Blissfield, a village in southeast Michigan’s Lenawee County, is continuing efforts to attract visitors downtown. Volunteer committees have launched a series of downtown events the first Thursday of each month.
Why are they doing it:
Laura Nichols, Blissfield’s DDA/Main Street/economic development director, says the events were added as a way to continue the fun downtown after the village’s five popular car show events were relocated to Springbrook Commons, at the edge of town.
“Because we moved the car shows, we wanted to add events downtown. The First Thursdays events are a way to introduce new activities in a sort of incubator setting," Nichols says, "to test their popularity on a smaller scale."
How’s it going so far:
January’s first Thursday event was a health fair with 20 vendors and six speakers, with door prizes that included a bicycle and an air fryer.
“We had about 55 people come, which wasn't a great turnout in terms of numbers of people,” Nichols said, “but it was a stormy night. And it was right after Christmas.”
Those who did attend embraced the activity enthusiastically, she says.
In February, the village teamed up with the Schultz-Holmes Memorial Library for a whiskey and chocolate event, with Mammoth Distilling
in nearby Adrian and Harvest Chocolate
in Tecumseh. The event included whiskey tasting at the library and a “chocolate crawl” around downtown, with 25 participating stores giving samples of chocolates.
Coming attractions, held the first Thursday of the month:
March: Everyone is Irish
This nod to St. Patrick’s Day includes a scavenger hunt with little leprechauns in each of the 25 participating stores. Players get a selfie and entry into a drawing for a “pot of gold.”
April: Wine Stroll
Sip and stroll for 12 samples of red and white wine. Tickets required.
May: Tea Party
A tea party at That One Place
event venue. Cardmaking and a photobooth, celebrating all different kinds of moms.
The street downtown will be closed for this free event, which so far includes a chance to get up close to a helicopter, front-loaders, and other large equipment.
July: Firecracker 5K
This event wraps up a Fourth of July holiday week.
August: Tractor Cruise-in
A return event that features tractors of all makes, models, and sizes.
A dinner celebration that includes a farmers' market and an elegant pay-to-participate dinner.
October: Harvest Festival
Face painting, pumpkin painting and inflatables; Skeletons on Parade through the month of October.
For information, go to: First Thursdays
There will be no first Thursday events in November and December, months already busy with Yuletide, Parade of Lights, and Wassail events.
Through the summer Movies on Lane
will be shown on the third Thursday of May, June, July. June, July, August.
Who makes it all happen:
Funding for the First Thursday events comes from sponsors, some paid-admission events, and funds raised during the December Yuletide activities. The planning and execution of the event is all done by volunteers, Nichols says.
“We have a wonderful pool of volunteers on our downtown volunteer page," she says. "I just asked people that I've worked with in the past to head up the different events and then between us we filled out the committees.”
She adds, "Our businesses have really powered this machine,” Nichols says. “It's been a real good relationship with all of our sponsors.”
Rosemary Parker has worked as a writer and editor for more than 40 years.