Manchester Celebrates 150 Years

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By Seth Kinker,

Over a yearlong of planning and preparation came together as the Manchester Sesquicentennial wrapped up last Monday.

The Sesquicentennial, which began on Aug. 2, was a week of events focused on celebrating the history of the establishment of the village of Manchester, 150 years ago.

The celebration began at the Manchester Area Historical Society (MAHS) Kingsley-Jenter House on Wednesday Aug. 2 at the corner of Ann Arbor and Main Streets in downtown Manchester.

Ray Berg, leader of the MAHS and organizer of the Sesquicentennial celebration, opened the week with a program titled 1867 – What was going on then?

This program held information about the history of Manchester’s leading figures, businesses, social issues and how the post-Civil War economic boom helped quickly grow the village.

Members of the community, interested in the history of Manchester, filled the room in the Kingsley-Jenter House.

That wasn’t the only time either, despite it being a week-long event starting before the weekend and ending on a weekday of the next week, the turnout from the community showed the interest they had in their home’s history.

Freedom Township resident Karen Berg is a member of the Historical Society and was a volunteer for the Sesquicentennial Celebration. For her, the community involvement in this event came down to people caring about Manchester. The organizing committee and the workers throughout the week are unpaid volunteers from the community

“I think a lot of people are willing to volunteer so it’s kind of contagious. You have a lot of people supporting activities and working on activities,” said Berg. “We don’t have any paid staff that set up things. If we don’t do it, it doesn’t get done. The Sesquicentennial was completely dependent on volunteers.”

Each day held different events that focused on what made Manchester, Manchester.

On Friday there was a parade, a street dance, and an Agri-Tour. The parade included vintage cars, the Manchester High School Marching Band and even had the original Centennial Queen from the 1967 Manchester celebration, Vicky Wurster. The street dance followed the parade and offered square dancing to modern styles of dance.

The Agri-Tour offered an educational tour of active working farms. The tour also included a farm that has been owned by the same family since 1869 as well as a chance to tour a miniature historic version of Manchester and its historic buildings.

Saturday was the main event for the Sesquicentennial and it did not disappoint. There was a festival on the main streets of downtown Manchester that included live music, a tractor show, festival food, a classic car show, bounce houses for the children, food trucks and local vendors with different items for sale.

A Facial Hair competition drew participants not only locally, but out of town as well. There were around 70 participants from Michigan and five other states and even had participants from Quebec.

Categories for the Facial Hair competition included Natural Mustache and Styled Mustache, Partial Beard, Partial Styled Beard, Whaler, Chops, Freestyle Beards, Full Natural Beard with Styled Mustache, Full Natural Beards, 150 Club, Beardarella Fantastically Real and Beardarella Fantastically Fake.

In addition to the Fair there were historic home and walking tours throughout the week. These tours showed where the homes of the village founders were, what buildings were used for during that time and how the layout that is present Manchester came to be.

The detail throughout the weekend to honor the past was evident; there were newspaper boys and girls selling prints of a paper with news from Manchester’s original paper, the Manchester Enterprise.

There was a historic baseball game at Kirk park, which was played there to pay homage to the Manchester Handle Company that used to be right across the street from the park.

Sunday had events to celebrate the centennial celebration; there was a reunion dinner that invited anyone who had been a part of the Manchester Centennial celebration in 1967.

At the same time as the centennial celebration there was a main street dinner that had food provided by local Manchester chef’s and restaurants.

Monday marked the end of the Sesquicentennial Celebration. Ray Berg spoke again to a full house for the closing program that included more facts about the settlement of the village of Manchester.

Michigan’s 52nd House District State Representative Donna Lasinski made a special appearance and presented Village Council President Pat Vaillencourt with a Special Proclamation for the week-long event.

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Seth Kinker

Reporter/Digital Media for The Sun Times News

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