Adventure around every corner: Residents describe the perfect day in Midland

With a variety of cultural and engaging activities near our doorstep, we recently asked five Midland residents from different walks of life to describe their “perfect day” in the city. From lifelong residents to someone who just moved to town, to the Mayor of Midland, here are some perspectives from Midlanders and what they love to spend their time doing.

Longtime resident
Nancy Barker has lived in Midland since 1961. She was the first woman officer at Northwood University, where she also created and developed a Careers for Women Program. As a longtime resident of the city, she has been part of starting initiatives that continue to grow and evolve into staples of the area.

“Something that is true of Midland, is that the community here is so welcoming to new ideas and people,” says Barker. “When I first moved to town, if someone thought something was a good idea we would just get a group together and do it.”

Barker’s perfect day begins at the farmer’s market, where she would make a beeline for the Mt. Hope Herb Farm to pick up parsley, sage, rosemary and giant zinnia plants.

“After that, depending on the season my husband, Bill, and I would go to one of two places. In the fall we would head to Apple Blossom Orchard for donuts, cider and apple butter,” says Barker. “The owners, Pat and Bill Kuehne, make homemade donuts that are just like those of my childhood dreams — hot, soft, and cinnamon sugarcoated old-fashioned fried cakes.”

If cider season is over, Barker and her husband would head to Cafe Zinc and order their regular: eggs Benedict with extra hollandaise sauce.

“The staff there doesn't even wait for our order,” reiterates Barker. “They know what it is going to be.”

If the weather isn’t suitable, Barker says she would sit in her kitchen with a cup of coffee and one of the five newspapers they subscribe to.

“I like to sit in our kitchen because it was once the 'screened porch' of our house, which was architect Alden B. Dow's first Midland residential project,” describes Barker. “We know how lucky we are to live here. It is a hidden gem of a room, and is certainly the center of our family life.”

In addition to these sights, she would make time for her friends and the organizations she has been involved with over the years.

“There are so many great causes and needs in this area,” says Barker. “Anyone with energy and willingness to help out can make an incredible difference by volunteering in this town.”

New in town
Liz Dhulst, a senior engineer at Dow Chemical, moved to the area last July after completing her PhD in Chemical Engineering at Northwestern University.

“This is my first time living in a small town,” says Dhulst. “I was a little nervous initially, but Midland has so much to offer and everyone has been so welcoming.”

Her perfect day begins with a bike ride or walking trip from the Tridge to the Chippewa Nature Center.

“Growing up in Portland, Oregon, I love being surrounded by nature and greenery,” says Dhulst. “I like visiting the Nature Center because I can find hints of that landscape.”

Then Dhulst, a vegetarian, will head to the Midland Mall for a bite of Mediterranean food at her favorite spot, Zitoon. In the summer or fall season, she typically ventures to the farmer’s market to pick up fresh local food. If not, she may stop by one of the farms in the area to pick her weekly CSA share.

In the afternoon, Dhulst often drops into a Forrest yoga class with instructor Sarah Nelson at Alignment 8 or checks out an event happening at the Midland Brewing Company.

“I recently attended a Lumber Jill competition at MBC, and I loved it,” says Dhulst. “I never would have witnessed something like that in a big city.”

Dhulst would end her day with dinner at Cafe Zinc and a show at the Midland Center for the Arts.

“Being here, I’m finding things I never knew I would be interested in, says Dhulst. “Whether it is visiting the town square or being introduced to the farmers growing my food, I’ve been able to experience the community aspect of the city much more than in larger cities.”

Mayor Donker
When asked what she treasures most about this city, Maureen Donker, Mayor of Midland, responds by saying that it’s the people.

“It is such a diverse place. Sometimes I’ll drop by a breakfast that my neighbor hosts,” says Donker. “You never know who’s going to be there, but the conversation is always stimulating. It’s subtle things like that which make life beautiful here.”

Her perfect day begins at 6 a.m. on a Saturday when she meets some friends for breakfast at Big Boy. From there, Mayor Donker will head to the Tridge or to the Founder’s garden for a stroll as she catches up with a friend.

If it is summer or fall, her next stop is the farmer’s market to grab fresh treats and produce for her family. She might also pick up some flowers or stop by one of the local florists on her way home.

In the afternoon, she will grab a book and walk to the Grace A. Dow public library. On some days she’ll sit in the library's reading room and look out over the garden and its art pieces from Midland’s sister city, Handa, Japan.

“I’ve lived here all my life, and even as a little girl I used to come here and read,” says Mayor Donker.

On her way home, she might stop and browse at Peel 'n Pare downtown, finally ending the day connecting with family and neighbors, maybe over hors d'oeuvres at a gathering in a friend’s yard.

Family fun
Longtime resident Jen Lee is a marketing coordinator at Three Rivers Corporation. Born and raised in Midland, Lee currently lives with her husband and two boys, ages six and four, in the city. Her perfect day begins on a summer Saturday at the farmer's market. She’ll often take her family there to check out local vendors and grab local produce and breakfast.

“Then we would meet some friends and take the kids to the park or walk downtown, eventually grabbing lunch at Amazing Deli, Pizza Sam's or Diamond Jim’s,” says Lee.

After lunch they would continue to engage in activities outside, such as taking the kids to batting practice at the ball diamonds or to play at the Plymouth Park Fun Zone.

“We like doing things outside,” says Lee. “I have lived here all my life, and it has been a great place to raise our family.”

Lee would end the day with a get together with friends, cooking dinner together and watching the kids as they play in the neighborhood.

Active in the outdoors
Lastly, we spoke with Don Belisle, communications lead at Dow Chemical. Belisle and his wife moved to the Midland area seven years ago with their two sons and three dogs.

“This is the first place that’s felt like home,” says Belisle. “I can see myself retiring here.”

As someone who grew up in Boston, Belisle is drawn to the opportunities a small town like Midland provides for peace and relaxation. His perfect day would begin with early morning kayaking on the Chippewa River.

“I still have such a vivid memory of being out in the morning, when it is so quiet, and just seeing nature,” says Belisle. “We saw an eagle fly over and a deer drinking out of the water. I had never seen an eagle so close before.”

From there, he may head to Currie Golf Course to play a round at the place where he first learned the sport.

“It’s an absolutely gorgeous landscape,” says Belisle. “I love being able to go out there, relax and enjoy the scenery.”

From there, Belisle would stop in to Lasko’s for lunch, ordering a Reuben or BLT. Then, he would continue his day running, biking or walking along the Pere Marquette Rail Trail. With an entrance located less than one mile from his house, Belisle describes the thirty mile long paved trail as a great gathering place for the community.

“From children to the elderly, you never know who you’ll run into,” says Belisle. “It’s a great experience to be out there and see everyone saying ‘Hi’ to one another.”

From the Chippewa Nature Center, to outdoor adventure, to the farmer’s market to local restaurants and florists, the city offers something for everyone. What are your favorite things to do in Midland? How would you spend your perfect day?
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