It was a shame when Lansing decided to discontinue the Michigan State Fair several years ago. But in that fair’s absence, a private group has stepped in with generous donors to rebuild and reimagine this Michigan tradition. And it’s a wholesome, family-friendly event that continues to grow year by year. Here are some of the high points for your approval.
The Detroit Shrine Circus: Who doesn’t love a circus? (Well, other than PETA?) There will be plenty here to dazzle the kids, from high-stepping horses, trained animals, trapeze artists flying through the air and, of course, clowns. See michiganstatefairllc.com for showtimes.
The midway: There will be more than 50 rides from Michigan contractor Arnold Amusements, including a funhouse, such wild thrill machines as “Zero Gravity,” “Wipe Out!” and the “Wave Swinger,” and some gentler attractions for the kiddies, such as “Lady Bugs,” “Pooh Bear,” and “Wiggle Worm.”
The butter cow: Yes, it’s crazy how popular this ongoing display of a cow sculpted out of butter is. Back in the days of the old Michigan State Fair, we knew some people who made it an annual tradition to behold the yellow shrine to Elsie. The organizers of the new fair in Novi were wise about “standing pat” (get it?) and retaining this, although under private sponsorship it has become the “C.F. Burger Creamery Michigan Butter Cow.”
Buttercup the “milking cow”: It’s not really a cow; it’s a teaching tool. Remember Jerry, the CPR dummy? Buttercup is like Jerry, only a lot less disturbing-looking. This cow allows young hands unused to milking to learn the delicate art of coaxing milk out of an udder, without the risks of milking an actual cow. Buttercup also has something else up on real cows: She can talk, and likes to list off a bunch of fun milk-cow facts. Another bonus: For $1, Buttercup’s aspiring milkers can get a wristband that’s good for chocolate milk all day. Take that, old Bossy!
State Fair Superstar: It used to be that chickens, rabbits, and other farm animals were the main contestants at the state fair for that blue ribbon. These days, it’s not livestock so much as live entertainment that’s up for evaluation. In all, 15 young semifinalists will compete for the grand prize, which includes the production of a three-song EP, along with much more.
Readers Roundup: Authors of Michigan-themed books, such as Tom Daldin, Eric Tremonti, and Jim Edelman of Under the Radar Michigan, Leigh Arrathoon of Jody’s Michigan Adventure, and Jonathan Rand, whose Michigan Chillers series became a national young adult sensation. Talk about made-in-Michigan success stories: Rand is the only author who owns a store that specializes in his 75 books: “Chillermania” in Cheboygan County.
Michigan Mega Jam: What would the Michigan State Fair be without music? That’s why MT is presenting this showcase of music that includes Thornetta Davis, Sean Blackman, Brett Lucas, Chris Codish, and many more. It’s all Michigan talent, ready to shine for home-state audiences.
Barbecue Boot Camp: Think you know how to make barbecue? Maybe even you could learn a thing or two at the Barbecue Boot Camp, courtesy of Dr. Stacy Zuelly of Purdue University, who is a “professor of meat science.” She’s a Michigan native, and she’ll offer advice on selecting cuts of meat, seasoning them for “optimal grilling results,” and how to round out the menu with salads, sides, and desserts. Flame on!
The Michigan State Fair Parade: Was it too much to call it a Labor Day parade? Well, it’s scheduled for Labor Day, and will run from Novi High School down Taft Road to Grand River Avenue. The procession will include street performers, community groups, Detroit Shriners, and perhaps even Novi Mayor Bob Gatt, who declares: “Novi, the greatest city in Michigan, welcomes you with open arms!!” The parade begins at 10 a.m., rain or shine.
Animal stuff: Sure, the livestock pavilion will be there, with sheep and other farm livestock. The equestrian pavilion will have all sorts of horse-riding and -racing. Then there’s the Oakland County Farm Bureau’s “Beginning of Life” exhibit, where you’ll have a chance to see animals born, which can charm the family, even if it means junior becomes a vegetarian. There will also be racing pigs, featuring “speedy little swine” who “squeal and snort their way across the finish line!” D’aww, ain’t that cute, folks?
The Michigan State Fair runs Sept. 1-5 at the Suburban Collection Showplace, 46100 Grand River Ave., Novi; for more information, see MichiganStateFairLLC.com.