Dowagiac gears up for annual ‘Summer in the City’ festival

Published 9:16 am Wednesday, July 22, 2009

DOWAGIAC – Hot buttered corn on the cob to such Michigan made food products as pure maple syrup and locally-made honey are on the menu for this week’s 24th annual Dowagiac “Summer in the City” Festival that opens Thursday as it serves up its second-annual Taste of Dowagiac.

Hosted by the Greater Dowagiac Chamber of Commerce, this year’s celebration was underwritten by a $10,000 fine arts grant that was awarded to the Dowagiac Downtown Development Authority by St. Deny’s Foundation; a $5,000 challenge that was awarded to the Chamber of Commerce by The Pokagon Fund; five corporate sponsors that include Creative Vinyl Signs, Dr. Charles Burling & Dr. Jon Gillesby, Lyons Industries, Dr. Alan Montgomery and Southwestern Michigan College; and by private donors Grant “Buzz” Meyer and his wife, Helen, who are seasonal residents of Indian Lake.

While Dowagiac’s longest-running outdoor event, previously known as Fun Fest, has always featured summer sidewalk sales, this is the second year for the three-day festival to showcase this city’s niche of fine and casual dining. Local restaurateurs and neighboring food establishments were invited to fire up their grills, butter up their Michigan-grown sweet corn and tempt appetites with some of the best home-made baked goods Cass County has to offer.

Kris Lamphere, Taste of Dowagiac chairman, said she is pleased to feature several downtown restaurants, as well as two of this region’s most unique businesses that will be joining the Dowagiac festival for the first time. Lamphere owns Who Knew? Consignment on Front Street.

Farm House Bakery, located on White Temple Road just north of Vandalia, will feature tempting baked goods at its festival booth, located on Beeson Street, adjacent to the Beckwith Park. Even the name of this delightful little bakery congers up images of some of the best home-made pastries and baked goods that have ever gone from oven to one’s kitchen table.

Festival organizers are also delighted to welcome newcomer Little Store on the Prairie, which is another gem of southwestern Michigan that’s located off the beaten path on Wickett Road in Decatur.

If you’re sweet tooth is craving Michigan-grown products, be sure to visit Little Store on the Prairie’s festival booth on Beeson Street, where pure Michigan maple syrup will be featured, along with its locally-made honey. While southwestern Michigan is known for its fruitbelt, owners of Little Store on the Prairie are apt to tell you the production of maple syrup is actually the oldest agricultural enterprise in America.

Little Store on the Prairie will also feature its signature salad dressings, which are locally made of course, along with freshly-ground peanut butter, Katie’s homemade noodles, plus gravy and biscuit mixes, and packaged nuts.
For those festival goers whose taste buds are focused on summertime foods, you’ll find Cass County Commissioner Johnnie Rodebush up to his elbows in hot-buttered sweet corn at the festival booth of the Cass County Democratic Party.
Also returning to the open-air festival will be Caruso’s Candy Kitchen, where Chicago-style hot dogs will be featured with onion, cucumber, pickles and mustard, and lots of it!

Walking nachos, tacos and taco salad are on the menu at Beeson Street Bar & Grill, as Wood Fire Italian Trattoria tempts festival goers with its barbeque jerk chicken. Jalapeño soup and riblets will be featured by Zeke’s Restaurant, as The Wounded Minnow serves up fruit slushies, nachos, mini and full-sized hot dogs grilled on its outdoor patio, as well as pickles on a stick.

Even Twistee’s is stepping outdoors to grill everyone’s summertime favorite, brats, along with hot dogs that are served with plenty of chili and cheese.
In addition to The Taste of Dowagiac, Summer in the City also serves up more than 50 hours of entertainment featuring performances by The Outta Towners, Positively Dance, the 35-member Lighthouse Chorus, Local Motive, Wildfire, Encore Dance Co., Kalamazoo Bag Pipe Band, Lighthouse Youth Drama Team, world jazz trumpeter Yves Francois and his Chicago quartet, Due Process, Miss Kathy’s School of Dance, Miss Michele & Co. and Dowagiac youth rock band Down Shift.
In addition to the acclaimed 5K & 10K Steve’s Run of Southwestern Michigan College, the downtown event features a Children’s Entertainment Tent, located adjacent to Underwood Shoe’s on Commercial Street; and the new Safety Corner, located on Commercial Street adjacent to The Wren’s Nest, where children can have their pictures taken with such safety friends as Smokey the Bear, while also touring a demonstration Smoke House.

Horse-drawn carriage rides return, as the 24th annual event introduces rides for children and adults on the adult-size Little Smilin‚ Choo Choo train that will be operating downtown throughout the celebration.

Family activities also feature: children’s games hosted by Dowagiac Band Boosters, Judd Lumber Company’s inflatable party castle and obstacle course, a climbing rock wall, Blueberry Hill pony rides and its children’s petting zoo, a model train exhibit at Who Knew? Consignment, sidewalk chalk art and the John Dudley Magic Show at Dowagiac District Library, a stilt walking street performer, balloon animals by Clash the Clown and Caruso’s ice cream eating contest.

The Children’s Entertainment Tent features: the Deep Fried Pickle Project as seen on the PBS Kids channel, the interactive pirate-themed children’s workshop  for little boys and a princess-themed workshop for little girls hosted by Dowagiac District Library and the Miss Dowagiac Scholarship Pageant of the Chamber of Commerce, the Kalamazoo Air Zoo, Ronald McDonald Magic Show, the Wizard of Oz by Steven’s Puppets and the Potawatomi Zoo.

Families will also enjoy: summer sidewalk sales featuring craft and community booths, the Library Association book sale, a Wii tennis event for all ages hosted by Cass County Cancer Service and Aaron’s, Michigan Army National Guard’s presentation of Great Lakes Glory and Sgt. Hooah, digging for diamonds at Vincent J. Jewelers, sampling summer wines at Front Street Winery and the 16th annual Take Off With Hospice Raffle.