Ferndale.

Helen Weber says, “There is a reminder needed that a lot of work has to be done together for a better world.”
Sometimes she has been out on the corner by herself. Don’t let that happen.

See you on Nine Mile this Monday? Peace out.

By Jeff Milo,  Circulation Specialist

We just want to remind you about HOOPLA! The Ferndale Library launched the popular down-load/streaming app for patrons in January. This new media service provides instant access to materials like movies, albums, eBooks and audiobooks, with no waiting on any hold list. You just need your Ferndale Library card.

Patrons usually do a double-take when we tell them what HOOPLA is and how it works. This app works with your tablet or phone, allowing downloads of newly released titles. But if you prefer to skip downloads, you can just click on what you want to read, watch, or listen to, and start streaming right away.

Over the last two months, 300 Ferndale Library patrons have started using the HOOPLA app, with nothing but enthusiastic responses. The library is hoping more cardholders continue to discover the advantage of HOOPLA, whether they’re regular visitors to the brick-and-mortar location in downtown Ferndale or if they’re typically utilizing the library’s online catalog and requesting holds on materials from home or on-the-go.

If HOOPLA usage continues to grow, then the Ferndale Library is considering making what is initially a trial run into a permanent resource for cardholders to access. To register and start downloading titles, Ferndale cardholders can download the HOOPLA digital app from your Apple App or Google Play store on your mobile device.

Updates : Author Tom Stanton is an associate professor of journalism at University of Detroit Mercy, and a past recipient of the Michigan Library Association’s Author of the Year Award. On Saturday, April 22, The Book Club of Detroit will host a lecture from Stanton about his new book, Terror in the City of Champions, about the riveting, intersecting tales of the frightening rise and fall of the Black Legion, a secret terrorist organization flourishing in Detroit’s underground during the late 1920’s and 30’s. Stanton will discuss how the scourge of the Black Legion was countered by the uplifting heroics of athletes on the Detroit Tigers. Anyone interested in Detroit history, particularly of the 1930’s, is encouraged to attend.

Later, on April 29, the Ferndale Library joins the Muslim American Society to host “Get To Know Your Muslim Neighbor,” a chance to learn about American Muslims and enjoy hands-on activities for all ages. International delicacies and coffee will be served during this discussion, with presentations about calligraphy and the ‘Muslims & Early America’ poster exhibit.

Finally, we took this spring off from coordinating our usual program of Ferndale Reads events, but stay tuned. Ferndale Reads will return next year: bigger and better than ever, partnering with Berkley Public Library, Oak Park Public Library, and Huntington Woods Public Library to expand the program and unite multiple communities of book lovers.

By Christina Bournias, Ferndale Area Chamber of Commerce

The recent Ferndale Area Chamber of Commerce (FAC) Coffee Connection, at State of the Art Framing and Design, was attended by over 40+ business members. Our Ferndale and surrounding area Chamber members are among the most dedicated and committed of the business community in Michigan. With continuous net-working and referral opportunities, our members demonstrate devotion to their beloved community and fellow business owners. This dedication is most impressive and a fine example of a cohesive village.

Among many more exciting and upcoming monthly programs, the FAC is planning a few larger events to get involved in. Whether you choose to volunteer, sponsor, participate, or decide to earn a position as our trusted ambassador, the Chamber’s signature events evoke the best of our community. Our Chamber events bring people together; people who share a common sentiment, one of philanthropic togetherness and thriving commerce.

Our first main event of the year is The Artist In You. This creative initiative is a nod to young student artists. The Artist in You encourages students from Fern-dale High School, The Center for Advanced Studies & the Arts (CASA) and University High School DECA to enter an art competition with hopes to win an opportunity for their artwork to be dis-played around town. The students’ art-work will be displayed at the Ferndale Public Library, and a public reception will take place Tuesday, April 25. One student artist is eligible to have their artwork enlarged, reproduced, mounted and displayed on one prominent business in the Ferndale Area. The three top scoring students will receive achievement awards for their efforts.

Our 2017 Rainbow Run attracts approximate 1,000 enthusiastic participants to the Ferndale community. The Rainbow Run, this year on June 3, 2017, is a fun 5K run and 2K walk + Canine 2K that explodes with excitement for every-one who supports diversity, acceptance, and anti-bullying. The course runs through the streets of Ferndale and has six stations where volunteers toss non-toxic, colored powder onto race participants. Everyone is covered in a rainbow of colors at the finish line!  Your sponsorship helps to fund six chosen non profit organizations. Children are now being accepted to participate in the 2K walk and this Canine/2K* includes your best friend on a prismatic 2K trot through the designated Rainbow Run course (*See registration for details. City canine licenses and current vaccinations required.) The Rainbow Run route will begin at the parking lot of Foley & Mansfield PLLP, 130 E. 9 Mile Road, Ferndale, Michigan 48220.

