As the COVID-19 restrictions on large gatherings lift over these next few weeks, some semblance of public life as we once knew it makes its return. Festivals, concerts, outdoor markets, and any number of other events are all gearing up to welcome the community back to the fold.
This will be evident on Thursday, June 3, at Dodge Park (and across the street) in Sterling Heights. Beginning then and occurring every Thursday through the rest of the summer will be a series of events that will help re-establish the area as a center of community life.
Debuting that Thursday will be the Dodge Park Farmers Market, the Music in the Park concert series, and the Patios ‘N Pints craft beer Biergarten.
“I think Thursday nights will be extremely healing for the community,” says Tom Whittaker, program and events manager for the Sterling Heights Regional Chamber of Commerce, the organization responsible for the Patios ‘N Pints events.
“Last year was obviously hard on people. Especially with the market and music, Thursdays will be a low-cost way for families to re-enter the community.
“With Patios ‘N Pints last year, it was really successful. I think this year, with less restrictions, it’s probably going to be even better.”
Dodge Park Farmers Market
Opening on Thursday, June 3, is the Dodge Park Farmers Market
. The market runs from 3 to 8 p.m. every Thursday, June through September.
This year’s market will expand its offerings from last year’s COVID-related restrictions, increasing the vendor count from 15 last year to somewhere around 25 to 30 vendors this year. The food trucks will return; although in a smaller number than the years prior to COVID-19, there will certainly be more than last year. And vendors will once again be allowed to hand out samples, albeit pre-packaged ones — another reminder that COVID-19 hasn’t just disappeared.
While many restrictions will have been lifted by the time opening day comes around, the market is still spacing vendors further apart than they would in years past. Other safety measures, like hand sanitizing stations, will also be available.
“We want to create a fun atmosphere and have everyone enjoy their time at the park while still feeling as safe as possible,” says Troy Nowotny, recreation supervisor for Sterling Heights.
The Dodge Park Farmers Market will be giving away 500 reusable tote bags on a first-come basis as part of its opening day festivities.
Music in the Park
This Thursday, June 3, also marks the beginning of the Music in the Park
concert series, now in its 46th year. The free event runs from 7 to 9 p.m. each Thursday through August at the Dodge Park Amphitheatre.
This year’s scheduled performances include everything from 1980s nostalgia acts to classic rock, country, and party bands. There’s a Johnny Cash tribute band, a Jimmy Buffet tribute band, and a Queen tribute band. The Prolifics, a Motown-inspired group, open the 2021 season.
With the farmers market running from 3 to 8 p.m. and the concerts running from 7 to 9 p.m., there’s little reason to leave Dodge Park once there.
“Dodge Park is a place where the community can come to — and it’s free. Enjoy the park, enjoy the sunshine,” Nowotny says.
“It provides a sense of community. Without Sterling Heights having a traditional downtown, Dodge Park is where everyone comes together.”
Patios ‘N Pints
A relative newcomer to the Thursday tradition is Patios ‘N Pints
, an outdoor craft beer biergarten hosted by the Sterling Heights Regional Chamber of Commerce at the Upton House across from Dodge Park.
Occurring each Thursday, June through September, from 5 to 7 p.m., the Patios ‘N Pints series provides a break from shopping at the farmers market while waiting for the concerts to start.
The event first began in 2019. This year will be its longest season yet.
“We’re happy to have them nearby. It brings more people out. And it creates a fun atmosphere, which is what we’re trying to do with Dodge Park,” Nowotny says.
Patios ‘N Pints partners with a different craft brewery each week, curating a selection of three to four different beers from the brewers. The 2021 season kicks off with Blake’s Hard Cider Co., a local craft brewer based out of Armada, Michigan.
Tom Whittaker from the chamber says that the biergarten is still looking for a few more volunteers, which can make for great networking opportunities.
“Our members capitalize on coming out, getting to know people,” he says. “That’s what we thrive on: connecting people to each other.”
Patios ‘N Pints is set up on the lawn of the Upton House and features picnic tables, music, games, and more. Admission is free.
“Being a partner with the city, we’re trying to add on to what the city already does every Thursday,” Whittaker says.
“It’s making Dodge Park an exciting place to be.”