BRIDGMAN — Bridgman boosters say they have a hit on their hands, and they’re coming back for more.
The city’s first Bridgman Family Friday Fest took place last week, and three more are planned for 5-9 p.m. for the last Fridays of the summer months. The scene is Lake Street, between Mathieu and Maple streets.
“This reminds me of the carnivals we used to have on Lake Street when I was a kid,” said John Wilk, a Lake Township trustee and a lifelong community resident. “I’ll never forget this one guy, his name was Marvin Seabright, who had this 110-foot pole that he would climb and do acrobatics as it swayed back and forth.”
Another longtime Bridgman resident, Jan Trapani, added her memories of local radio personalities on WHFB radio and the “Buy Better in Bridgman” tagline. She has been tapped as the Bridgman Family Fun Friday musical coordinator.
BFFF committee member Beth McNeal, who staffed her Paws to Wash pop-up tent, remembered the Ferris wheel and carnie games from the old fair days. She said BFFF includes several activities for kids, including a jump house, chalk for sidewalk art and the fire truck to climb on and in. Although alcohol won’t be sold outside, it shouldn’t be a problem with two breweries, a wine tasting shop and several eateries already along Lake Street.
BFFF may bring back old memories, but its chief organizer is a relative newcomer, Stacey Barajas, manager of Lake Street Eats. She originally approached the city with a request to celebrate the restaurant’s third anniversary “and this is the result,” she said Friday, gesturing to the city-provided tents and the crowds beginning to arrive on the closed block of Lake Street.
Described as a real grassroots effort by Rick Fuller, a city councilman and partner in The Sandpiper and Hoof-to-Hanger Fiber Processing Mill on Lake Street, the planning and organizing was mainly done by local citizens and merchants with support and some financial aid from the city of Bridgman, the Community Growth Alliance and the City Improvement Authority.
“We’re hoping for a large turnout from the community while also offering a welcome to the tourists to get to know Bridgman,” Fuller said.
As music coordinator, Trapani’s lined up Friday’s Wil Smaka MusiConnection Polka Band, honoring the city’s German heritage. The theme was also evident in Lake Street Eats’ special outside menu, which included chef Tish’s grandmother’s recipe for a Polish plate, pierogis and sausage and kraut.
Other groups lined up by Trapani were Blue Shoes Jazz, a 15-piece group that plays “everything,” Lake Street Breeze, a classic rock ‘n’ roll band also known around town as chef Tish’s band, and Van Dyke Revue, a four-piece variety band from Niles.
“We hope people come down and join us in the fun. It’s nice to see things happening in town. I love our beach but sometimes it’s hard to get down there and the parking is limited,” Trapani said.
“I hope this brings additional people to actually stop in Bridgman,” McNeal said. “There are a lot who just drive through on their way to work. This gives us a fun venue to display what is here.”
Bridgman Public Library and Friends of the Bridgman Library had back-to-back booths. The library helped with some of the children’s activities and the FOL sold books. Normally a popular fundraising activity, FOL member Carol Nash said business was a bit slow so far, but she didn’t mind.
“We have our brochures so maybe we can get some new members. I enjoy meeting the people. It’s a fun town. People really work to get this type of community spirit,” said Nash, a relative newcomer to Bridgman.
Members of this year’s Blossomtime Royalty Court were there with their crowns and cookies, representing the Miss Bridgman Scholarship Organization. They said they would probably have checked out BFFF anyway, but perhaps would have dressed in something cooler for the warm evening weather.
Organizer Barajas said she hopes visitors will share their experiences and offer new ideas at the Bridgman Family Friday Fests Facebook page.