Following these events, the Chamber will be hosting our second annual “Sip. Stroll. Roll!” in the Fall, where local establishments get a chance to showcase their distinct food and drink specials.

“The Biggest Event of the Year,” the 2017 GALA in November promises to be another powerful event celebration; one of reflection and promise. Our GALA aims to showcase our businesses; honor-ing productivity and liveliness in the coming year(s). This event includes unique silent auction items and participating restaurants.

In addition to our main events and monthly Chamber Lunch Club outings, the Chamber planned three free Learn-ing Series lunches for our Members. The first “learning” lunch was somewhat of a working meeting; an honest discussion, held inside our new offices at the Credit Union ONE community center. We heard from retail and service businesses alike. Aaron Stone, owner of STONE + TEAM Consulting spearheaded a candid talk amongst retail owners. Ferndale Foods was gracious enough to donate food platters.

Thank you to the Gerry Kulick Community Center for offering space for our next two complementary presentations. The Chamber was pleased to welcome back SaveOn for our second lunch learning series. SaveOn presenters spoke about developing a digital marketing strategy, including the associated costs attached to implementing a solid digital strategy. Most notable, merely because of their Ferndale Area Chamber membership, Chamber Members can take advantage of their own dedicated FAC/SaveOn microsite! Members filled their bellies, and left with an increased thirst for knowledge. The presentation was engaging and well received. Members’ questions were answered and they took away valuable digital business tips. What a terrific lead in to our next Lunch & Learn.

The next Chamber Learning Lunch Series will be hosted by Jon Teodoro, Verde Media, founder/strategist. He will present: “How To Grow Your Business Using The Internet.” This presentation aims to take our member’s business websites to the next level, incorporating enhanced Google and SEO discussions. Chamber knowledge is power.

Email Kim Hart, Executive Director at or call 248-542-6120 for detailed information.

Ferndale Area Chamber of Commerce  400 E 9 Mile Road, Ferndale,  MI 48220.
FB: @FerndaleAC

Story by Jill Lorie Hurst
Photo by Bernie Laframboise

By now, some of you have seen “12th and Clirmount,” a documentary featured at this year’s Free Press Film Festival. Produced by the Free Press in collaboration with Bridge Magazine, WXYZ-TV and a group of cultural institutions led by the Detroit Institute of the Arts, the film shares old home movies and new interviews by people who were around during the Summer of 1967, when an early Sunday morning police raid on a blind pig pulled the bandage off repressed racial tension and frustration in Detroit. Days of looting and violence followed, and the city was changed forever.

The Detroit Free Press won a Pulitzer for its coverage of the riot. Fifty years later, the DFP takes us back to those tumultuous days. A trip down a jagged memory lane for some, a history lesson for others.

Detroit is back on the map these days. Some would argue that it was never off the map. Another discussion. A desolate and (seemingly) broken city for years, it’s now a food destination, a sports town with a new arena going up, a home for technology and small home grown businesses, urban agriculture, the Q Line. We love Midtown, Corktown, downtown. As always, the art, the music, the cars. Up ‘til the mid-‘60s, Detroit was viewed as a “model city.” Federal funding flowed in to help the schools, housing, job creation. A young, energetic mayor worked with the police department, business owners and citizens to maintain peace in the integrated city. The mayor, the citizens and the rest of the country watched that view go up in July 1967. The “model” fell apart.

The smoke in the sky, the military presence, the fear. Memories shared by many. Memories are what executive video producer and Ferndale resident Brian Kaufman was immersed in as he edited hours of eight-millimeter home movies taken by Detroit families in 1967. We didn’t record our lives then the way we do today. Even so, there is plenty of footage. Footage of the riots. Footage of everyday life in 1960’s Detroit. Kaufman talks about the films. Birthday celebrations, Christmas. A reminder that no matter how different we seem, we celebrate the same moments.

