Then & Now: Dexter Daze History and Amazing Present


A Ferris wheel was brought in for Dexter’s 1914 “Sidewalk Days.” Courtesy of Dexter Area Historical Society

By Doug Marrin, STN Reporter

Holy, moly. Dexter Daze is almost here, and oh my, how the summer celebration has grown since its humble beginnings.

Dexter Daze returns on August 12 & 13, but its roots stretch far back almost as long as there has been a Dexter, MI.

In the decades before 1972, Dexter’s summer celebration surrounded a sidewalk sale and was dubbed “Sidewalk Days.” Merchants displayed their goods at special prices in front of their stores to draw people into town. The annual event grew as the village grew.

Downtown Dexter in the early 1900s. Courtesy of the City of Dexter.

In 1972, the Dexter Chamber of Commerce expanded the annual sidewalk sale into “Discover Dexter Days” to promote local businesses and draw visitors in from the surrounding communities on a larger scale. The event was held on the first weekend in August that year with activities including old-time movies, a pie-baking contest, square dancing, a parade, and much more.

A few years later, in 1974, the festival was greatly enlarged for the sesquicentennial celebration of when Dexter was first settled. The name was shortened to “Dexter Daze.”

In the half-century since then, Dexter’s population has almost tripled. The original committee of a few has become a new generation of hard-working and civic-minded people dedicated to preserving their community’s core values as the world churns and an army of like-minded volunteers.

Vendors come from all over Michigan to set up shop at Dexter Daze. Credit Dexter Daze Facebook.

Local businesses enthusiastically support the festival but so do many individuals, demonstrating the importance many feel of maintaining good family fun featuring activities, games, crafts, food, and music for the entire family to enjoy together. The festival draws artisans from all over Michigan, offering a wide variety of unique pieces to browse and buy.

Below, you can see what the Dexter Daze Committee has put together for this year’s festival in and around Monument Park. In addition to the vendor booths and entertainment, Dexter American Legion provides Friday night’s fireworks show. The Dexter Area Fire Fighters sponsor a social (beer) tent that is always popular on a hot summer day. The Dexter Daze Parade begins at 10 a.m. Saturday and grows each year.

Many different acts perform at the Gazebo throughout each day. Credit Dexter Daze Facebook.

But as much as Dexter Daze has to offer, the biggest delight might be the thrill of passing a friend or two for a quick “catching-up” on the sidewalk or park grass, phones down, face-to-face.

You know, just like the old days.

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