Story: Jill Lorie Hurst
Photo: Bernie Laframboise
MY FAMILY MOVED FROM NEW YORK CITY TO FERNDALE DURING THE WINTER OF 2014. It snowed and snowed, and I was pretty much stuck inside for days except for walks with Lucy and trips to the State Fair Market for Vernors and salty tortilla chips, the only food my homesick stomach could take.
The snow finally melted, and I stepped outside to look around. I quickly realized that Ferndale is pretty great! When friends ask if there’s anything to do here, I invite them to visit. A tour guide at heart, I keep lists of sights and activities: Restaurants, coffee shops, breweries, two live theaters, venues for music, comedy and improv. The Ferndale Community Concert Band. Two bookstores and a music store. The Rust Belt Market.
Come to Ferndale to get a tattoo, a psychic reading, take yoga, ballet, tap. Go axe-throwing or bowling. We have well-kept, populated parks for people and dogs. Besides the good schools, the variety of churches and other welcoming sanctuaries like Affirmations and the Library. We have a newspaper, a radio station, a free health clinic. There’s Detroit to the south and lots of nature up north.
I’M A WALKER, SO MY SIGHTSEEING IS LOCAL. I love the wind-chimes, the front porch furniture, the gardens, the “signs of hope” stuck in lawns. The 5:00 P.M. protesters, the knitting group at Emory, people sitting on their cars playing cards while they wait for the train to pass at 9 Mile and Hilton.
And then the seasonal traditions. Summer brings the festivals and the Front Porch Concerts. Dream Cruise weekend, when people from all over the world open up lawn chairs and settle in to watch the vintage cars roll by. In the fall, nobody does Halloween like Ferndale. After Halloween, we brace ourselves for winter and I am thankful for folks who leave their twinkly lights on during the cold gray months that come after the holidays. I am thankful for the people who lit the way for me when I arrived in town. The people of Ferndale are the real twinkly lights.
I was recently on the 9 on a cold, gray afternoon. I crossed at the rainbow-painted crosswalk and stopped to hear the music piped in through the speakers on the street. I patted two dogs who were proudly wearing matching coats.
Then I passed the Rust Belt, and glanced at the donated coats and sweaters hanging on the iron gate. I looked at the sign. “Please take if you are cold. Heart, Ferndale.”
Ferndale will make you laugh and make you cry. It might even make you mad every once in a while. But it’ll bring you food, hand you a sweater, point you in the right direction when you are lost. Ferndale has deep roots, wide arms, a loud voice and a big heart. It’s a nice place to visit. To take a walk. And a lovely place to live.