“12th and Clairmount” was a history lesson for Kaufman. He was born in Southern California and has been with the Detroit Free Press for ten years. He and his wife Gina Kaufman (a native of Southeastern Michigan who is a Free Press reporter assigned to the metro desk) chose Ferndale as home in 2009. He spoke affectionately of old Ferndale restaurants now gone like Maria’s Italian, and Bart’s – “the best breakfasts”, but says they enjoy the changes in Ferndale and Detroit. Ferndale is a great location for Free Press staff – “a lot of Freepers live in Ferndale.” Kaufman can work at home, but likes to get downtown to the office to be with his colleagues. “I’m not there enough to justify paying for parking.” he said. “So, I park over by John King books and walk down Michigan Ave to the office” (on Fort Street). “I wouldn’t be able to work on the documentary projects if I was freelance. Having a staff job with a supportive boss (Kathy Kieliszewski) is great. Unique in the newspaper world.”

Brian’s first dive into Detroit history came in 2014 when he worked on the Packard Plant project “Packard: The Last Shift,” presented at the first Freep festival in 2014. The Packard plant, a project on the National Parks and now, the ‘67 riots. Interesting and challenging. “How do we take it beyond our web site? We’d like to find partnerships like the one we have with WXYZ TV. We’ll run it through the festival circuit, and hopefully find a distributor.”

“12th and Clairmount” ends with people wondering whether to stay in Detroit, or leave, post-riot. “So much to learn from what happened in Detroit. People assumed things were fine. But they weren’t. This film is about Detroit, but relatable. The problems then still exist today.” Kaufman wonders how we’ll share stories about our past in 50 years. People record more, but the hard copies that we packed away so carefully in order to preserve our memories? They won’t exist.

In the meantime, we have the footage from that summer. See “12th and Clairmount,” an opportunity to learn and to remember.

For more information about “12th and Clairmount” go to

Story by David Wesley
Photo by Bernie Laframboise

Former Mayor Craig Covey and Monica Mills began the annual Ferndale Pub Crawl 20 years ago in 1997. Now, after a long tenure of success, the event may be at risk of ending due to gentrification and corporate interest in other local events.

The Ferndale Pub Crawl is historically important in the modern story of Ferndale: Making the city more popular, wealthy and socially-endearing. Craig regaled Ferndale Friends with the history of the Pub Crawl, its impact on the city and its uncharted future.

“Before Ferndale took off in its renewal back in the early 1990s, there were only a half dozen bars downtown. Gays and lesbians began to move into the city in growing numbers, along with a few artists, musicians and other younger residents. A group of us in the gay community tried and failed to pass a gay rights ordinance through the city council in 1991. Later on, residents formed a gay residents association called FANS of Ferndale, which stood for “Friends And Neighbors.” FANS had three goals, which included increasing social activities for our community, civic engagement with the city through community service and volunteerism, and political activism from the gay and lesbian residents.

“We created the first pub crawl in 1997, and had about 35 people traipse around to all six or seven of the bars downtown, including Rosie O’Grady’s, Sneaker’s, Danny’s, Como’s, Tony’s and Doug’s Body Shop. We had so much fun we decided to make it an annual event. By 1999, we had straight people joining us, more bars opened like the Post and WAB, and we began raising money for charity.”

The annual pub crawl rapidly became a “thing” promoted by the whole city including the DDA. As new bars and clubs opened, like the Post and Club 9, they joined the crawl and the attendance grew every year. Traditionally the mayor of the city always sent off the packs of crawlers, and by 2009 the event was drawing 2,000 participants, more than 20 stops were included, and tens of thousands of dollars was raised for a variety of charities such as the Ferndale Community Foundation, the Ferndale Police Auxiliary, and the Midwest AIDS Prevention Project. The event was always the last Friday of July, and for many pubs it became their biggest night of the year. It was attended by chamber officials, city council members, and even city staff.

As changes came to the city, the charities and the businesses downtown went through change, and over the past six or seven years the annual pub crawl growth began to level off and then decline. Many of the new bars and restaurants chose not to join the event, and several of the original clubs stopped participating and instead began promoting more corporate events such as DIY Street Fair and Pig & Whiskey. As the city continued to gentrify, and support from the city establishment lessened, there was not as much interest in the traditional, grassroots-organized events that raised money for local charities.

“The annual Gay Pride Festival seems to be strong, and has new leadership and corporate buy-in. The annual Blues & Music Festival should also continue under new leadership. But the Ferndale Pub Crawl is at real risk of ending. After 20 years, it may just be a victim of its own success. Also, designed to promote the downtown and walk-ability, maybe it has successfully finished its tasks and accomplished its goals.

“Monica Mills and I announced a year ago that we were not going to manage the event after 2016. So, unless new, younger folks decide to make it happen, then at least that iteration of the pub crawl is done. We raised a quarter million dollars for charities and had a whole lot of fun. The city is now popular, walkable, inclusive, and has more than its share of bars and clubs. And the LGBTQA community got our social outlets, civic visibility, and political recognition.”